If a vacation is about escaping reality then spending a week living like a sultan is surely the ultimate way to leave life behind.
Istanbul’s Ciragan Palace Kempinski hotel, situated on the European edge of the Bosphorus, was once a palace where sultans came to kick-back. Now it’s a hotel that has modernised without losing the grandeur that first attracted the region’s most powerful people to build there.
If the Bosphorus is the divide – both literal and physical – between Europe and Asia, then the Ciragan is the bridge between the ancient and the modern parts of both cultures. Take the rooms, for example: old-school luxury, huge beds, sweeping marble double sinks and smart period furniture.
But you don’t come to Istanbul to spend all day in your hotel, no matter how luxe it is.
Start with some seafood fresh from the Bosphorus, but drastically cut down the time it takes from line to plate by booking dinner at the Maiden’s Tower. Sitting on a small island in the middle of waterway, the tower was built by the Romans as a defensive outpost and later inherited by the Byzantines and Ottomans. It now houses a museum-restaurant with 360-degree views so you can sit and watch the sun go down.
Once it has, use the cover of night to escape to Kurucesme and find a place to turn it up. Towards the banks of the water, Noir will provide you with a dose of dance music, neon lights and space to cut some proverbial rug. If live music and local nightlife is more your tempo Kadikoy, a neighbourhood on the Asian side of the city, is home to Barlar Sokak, which translates loosely as Bars Street.
When the sun rises the next morning, you’d be remiss not to explore Istanbul’s art scene. Making a slow but steadily defiant comeback after hard times, the city continues to produce countless creatives. Its 3000 year history at an intersection between continents has seen to that. The city recently hosted its 16th Biennial, titled The Seventh Continent, inviting artists to produce work that responded to the trash islands gathering in the ocean.
Then there’s Beykoz Kundura, a cinema built in what used to be a tannery, that has recently added a theatre stage. Screening a specially curated set of films rather than out and out blockbusters, it’s a place to come and experience the origins of the medium in a plush new setting.
There it is again, that mix of old and new. It’s something that makes this city a place you’ll want to make history in.