Known for its history, ancient architecture, traditional markets and old-world charm, Istanbul is also a city of the future. A city meshing the old with the new and coming up with something wholly unique to call its own; the present-day feel of youthful, energetic Istanbul pulsates with the expectation of an even more exciting metropolis to come.
So if you like the unexpected and want to sample modern Turkey, here is our Editor’s list of things you must experience in Istanbul. BTW terrorism, coups or protests which have been a part of Istanbul recently aren’t on our list. We hope you stay safe and enjoy this magnificent city.
- Kadikoy District & Ciya Restaurant(s)
The Kadikoy District is less touristy and not as well known, but holds some quaint narrow streets, fun local shopping and excellent, authentic Turkish food (by Chef and founder Musa Dağdeviren) at the Ciya restaurant “trio”. Ciya actually has three addresses on the same street, complete with great patios, all serving similar menus, Ciya Sofrasi, offers some Anatolian dishes the others don’t and has a cozier and more up-scale setting. To get to the restaurant Çiya Sofrasi from the old city of Istanbul, take a twenty-minute ferry ride to the Asian side of the Bosporus. Istanbul’s commuter ferries ply across the Bosporus from Asia to Europe and vice versa in 20 minutes for about 75p. This is a fabulous view of the old city and a great photo opportunity.
The actual Ciya Restaurant area is a little difficult to find – if you’re daring, follow the main crowd off of the ferry (there’s a small walkway to wind your way through and a few turns) just ask someone, or call ahead for directions.
- Go for the Modern (in more ways than one)
Historic Istanbul is also a mecca of contemporary art and design, and there are a couple of key ways to immerse in this.
The Istanbul Modern is İstanbul’s first Museum of Modern Art and Turkey’s first private museum to organize modern and contemporary art exhibitions; since 2004 this beautiful 8,000 square meter space has been pushing the envelope on the shores of the Bosphorus. It also has a trendy café with a great menu and fun, large center bar.
If your afternoon is continuing on this theme, hop a cab and visit the Vakko Fashion Center; for this is the true heartbeat of what is going on in the future of design in Turkey. Vakko can be equated to Hermes, a well-established fashion house for those Easterners truly on the cutting edge. The first thing you’ll notice is the building, an award winning building and show place that also houses a sister-company, The Power Group (radio and television). This minimalist cube structure is inviting in its textures and unique design. The building houses offices and work spaces for both Vakko and Power Group, but also holds a museum, showrooms, library and other design spaces. A call to the contact information on their website is the best place to start if interested in a tour. http://www.vakko.com.tr
Istanbul is quickly gaining a reputation as having some of the liveliest nightspots in Europe. The range of night entertainment is vast, from traditional male-dominated birahanes (not the best for even western women) to techno and rave nightclubs and everything in between.
An authentic Turkish experience can be had at one of Turkey’s meyhanes. These taverns serve raki, beer and wine, along with an awe-inspiring selection of mezes (Turkish starters or appetizers), succulent kebabs and seasonal fruit. The most famous meyhanes in Istanbul are located in the Cicek Pasaj in Beyoglu, a bustling channel with many meyhanes which are intermingled with fish, vegetable and flower stalls. Street musicians wander among the visitors, providing a great ambiance and background as one explores the region. Beyoglu district also boasts some of the best fusion eateries and world music clubs.
If upscale cafes, wine bars and design and art galleries are more suited to your evening tastes, then the Akaretler Row Houses in the Besitktas area is for you! The W Istanbul Hotel, right in the centre of this district, is a great place to start, complete with trendy and chic W Lounge and the traditional Turkish fare served up in the fashionable settings of both Minyon and Okka restaurants.
If after enjoying the best of modern Istanbul you want to sample its ancient roots, check out Part one of our article, Day Off: One Day in Istanbul and also be sure to tell us your favorite places in this ever-changing cosmopolitan city.