Istanbul is a city where you can seek out both culture and a myriad of wonderful activities to do. Despite an approximate population of 15 million the culturally rich city still feels like a well kept secret. With Turkish Bath Hammams and Gran Bazaars selling all the spices, textiles and crafts you could ever want; Istanbul is truly becoming the next big destination. We flew into Asia and drove over the Bosphorus to the European part where we checked into the newly opened Soho House
With a Cecconis on the side, a cowshed hammam in the basement and two pools on each roof; Soho House Istanbul is raising the playing field. Here are some of the things I enjoyed in Istanbul and suggest adding to your To Do list should you ever visit the city.
A hammam is a traditional turkish bath and a ritual of many Middle Eastern cultures. It is both a pivotal part of both the cultural heritage and social lives of locals. Taking up to three hours at a time, a hammam is a wonderfully immersive experience where male and females are separated and you are cleaned by an attendant top to toe. Not for the shy but certainly worth the trip. I recommend the Aya Sofya Hurrem Sultan.
It is convenient that the historical sights are all within walking distance of one another. Pop along to the Haghia Sophia across from the Blue Mosque and squeeze in some time at the Topkapi Palace Museum. I loved exploring the Basilica Cistern and seeing the upside down Medusa head. A tip I can offer is to definitely take up the offer of a local tour guide who can jump the cues for you, not only does this save you a lot of time but you will also get a lot more insight into the sights. Suleymaniye mosque is extremely impressive and right across from the Grand Bazaar which I would certainly recommend visiting even if you are not a huge shopper as it is very impressive. If you are a fan of the interiors of Soho House Istanbul or Oka you will find the original prints here for a fraction of the price. Another must do is a boat trip down the Bosphorus river, to sail between two continents is something so surreal and special.
Following on from the Grand Bazaar my absolute highlight was visiting the Spice Bazaar. It used to be one of the most predominant spice market in medivial times and is set under a large domed roof, overlooking the Bosphorus. In terms of vendours I recommend Arifoğlu (#31) for traditional Turkish flavours and Malatya Pazari (#40 and #44) for delicious treats.