New life is being breathed into the historic centre, with ancient buildings being refurbished for a rising generation of hip young designers opening up shops and workshops all over the city. Here are the highlights.
What to see
Get into history at the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar, which are in the same area and will give you a flavour of why Istanbul is so magical.
The Museum of Innocence: Created by the author Orhan Pamuk, this attraction is a tiny jewel of a place inspired by his novel of the same name. It’s a cabinet of curiosities on an astonishing scale, intimate and grand at the same time, with each object displayed in beautiful vitrine cases directly relating to the characters in the novel, while also evoking the Istanbul of the second half of the 20th century. Fascinating. Entry £7. (www.masumiyetmuzesi.org).
Where to shop
Turkey is not cheap, but it is affordable. The area of Beyoglu behind the Galata Tower is the best hunting ground for home design.
Walk along Serdar-i Ekrem Street, visiting Archive for ceramic and glassware (around £10-£15); Aphorm for hand-crafted accessories, marble candlesticks, stationery and pottery (from £20) and Nyks for hand-made scented candles (from £15) in sleek glass and copper holders.
Then round the corner to Hamm at 71 Bogazkesen Street for marble and wood chopping boards (£12), brass trays, black and white ceramics; and finally to Hiç at Luleci Hendek Sokak 35 (www.hiccrafts.com) for gorgeous Iznik-inspired cushions and cool ceramics.
Where to stay and relax
The Vault House Hotel: the latest in the House Hotel chain, Vault Karakoy is in the up-and-coming financial district on Bankalar Caddesi.
The former bank has been transformed into a medium-sized hotel. Ask for a room with a view overlooking the Topkapi Palace. Rooms from £70 plus eight per cent tax. (www.thehousehotel.com).
The Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami: after a seven-year restoration project, the original late-16th century building has been stripped back — just as you will be — to its original splendour, with sparkling new marble slabs. Prepare to be rubbed down, exfoliated and emerge with skin as soft as a newborn baby. Women 8am-4pm; men 4.30pm-10.30pm. From £37. (www.kilicalipasahamami.com).
Need to know
- Turkish visas can be bought online for £10 (www.evisa.gov.tr).
- Heathrow-Istanbul Ataturk from £180 return with Turkish Airlines.
- The next Istanbul Design Biennial takes place in Autumn 2016.