Demi Perera, a London-based travel journalist, shares a snapshot of her recent trip to Istanbul, Turkey, highlighting the best things to do, experience and eat.
In a previous career as a fashion buyer, I traveled to Istanbul for work several times where prolonged meetings, dinners, and emails were the norm. At fleeting moments of respite, the backdrop of Istanbul imprinted itself on my heart. It remained there unwavering, vast, and vivid.
Demi Perera takes a selfie on the roof of the Grand Bazar
It was a sunny November morning, seven years later, when I finally returned, armed with more time and a better version of myself. The sky was still as bright, the temperature still mild, the city as busy as a beehive yet as cordial and sincere as a warm hug.
L: Breakfast on a yacht. R: Demi escapes the crowds with a rooftop walk
I usually start the day in Istanbul with…
Breakfast on a yacht. This sounds fancy but it’s a reasonably priced experience. Several operators offer cruises along the Bosphorus Strait ranging in price and length of time. My cruise was with Den Den Yachts. I enjoyed a spectacular traditional Turkish breakfast surrounded by scenery of quiet mosques, the Bosphorus Bridge, and the bluest water.
I got away from the crowds by…
Walking on the roof of the Grand Bazar. You can’t ride a bike on the roof like 007 but you can walk on it as part of a walking tour of the Bazar and Spice Market with Item Travel. I signed a disclaimer which bought me about 20 minutes on the roof.
Lunch at Hünkar
The top spot for lunch in Istanbul is…
Hünkar, Nişantaşı. The restaurant is in the hip district of Nişantaşı but has been part of the city’s tapestry since 1950 when it was in the more humble area of Fatih. Hünkar serves traditional Turkish and Ottoman dishes from an open kitchen to a packed restaurant every day. Call ahead because by 1pm there were no spare tables left.
There’s a neighborhood in Istanbul to suit every taste
Room with a view at the Shangri-La Bosphorus
In Istanbul, I stayed in…
Shangri-La Bosphorus. The things I loved most here are the location and history. It was a tobacco warehouse built in 1929, a television factory in the 80s then remained empty for 20 years before it became a hotel. The back of the building overlooks the Bosphorus Strait.
I’m a sucker for a good view and at times, found it impossible to tear myself away from the scenery. I flew with Turkish Airlines direct from Heathrow which meant that less than five hours from takeoff, I was peering at the Asian continent out of my hotel room.
Hand-painted ceramics with Turkish folk art
The one thing I recommend bringing back from Istanbul is…
Ceramics hand-painted with folk art. Inside the Grand Bazar are countless places that sell traditional pottery. I picked up these beautiful trinket dishes. The patterns and colors used to decorate them haven’t changed since the 15th century.