After my very first trip to Istanbul, I know for a fact that this won’t be my last. With an exciting project hidden up our sleeves, you’re gonna wanna watch this space! I loved exploring one of the most visited and important places in the world. It’s a transcontinental city which perfectly balances the mysticism of the East and the modernity of the West, the traditional and the contemporary and the past and present. It’s a central hub connecting Europe and Asia - there truly is no other city like it. Here’s a peek of a few things I got up to.
WHERE I STAYED
Soho House Istanbul
Where better to rest my head after a busy day exploring than at Istanbul’s Soho House?! Once belonging to a powerful Genoese shipbuilder, Ignazio Corpi, who spent 9 years creating the building in 1837, it then served as the US embassy in 1906, and now belongs to Soho House since 2014 who began extensive restoration work on the Palazzo, returning it to its former glory. At the time of its construction, Corpi engaged Italian architect Giacomo Leoni, who set about importing marble from Carrara for the flooring and facings and Piemonte rosewood for the doors and window frames. The exquisite elegance and charm to the building was then added by famous artists of the day who were invited to create the wall paintings depicting Greek mythological scenes in the entrance hall and on the ceilings of the Great Hall.
WHERE I ATE
Sunset Grill & Bar
As one of the leading fine dining restaurants in Istanbul, I was expecting great things and this place certainly didn’t disappoint! The space itself offers stunning views of the Bosphorus (the strip of sea connecting Europe and Asia). Since its opening in 1994, it has won a string of prestigious culinary awards. The creative kitchen director, Fabrice Canelle, adopts both modern and traditional approaches and works alongside artists and designers to develop eating and drinking concepts. Today, the menu of Sunset Grill & Bar consists of Sushinin as well as Mediterranean, Turkish and Japanese cuisines.
One of Turkey’s finest delights has to be its vast range of pastry desserts; my fave from this trip being Baklava. It’s a decadent pudding made of layers of filo pastry and chopped nuts moulded together with syrup. The best drink to wash this down with? You can’t go wrong with a Turkish coffee, especially on a short rest from shopping in the Grand Bazaar.
WHERE I WENT
The Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world housing over 3000 shops, is more than just a sightseeing spot and trying to see it in in its entirety in just one afternoon is an impossible task. Nevertheless I gave it a go and definitely did not leave empty handed! What seems strange is that dozens of stores lined up next to each other sell similar products, so you really need to get your best haggling hat on. I also discovered that accepting tea does not mean the deal has been sealed; instead, it is the Turkish way of welcoming visitors. What is a visit to the Grand Bazaar without bagging yourself some of the local produce? I soon found I was packing my suitcase home with rugs and jewels in no time.
What a magnificent building! Once a church, later a mosque, and now a museum, the vast Hagia Sophia was not one to be missed, even on a fleeting trip to Istanbul. Translated into English as ‘Shrine of the Holy God’, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and said to have changed the history of architecture. Beautifully decorated with mosaics depicting the Virgin Mary, Jesus and emperors or empresses, everywhere you look will just take your breath away.
So my first trip to Istanbul was all in all a success! A beautiful city with a rich culture like no other, I'll 100% be back again.