A couple of years ago, Turkey and Lebanon signed an agreement allowing both populations to visit their neighbors without the need of a visa. That opened a lot of touristic and business opportunities. This year, I decided to return with my wife to Istanbul and enjoy this cultural capital. Why should we travel so far for a holiday when you can enjoy a taste of Europe only an hour and thirty minutes away?
What to do: You breathe culture around the city. Even though none of the signs are written in English or any international language, Istanbul is a city easy to get along with. I would recommend downloading the “Google” application from the “Appstore”, as it translates all road signs and writings from any language to English instantly and allows you to start discovering. I suggest taking the metro to avoid the traffic -Istanbul is a very busy city indeed with a huge amount of cars blocking the roads specially in the early morning and late afternoon- and visit the Ataturk Museum, the Dolmabahce Palace (the Palace of Ataturk located on the Bosphorus shores), the Galata Tower, which is the highest point in the old city of Istanbul located at the end of Istiklal street with its 360degrees view from the top, the famous Haghia Sophia, now a mosque, once a church and still has the Christian writings and icons inside, the Sultanahmet, known as the blue mosque, and the famous Topkapi Palace with its charming architectural details and where the world’s biggest diamond is located.
Where to shop: Everyone knows the famous Istanbul and their famous fake goods markets. It’s a market where you can find any possible item copied from its original design using the same materials. Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton are some of the big names you can find along the Egyptian Bazaar - the colorful spices market-, Taksim Square, Istiklal Street or the famous Grand Bazaar. Interesting fact: There are 5,500-odd vendors in the Grand Bazaar and shopkeepers cajole and entreat passers-by in a dozen languages. A 31,000 sqm area with more than 61 streets. Shoppers will find a plethora of gold, silver, spices and many other goods; it’s an impressive and colorful souk, where all languages of the world unite. Other important areas like the Arasta bazaar, the fish market, the flower market, and others are as interesting as the Grand Bazaar.
Where to eat:
Cuma: Breakfast at Home in Istanbul
Jazz music, the light coming in from all sides, wooden tables, layback seats... it’s home away from home in the heart of Istanbul. Order eggs Benedict with labneh! Enjoy a mouthwatering chocolate coffee cake. Indulge in a carrot cake... I loved it here and didn’t even feel like leaving. A coffees shop, restaurant, and most importantly, happy and welcoming staff. It’s like the owners are here and they welcome you home!
Mangerie Bebek: Excellent Breakfast Loaded with Flavors
I woke up at 6, walked around Istanbul to fly my drone then searching for a place to have breakfast. I wanted something cosmopolitan, fun and trendy at the same time: Mangerie popped up. Located in Bebek, on the terrace of a building where Nusr-Et restaurant is, take the stairs to reach the terrace. Facing the canal and the Asian side of Turkey, sit relax and enjoy.
Delicatessen: Classical Music and Great Breakfast in Istanbul
Oh, My Goodness! When I think that’s, I’ve been to the best breakfast place in town; another pops up! Delicatessen locates on the hills of Nisantasi is your perfect breakfast destination. How many times have you dined with classical music tunes in a restaurant enchanted with the smell of cakes and sweets? A terrace, a casual English-style cafe and a big dining space on the lower floor. Music, enchanting music, my style of music... I loved it here!
Petra Roasting Company: A Coup de Coeur in Istanbul
On this beautiful Sunday morning, my first stop was at Mangerie, where I thought I'd discovered the best... I then continued to Delicatessen where again I thought I’ve found my coup de Coeur... and then came Petra! OMG was the feeling, astonishment, amazement while walking into that marvelous space of old decor, trendy crafts, coffee roasting, bar, and open kitchen. It’s much more than a cafe, not like any restaurant I know; it’s an experience.
Ioki: An Excellent Sushi in Istanbul
It has appeared on the lists, in all my searches, it’s one of the capital’s best Asian restaurants according to many... after a bit so pleasant lunch down at the Bosphorus, we grabbed a cab all-the-way up next to Midpoint Mall where Ioki is located. Toning Japanese or Asian about the place especially when we met three families with their kids, but I was excepted to try the food: Rice, noodles, teppanyaki and Asian salads with a wide selection of sushi and makis.
The Allis at Soho House: Eat, Chill, Relax, Enjoy the Garden in Istanbul
Positive vibes in the garden while listening to good music; that’s The Allis at Soho House in Istanbul. Enjoy a cold coffee, let the breath of air caress your cheeks, mingle with people while inhaling fresh air in the garden. It feels good to be here...
Nusr-Et Burger Istanbul
Nusr-Et, once meat restaurant in Etiler has expended all around Istanbul and the world. From a "meat" fine dining restaurant, you have to book weeks in advance to other casual eateries of which I’ve tried many; the one in D-Maris hotel and today in Nisantasi on the hills of Istanbul. Meat is the specialty and here they sell burgers alongside other salads and steaks: a small restaurant, a couple of tables and a terrace on the sidewalk. Crowded, loud, and dimmed, we sat in front of the open kitchen for my last lunch in Istanbul before returning to Beirut.
MUST: Casual, Relaxed and Serving Good International Cuisine in Istanbul
Spending four days in Istanbul, and eating almost every cuisine until now, the last dinner must be special, so why not try MUST! MUST, which is the new address in Istanbul for special food and good music, brings inspiration from the Nişantaşı's “neighborhood” culture to a pleasant ambiance.
Paper Moon: Enjoying My Favorite Milanese Restaurant in Istanbul
After enjoying Paper Moon twice in Milano, I couldn’t but try it in Istanbul. One of my favorite Italian restaurants of all times makes my heart skip a beat. Pasta, pizza and Italian dishes, Paper Moon, is not only about the food but the class and vibes. With a high-end luxurious feel in Istanbul different from the Trattoria of Milano, you are promised perfection.
Hamdi Restaurant: Top Quality Turkish Food with a View
The view is breathtaking and the food as well. Good food with a superb view is what Hamdi offers in the heart of Istanbul’s busy touristic quarters. On the third floor is where lunch is served. Order kebab, hummus, Kebbeh and everything Turkish. Enjoy a meal, appreciate the view -if you have the chance to have a table on the balcony. I loved the juiciness of their Kebab, the yogurt quality, the crunchy pistachio, and the portion size. Juicy meat (50% lamb, 50% beef) mixed with pistachio of soaked in tomato sauce and yogurt. The Kebbeh, different from the ones we have in Lebanon is good.
Esmer Chef: Fresh Pasta in Istanbul
Some of the blog’s readers recommended “Esmer Chef.” Pizza, pasta, salads, international cuisine and everything in between, the casual fast food has several branches of which one on Taksim street. Fresh pasta, spaghetti displayed in front of the open kitchen facing the road. A pizza oven, walls of bricks, traditional flooring, and wooden tables. The restaurant looks nice, but not too clean.
House of B: A Good American Burger in Istanbul
After enjoying Istanbul’s vibes down at Beşiktaş, walking from a street to the next, I stopped at “House of B.” Burgers are what they do in an American diner-style decor and ambiance. American music, Coca-Cola signs, neon lights, and a bar; let’s have a burger and a sloppy joe.
Wagamama Istanbul: Noodles and Sushi I Always Enjoy
The journey with Wagamama started in 2012 at that same location. Seven years passed, and here I come again to experience one of my favorite brands. I love the naughty child painted on the wall, the name, the branding, the communal tables, and food they serve. Wagamama Istanbul also has sushi on their menu, and I was willing to try it!
La Petite Maison: A Must Do in Istanbul
Amazing, exceptionally amazing like all the “La Petite Maison” restaurants I’ve been to around the world. After indulging in the finest food in Nice, Dubai, and Beirut, here comes the Istanbul experience. Enter into a summer garden decorated with white table covers, colorful artwork, a bar, and the signature lemon and tomatoes in the middle of every table — the same menu for as long as I remember and the same vibes.
W Hotel Istanbul: Back After Six Years and I Still Enjoy it!
Visiting Istanbul this summer, I chose the W for my stay. Part of the Marriott group of hotels, the W is a luxurious yet trendy brand for the youth. It’s rare to find older people due to decorative items, low lights, and sexy furniture. Because I visited in 2013 and liked the experience, I planned another visit this year. Located in the heart of Istanbul, minutes from the shopping malls, meters from the nightlife district, and facing the sea, you will be fulfilled during your stay.
Brasserie St.Regis: Perfection in the Details
Everything looks and feels classy. Jazz music, dimmed lights, a big bar with decorative bottles and yellow backlight, the long leather sofa, the floor made of mixed materials, the glass facades surrounding the restaurant and the marble used all around he space. You can a sense of relaxation as you dine...
A Happy Moment: Breakfast at Park Hyatt Istanbul
A luxurious stay needs a luxurious breakfast. Down at the lobby facing the bar is the breakfast space. A rectangular room lit with crystal chandeliers welcomes you for breakfast. Day light enters from the glass ceiling, soft music plays in the background, a professional welcoming waiter, a beautifully set table and the choice of food you would expect at a five stars hotel.
Dardenia: Fast Casual Japanese in Istanbul
Walking around the hotel in Istanbul, my wife and I spotted a restaurant called Dardenia. The logo and signboard seemed interesting and as you walk inside you feel like you're entering an upper scale McDonald's, only here fish and sushi is served.
So, would you be visiting Istanbul this summer?