Istanbul’s Magical Mystery Tour
WHERE TO STAY:
Ciragan Palace Kempinski: Whether you arrive by yacht, helicopter, limousine, or Maybach (all of which are available to guests), as soon as you enter the five-star Ciragan Palace Kempinski you enter into a world marked by Ottoman elegance.
Built in the late 19th century, the original Ciragan Palace was renovated again in 2007, so that the 11 suites in the historic palace evoke the original baroque style - and so that the likes of Madonna, Liza, Oprah, Sting, Fergie, and just about every other boldface celebrity who has been in residence can wash their toesies beneath the gold-plated taps in the massive private hamam of the Sultan’s Suite.
Located on the European shores of the Bosphorus, the Ciragan Palace Kempinski Hotel opened in 1990 with 313 rooms and 20 suites. With its superb waterfront location and landscaped gardens with palm trees, the hotel exudes the ambiance of an enchanted private resort.
A high wall at the hotel’s front entrance fosters a sense of distance from the great city, enabling guests to wander the palace grounds as if they were members of a royal household.
Guest rooms are capacious, with terraces that overlook the Bosphorus and make for a perfect perch at gloaming as the sky turns rosy pink with the sunset. A pillow menu offers six choices, including buckwheat, and WiFi is complimentary as is a daily newspaper. Breakfast is served at Laledan Restaurant overlooking the palm garden and includes a sultan’s feast of more than 300 choices, nearly all of them organic. Honey is served in the comb and the cornucopia of juices and smoothies would make Jamba Juice jealous.
There’s incredible attention to detail at The Ciragan Palace including nightly gifts and sweets, which might be Turkish delight or macaroons or truffles. Cross pens accompany monogrammed notepads and the robes are luxuriant. A morning wake-up call includes morning coffee on a silver tray, brought to your room by a uniformed valet.
In the evenings, when night has fallen, take a swim in the infinity pool and gaze at the stars above the Bosphorus - and be grateful that the Ottoman sultans had such exquisite taste.
LINK: Ciragan Palace Kempinski
WHAT TO DO:
Istanbul Design Biennial: With the goal of transforming Istanbul into a premier design destination, the inaugural Istanbul Design Biennial offers over 100 projects from 200 designers who come from 46 countries in the fields of urban design, fashion design, architecture, industrial design, graphic design, and new media design.
The theme for this edition of the Biennial is "Imperfection," with artists reflecting upon a world moving beyond mass production and the multiple nuances inherent in the notion of imperfection.
Exhibitions are located at the Istanbul Modern and Galata Private Greek School and include an Yves Klein blue Urban Living Room located just outside the Istanbul Modern - for pondering what you’ve just witnessed.
Istanbul’s inaugural design biennial will be held from 13 October through 12 December 2012.
LINK: Istanbul Design Biennial
Walking Tour of Kuzguncuk: On the Asian side of the Bosphorus, the city of Istanbul more closely resembles a series of residential neighborhoods and one of the most alluring is Kuzguncuk, the habitat of numerous artists, architects, and academics. A walking tour through the narrow cobblestoned streets reveals wooden houses, synagogues, and vegetable gardens, as well as small galleries and ateliers.
Kuzguncuk recalls the Istanbul experienced in many of Orhan Pamuk’s novels and memoirs (although an actual "Museum of Innocence," a museum based on Pamuk’s eponymous novel is located across the water in Beyoglu).
Time in Kuzguncuk seems to have slowed to a more amiable pace than much of the rest of this great city; it’s no wonder that so many creative types prefer to work in this neighborhood and claim it as home.
Grand Bazaar: More than 300,000 shoppers arrive daily at one of the world’s largest and oldest covered markets. Built in 1461, the Grand Bazaar has over 3,000 shops in 61 covered streets entered from 22 massive gates. A feast for the senses and a shopper’s paradise, the Grand Bazaar is also a kaleidoscopic perspective on the quotidian life of Istanbul.
LINK: Grand Bazaar
Private Cruise Along the Bosphorus: If you’re looking for romance, then you can’t go wrong with a cruise along the Bosphorus. Whether you’re taking a private yacht or partaking of a group cruise, you’ll fall in love along the Bosphorus as you cruise by Italianate villas and Ottoman palaces and mosques and private homes. The city of Istanbul faces onto the water and as you cruise down the Bosphorus, it’s as if you’re seeing Istanbul in its best light.
No wonder the Bosphorus is one of the busiest waterways in the world: everyone wants to fall in love all over again.
LINK: Bosphorus Cruise