Planning the Getaway
For Culture Vultures
Exploring an open museum
When to go: May through November
Hours from NYC: Ten and a half
Cost: $12,000 for two weeks
What to Expect
Turkey’s cosmopolitan capital continues to seduce with its minaret-studded sky, maze-like bazaars, and steamy spas. No wonder it’s been conquered so many times. The city is as chic as it is ancient, its fashionable restaurants and cool clubs rivaling much of what you’ll find on the other side of the Mediterranean.
Where to Stay
The recently-opened Four Seasons Bosphorus (from $400; fourseasons.com/bosphorus) occupies a restored 19th-century Ottoman mansion on the shores of the Bosphorus Strait. Book one of four Palace Roof Suites (1402 and 1403 are the roomiest); each has a deep-soaking tub and a terrace with waterfront views. After a long flight, recover in the hotel’s sky-lit spa, which has three hammams, including one for couples. Get the requisite scrub-and-foam-massage treatment, then relax in the pool to meditative Sufi music piped through underwater speakers.
Where to Eat
Go to Asitane (asitanerestaurant.com) for Ottoman specialties culled from 500-year-old palace recipes. Sit in the courtyard and order what Mehmet II the Conqueror enjoyed during his reign in the 1400’s: roasted eggplant and duck stew with apricots. For a modern twist on rare, regional dishes, cab it to the more casual foodie-favorite Çiya (ciya.com.tr) on the Asian side of town. The Anatolian eatery has reinvented the kebab in at least a dozen ways: paired with loquats; stewed with cherries; served in pomegranate juice, and more.
To Do, By Day
Dress appropriately for mosque visits (no bare legs or shoulders) and take the hotel’s private boat to the historic center of Sultanahmet. The Ayasofya, Christianity’s largest church before it was converted to a mosque, is now a Byzantine art museum with magnificent frescoes and mosaics. Later, make sure to see the stunning Iznik tiles and stained-glass windows of the Blue Mosque next door. Another must-visit is Topkapi Palace, the sumptuous former home of Ottoman sultans and their wives. The royal treasury includes a collection of thrones, elaborate costumes, and jewel-encrusted weapons. Within walking distance are the 4,000-plus shops of the frenetic Grand Bazaar, the 15th-century market where you can—and should—haggle for jewelry, pottery, lamps, and carpets. For a quieter scene, go to the Bosphorus neighborhood of Ortaköy, where you’ll find coffeehouses and tea terraces. On Sundays, artists and antique dealers sell handmade jewelry, knitted scarves, and other pretty tchotchkes by the wharf.
To Do, By Night
Walk along Istiklal Caddesi, a promenade lined with cafes and bars in the Beyoglu district. Slip into Refik (90-212-243-2834), an authentic tavern where bohemian-types drink anise-flavored raki and listen to modern gypsy music. For a different beat, try Babylon (babylon-st.com), a concert hall where eclectic jazz players perform nightly. If you prefer a more romantic vibe, sip cocktails at Leb-i Derya (lebiderya.com) or 360 Istanbul (360istanbul.com), rooftop bars where conversations are possible—if the beautiful city views don’t leave you speechless. Latenight, try getting into one of the open-air mega-clubs in Ortaköy. Reina is most popular (reina.com.tr) despite (or because of) its tough door policy and overpriced drinks—so remember to dress the part.
Charter a hot air balloon to fly over the volcanic peaks and canyons of Cappadocia in Central Anatolia (goremeballoons.com). Back on land, visit Derinkuyu and Kaymakli, two ancient, underground cities thought to date all the way back to 1900 B.C. At night, stay at the Anatolian Houses (from $300; anatolianhouses.com.tr), a luxe retreat built within cave formations.
Delta (delta.com) flies direct from JFK to Istanbul. From there, Cappadocia (via Kayaseri) is 90 minutes away via Turkish Airlines.
From the Winter 2008 New York Wedding Guide