A Design Lover's Guide to Istanbul

Apartment Therapy's Design Destination Guide

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Istanbul is a city teeming with history in every corner, an amazing place where various cultures collide and mix, and a destination where no stay seems quite long enough. I was fortunate enough during my trip abroad to meet up with an old friend and an Istanbul native to help me to explore this magnificent city, meet new friends, and discover some of the city's hidden offerings...

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See:

  • Hagia Sophia: Even if you're the type that wants to avoid the typical tourist attractions, visiting this beautiful former church, then mosque, now museum, is worth it, especially if you love history or architecture.
  • Istanbul Modern: Located in the fashionable Beyoğlu neighbourhood, this museum really is a must see for all modern art fans.
  • SALT Galata: Housed inside a landmark building, the Ottoman Bank building to be precise, SALT Galata provides more than just contemporary art to take in but also a distinct combination of architecture styles, neoclassical and oriental.  

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Tour:

  • Bosphorus Tour: Although you might be tempted to stick to land based sightseeing, a relaxing tour on the Bosphorus could be just the thing. Not all tours have to take the entire day and I found the short circle to be just the ticket. 
  • Pera Palace Hotel & Museum: Fans of Agatha Christie will enjoy a trip back in time with a tour of this wonderfully restored property from the "belle epoque" days of Istanbul. Still a working hotel, room 101 was converted into the Atatürk museum and is a miniature time capsule and a lovely tribute to the founder of modern Turkey. 

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Shop:
  • Shops in the streets behind the Spice Bazaar in Eminönü: In addition to of course the Spice Bazaar being a place to shop, the small stores behind the bazaar are an excellent place to buy sewing and baking supplies. 
  • Wednesday Market in Fatih: Famous market, enormous, and totally chaotic but an interesting shopping experience nonetheless. 
  • Cukurcuma: This neighbourhood near Taksim Square is well known for being a fabulous place to shop for antiques.
  •  Bilstore & Karinca Design: These two chain stores are a good source for trendy clothing (Bilstore) and  kitschy home accessories (Karinca Design).
  • Nişantaşı & Galata: Looking for designer boutiques? There's no better place to boutique browse than these two neighbourhoods.

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Eat:
  • Van Kahvaltı Evi: This eatery delivers an excellent Turkish breakfast and is also reasonably priced which is great for those travellers who are watching their budget. 
  • The House Cafe: A great place to unwind after a long day of sightseeing and the food was quite good. 
  • Leb-i Derya: With spectacular views in the Kumbaraci branch of this restaurant it's difficult to tell which is better, the view or the food... I'm going with it being a tie.   

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Stay:
  • Marti Istanbul Hotel: This new elegant five star hotel located in Taksim was designed by Turkish designer Zeynep Fadillioglu and is only about a year old.
  • The House Hotel: The House Hotel in Nişantaşı is located above the Prada boutique which provides a clue to its fashionable style aspirations. 
  • The Sofa Hotel: Also located in Nişantaşı, the Sofa Hotel is an art hotel that is the sponsor of the Contemporary Istanbul Art Fair.
  • Baylosuites: These modernly furnished suites in Galata are Turkey's first historically preserved building to be awarded a LEED silver certificate.
  • A'jia Hotel: This boutique hotel boasts a unique location on the Asian shores of the Bosphorus in a traditional Ottoman mansion. 
  • Sumahan: Another hotel that sits on the Asian shores of he Bosphorus this one used to be the site of a late Ottoman alcohol factory! 

Huge thanks to Neslihan, Cagatay, and Melinda for their assistance in putting this guide together!

Please help us out and add to the guide in the comments - what are your recommendations for Istanbul?


(Images 1-5: Joelle Alcaidinho, Image 6: Marti Istanbul Hotel)

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Joelle loves technology and making things and is in an almost perpetual state of problem solving. She's quite fond of airplanes and coffee and is pretty sure she will eventually read all of the books in her library.

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