Considering their panoramic views and economical cost (from $1.10 per ride with the purchase of an Istanbulkart), the port city’s 600-to-2,100-passenger ferries are still the most popular way for both locals and tourists to traverse the nineteen-mile strait. The S¸ehir Hatları commuter line (sehirhatlari.com.tr/en) offers 25-minute cross-Bosphorus jaunts as well as daylong cruises ($14) that take you to the edge of the Black Sea and back. Istanbul’s European half is the more enticing place to stay at the moment, thanks to an influx of new designer hotels. The 186-room Shangri-La (from $455; shangri-la.com/istanbul), complete with two hammams, launches next month in a former tobacco factory near the Bes¸iktas¸ ferry terminal. In the cosmopolitan Beyog˘lu district, the first Mama Shelter outside France (from $89; mamashelter.com) opened in March with 81 Philippe Starck–designed rooms and a Franco-Turkish restaurant. Stop at multimedia art space Salt (136 I˙stiklal Caddesi; saltonline.org) before heading to nearby Çukurcuma, a neighborhood known for its antiques stores and year-old Museum of Innocence ($14 admission; Firuzag˘a Mahallesi, 24 Çukurcuma Caddesi; masumiyetmuzesi.org). Founded by Nobel laureate and native son Orhan Pamuk, the museum is basically his namesake novel brought to life (on display: doorknobs, matchsticks, and other quotidian objects from Istanbul arranged within 83 display cases, each corresponding to a different chapter of the book). Eating-wise, don’t miss local food blog Istanbul Eats’ new six-hour Two Markets, Two Continents culinary tour ($125 per person, including food; istanbuleats.com). After stopping everywhere from fruit carts (for, say, green almonds and sour plums) to an Ottoman-era caravanserai for tea in Karaköy, on the northern side of historic Galata Bridge, you’ll be whisked by ferry to Kadıköy market, in Asian Istanbul, to sample regional treats like lahmacun (flatbread with spiced, minced meat).
The thrill-o-meter: Minor buzz.