SEVERAL YEARS AGO, I made İstanbul home. And like so many moves, it began with a visit.
I’d planned a typical three-day tour. From my perch at the Four Seasons in Sultanahmet, I’d hit the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, explore the ancient lanes of the Grand Bazaar and take in the tiled splendor of Topkapi Palace. I’d hop on a ferry to the Asian side for brunch in Kadiköy and maybe drinks in Moda. Then off I’d go with Turkish Airlines, non-stop to New York.
But that plan quickly fell apart. A chance encounter led to a feast of fish and raki, Turkey’s anise-flavored liqueur, with a group of new friends. And then an idea: What if I stayed?
I did. I spent the better part of four years in İstanbul’s Beyoğlu neighborhood, high up a hillside overlooking the Bosporus, the waterway that separates Europe from Asia. Once one of the world’s most polluted bodies of water, the Bosporus benefitted from intensive cleanup efforts over the past several years, and from my top-floor terrace I often watched the boats crisscrossing that ancient strait.
Beyoğlu is best known for İstiklâl Avenue, a pedestrian promenade lined with shops and restaurants, cafés and bars. And though much changed under the Islamist government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it remains the pulsing heart of European İstanbul with its mishmash of old and new buildings, high-end dining and tantalizing street fare, underground wine cellars and rooftop pools.
For a taste of Black Sea cuisine, head to Hayvore, or go for the grilled kebab at Dürümzade, and wash it down with a cool, creamy ayran, Turkey’s national drink. For dessert, try the marzipan at Şirin Firin (maybe the baklava, too), and walk it all off with a hike to the iconic Galata Tower. From there, amble down the hill to the 16th-century Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam and enjoy a Turkish bath at its best.
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Experience a big-city hotel stay that doesn’t feel like your typical urban visit at Chicago’s Claridge House, nestled in the sought-after Gold Coast neighborhood. The hotel’s sophisticated décor and serene residential ambience foster the atmosphere of an oasis amid the hustle and bustle of a busy metropolis.