Thursday, 27 December 2012

Istanbul - What to wear when you're there

Where? Istanbul, Turkey

Exactly? House Hotel Nisantasi
Why? Press trip with Transitions Eyewear to test the new day to night opticals.
Companions? Marcus from, Basma from ES Magazine, Mikey from Sunday Times Style, David from The Times and 40 other international journalists.

Me (left) and Basma (ES Magazine) on a night out in Istanbul
What to Wear When You're There - Istanbul
Istanbul is Turkey's second largest city, so despite the hot climate and the fact you may be on holiday, the style rules here are the same as you'd apply in any city; sophisticated rather than beach/resort wear. For an Islamic country Istanbul is very liberal in terms of dress. Evening attire in the bars and restaurants is quite glamourous, you'll see an abundance of heels, designer hand bags and lots of diamonds on show. Many women wear skirts, this isn't a problem at all, but many locals are in hijab or head scarves too. 

During the day for sight seeing and shopping it's quite tourist friendly, but it's best to dress respectfully to avoid any unwanted attention in the bazaars and markets. When visiting the Blue Mosque women are required to cover legs and shoulders, but the mosque provides cover ups if you need them. Its also a good idea to take some socks with you so you don't have to walk bare foot. And as for menswear? Anything goes. Lucky boys! 

Streetstyle - Istanbul
What to Wear When You're There
Valentina from Italian Vogue wears a simple white shift dress
Me and the gang cross the river to Bebek
Light colours always work best in the heat
David and Mikey from The Times sport spots and stripes
Hussain accessorises with a pair of Transitions glasses
TheChicGeek Marcus looks very chic in a tux jacket
Sleeping - Where to Stay in Istanbul

We stayed at:

The House Hotel Nisantasi
Abdi Ipekci Caddesi 34
34367 Nisantasi

Located in the chic shopping area of Nisantasi, The House Hotel is literally above the Prada store. Sweet dreams for all fashionistas! The Autobahn designed interiors are chic, minimal and homely, akin to a Wallpaper magazine shoot. The staff are friendly and efficient and for the purposes of our 48 hours in Istanbul, it's the perfect Diptyque candle scented home from home.

The foyer / library at The House Hotel filled with coffee table books

W Hotel

Suleyman Seba Cad 22
Akaretler Besiktas
Istanbul 34357

It's very likely that you'll be spending an evening partying in the Lounge Bar at The W, so why not stay at the hotel. I love W hotels anyway but this one is a particular favourite. The best bit? The suites have bridge walkways to private day bed varandas. How very fabulous! At reception ask for Cem or Atti - they have the best 'little black books' in town.

The private day beds at The W

The W Istanbul

Istanbul - After Dark, Eating, Drinking & Partying

360 East bar and restaurant
Istanbul is famed for its night life, If anyone recommends a bar or restaurant to you the chances are its a rooftop venue with amazing views over the city or a sunset spot by the Bosphoros River. The other chic evening alterative is Bebek. This is Istanbul's trendy party area, filled with bars and restaurants. Here is The Style Travellers choice of the best restaurants, bars and clubs in Istanbul.

Lacivert bar and restaurant
Much of Istanbul's night life centres around restaurants located on the Bosphoros River. One side of the Bosphorus is in Europe and the other side is in Asia, so you can party in two different continents in one night. The best place to watch the stunning sunsets is on the Asia side. I recommend 
Lacivert restaurant above, great for sundown drinks and dinner, then take the house boat across the water and carry on partying in trendy Bebek. 

A boat trip down the Bosphorus is also a must, I know its on every tourist agenda, but a blissful glide down the river with a crisp chilled glass of wine is a great way to see the city at night, all lit up with twinkling lights. Dont miss it.

Lucca bar in Bebek
Bebek is Istanbul's party area. Who goes there? Turkish celebrities, the art set and the cities cool kids. A few places of note here are Lucca, with its minimal white interior and chic black and white photographic print filled walls. The vibe is relaxed, eat, drink or chill by the bar. When it gets busy the crowd spills out onto the terrace outside. Luxurious Chilai across the road is also a popular restaurant/bar choice.

Photo of Reina taken by Uruk Sarasen

Istanbul - Clubbing
In the summer if you're looking for DJs and full on Ibiza style clubbing the best places are Reina (above) and Angelique (see below). Both open till the early hours, check listings for DJ's.

Formal dining with a view at Ulus 29
Istanbul - Rooftop Restaurants

Ulus 29 (above) serves up a delicious traditional Turkish menu whilst looking out over the rooftops of the city.

360 East bar and restaurant
Also try 360 
On the 8th Floor of the Hilton Double Tree Hotel, this sleek bar, restaurant and night club is Istanbul's number one spot to see (the view) and be seen. Its sister bars and restaurants are also worth checking out when you're in the city.

Maybe more of a lunch spot but I highly recommend a veranda table at Vogue restaurant. Its located around the corner from The W Hotel.

The Lounge Bar at The W
W Hotel
If you fancy throwing some shapes on the dance floor head to the W hotel. Tuesday night is the Richie Rich party which guarantees great tunes, cocktails and a cool crowd. (check listings before you go).

The waterfront terrace at Angelique Night Club and Restaurant

Istanbul - Shopping and Sight Seeing

The courtyard at The Blue Mosque

Shopping - Istanbul
With over 60 streets housing 5000 shops, Istanbul's Grand Bazaar is one of the largest covered markets in the world. Famed for traditional Turkish carpets, glass ware and crafts, it's also well known for its counterfeit hand bags and luxury goods. The choice and range is impressive, but obviously I'm not condoning that sort of illegal activity!

A maze of streets inside The Grand Bazaar

Shopping - Galata
For a little taste of underground Istanbul I would definitely recommend shopping in Galata. If you're looking for an alternative shopping experience, this chic bohemian area is filled with independent stores, boutiques and galleries. Young artists and designers have based themselves in this regenerated area due to the low rents. Flanked by the Galata tower and the bridge, (see map) the main streets for young designer labels and concept boutiques are Serdar-I Ekrem Street and Camekan St.

Craft boutiques
Designer stores in Nisantasi
Shopping -Nisantasi 
Nisantasi is Istanbul's designer shopping area. This is where you'll find Louis Vuitton, Gucci and all the international luxury brands. If you're staying at the Nisantasi House Hotel you'll be sleeping directly over the Prada store! Lucky you! Head to Attiye Street for lunch, its lined with chic whitewashed cafes and restaurants.

Sight Seeing
There's so much to see and do in Istanbul, here are the high lights of the top tourist spots to visit. Most of the main historic sites are close to each other, so its easy to fit them all in on a half day tour. The main museums and galleries will take longer.

Hagia Sofia (above)
Originally an orthodox church built in 360AD, Hagia Sofia became a mosque in 1453 then a museum in 1935. The hand painted decoration and reliefs on the walls highlight opposing religious iconography working together in unison.

The Blue Mosque (above)
Considered the last great mosque of the classical period, the blue mosque incorporates Ottoman and Byzantine architectural styles. Women need to have arms and legs covered before entering and you might want to take a pair of socks, you have to take your shoes off before you go in.

Spectacular dome frescoes at The Blue Mosque

Elaborate metal work at the Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace 
One of the most stunning examples of Ottoman architecture, the ornate Topkapi Palace is now a Unesco world heritage site. The jewellery rooms are unmissable for fashion lovers and you must wander through the ghostly harem rooms. Its easy to imagine past princesses and concubines haunting the maze like corridors.
View of the Garden from behind the harem windows of the Topkapi Palace
The Cistern
The Cistern
Being inside a 17th century water storage unit built by the Ottoman empire may not be top of your sight seeing list, but once you enter the atmospherically lit caverns, its a hauntingly magical experience.

Turkish Massage 

Be careful which baths you pick. It's definietely worth asking your hotel for the best nearby recommendation. Some of the old baths get really over crowded and you have to queue for everything. (not very blissful at all!) But if there's one thing i'd say it's, don't leave Istanbul without experiencing a true Turkish massage!

Istanbul - Map

View Istanbul in a larger map