Istanbul is hot. And we’re not talking about the weather. These days, there are more happening restaurants, bars, galleries and clubs around town than there are exquisite Ottoman mosques (and that’s a lot). The international fashion and design press have been talking up İstanbul ad nauseam, but the most significant thing about the accolade ‘World’s Hippest City’ is that İstanbullus themselves have come believe it. The creeping sense of decrepitude that had fallen like a pall over their once-all-powerful home town has vanished, replaced by a sense of energy and innovation not seen since the days of Süleyman the Magnificent.
The city’s over-abundance of important historic buildings and exciting new art galleries and museums provides visitors with more than enough to see during the day, but it’s at night that the place swings into high-velocity, mega-stylish action. Locals are flocking to see and be seen at an ever-growing array of bars, clubs and restaurants, bringing with them an infectious sense of joie de vivre and a discerning ability to judge these places on their standard of service, drinks, music and food as well as their position in the what’s-hot-and-what’s-not stakes.
That’s not to say that the locals are turning their backs on much-loved city institutions such as the rakı-soaked meyhane (tavern) or tranquil çay bahçesi (tea garden), because they wouldn’t dream of doing anything so foolish. They know, after all, that such institutions are one of the reasons that their home is – and always has been – rightfully dubbed the ‘City of the World’s Desire’.
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Best places to stay in Istanbul
Istanbul city guide
This magical meeting place of East and West has more top-drawer attractions than it has minarets (and that’s a lot).
Turks are enthusiastic, expert picnickers – there are thousands of piknik yeri (picnic grounds) dotted all over the country. Some riverside picnic areas even have tables and benches planted in the shallows so people can eat while dangling their feet in the water...
Best places to drink in Istanbul
Istanbul's boutique hotels
In İstanbul, extraordinary experiences are found around every corner. Here, dervishes whirl, müezzins duel from minarets, and continents are crossed multiple times in a day. Home to millennia-old monuments and cutting-edge art galleries...
Navigating Istanbul by night
The residents of Istanbul do a number of things extremely well. They shop with an almost religious fervour, they demand (and deliver) fresh and flavoursome food, and they work hard to maintain strong and supportive local communities - something that can’t be said about many of the world’s megalopolises...
Istanbul’s architectural highlights
Istanbul - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to Istanbul starts here. You'll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go, how much to budget, plus in-depth info on Istanbul on Page and Screen.
Istanbul in One Day Sightseeing Tour: Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar
Visit six top Istanbul attractions in one day on a full-day sightseeing tour of the city! The action-packed day includes a comprehensive tour of the historical Sultanahmet neighborhood where many of the city’s finest architectural legacies and landmarks are found.
Best of Turkey
Explore the mysterious land of the Ottomans Intrepid-style. Marvel at Mehmet Aga's masterpiece, the Blue Mosque, and bargain for trinkets in Istanbul's massive Grand Bazaar. Try delicious Turkish snacks, be mesmerised by the Whirling Dervishes and discover the underwater treasures of the Mediterranean on a relaxing boat cruise.
The dying art of bargaining in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar
The elaborate etiquette of the Ottoman Empire lingers in many day-to-day rituals still observed in its greatest creation, the city of Istanbul...
Istanbul - Beyoglu (Chapter)
If you only have one day do our walking tour from Istiklal Caddesi. Even if you are staying in another neighbourhood, it makes sense to follow the lead of locals and head here every night for dinner, bar-hopping and clubbing.