Istanbul travel guide

Europe’s gateway embraces contemporary cool and Turkish tradition. Katie Parla crisscrosses the city for a taste of East and West, old and new.

By Katie Parla
Mama Shelter Istanbul

Mama Shelter Istanbul
Atop a department store in the lively Beyolu district, this Philippe Starck-designed budget boutique hotel offers comfort and value - not to mention minaret-studded views - in Istanbul's dining and nightlife centre. Most of the whitewashed rooms are diminutive, which encourages guests to use the hotel's public spaces, including the fourth-floor lounge, Franco-Turkish restaurant and rooftop bar. Huseyin Aa Mahallesi, Istiklal Caddesi 50-54, Beyolu 

Sumahan on the Water
Turkish-American architects have transformed a defunct late-Ottoman alcohol factory into a peaceful luxury hotel on the edge of the Bosphorus on the city's Anatolian side. Surrounded by orchards and flanked by an Ottoman palace, the Sumahan offers a glimpse of the city's past. Kulelí Caddesi 43, Çengelköy

Pêche de Malle
On the road leading from the historic Galatasaray High School to the Bosphorus, this narrow shop sells high-quality cotton petamallar (hammam towels), linen robes and brightly coloured woven scarves. Yeni Çar Caddesi 25

Ulas Baharat
For the freshest spices, steer clear of the overrated Grand Bazaar and hop on a ferry to Kadköy, the main port on the city's Anatolian side. A few blocks from the ferry landing, Ula Baharat sells smoked and dried peppers, fresh sumac, pomegranate molasses and tomato pastes that draw chefs and cooks from all over town. Güneli Bahçe Sokak 18, Kadköy, +90216 3379376

Alex's Place
Istanbul isn't known for its craft cocktails, but California expat Alex Waldman is doing his bit to change that at his tiny, unnamed bar in Asmalmescit, the city's booziest 'hood. Waldman compensates for the scarcity of quality liquor in Turkey by pouring classics and his own creations such as the Plausible Deniability, a blend of Scotch, Drambuie, Campari and lime juice. Gönül Sokak 7B, Beyolu

Balat Sahil Restoran
There are hundreds of traditional meyhanes, taverns specialising in mezes and rak, but this one is a cut above. Order a bottle of smooth, triple-distilled Beylerbeyi rak with rounds of cold and hot mezes. Finish with candied fruits and kaymak, clotted buffalo cream. Mürselpaa Caddesi 245, Balat, +90 212 525 6185

Yeni Lokanta
Chef Civan Er, who has built a reputation for contemporary cooking, takes inspiration from Anatolian ingredients, techniques and traditions at Yeni Lokanta, opened last year. The mezes and manti are consistently satisfying. Kumbarac Yokuu 66

The late Sakp Sabanc's former estate in Emirgan is now a museum. Make the trip for the art and stay for a cocktail at the museum's outdoor bar and sample its mezes. The excellent breakfast served on weekend mornings uses produce sourced from small producers across Turkey. Sakp Sabanc Caddesi 22

Yeni Lokanta
Yeni Lokanta
  • Author: Katie Parla