Travel | 48 Hours in Istanbul
Istanbul is a destination that parallels something cosmic, a universal theme that stretches beyond the scope of any social barrierThe city is a symbol of living balance and duality. A multicultural melting pot of Asia and Europe. The shining example of a harmonious blend between modern and ancient. Every inch of the way you can see the historical scars from those who have come to the capital between continents. One only needs to open their minds and prepare for a symphony of sensory overload as you explore and discover a place that will leave its mark on your soul.
Cobblestone streets speckled with friendly vendors whose endless smiles fill your heart, fresh flaky Turkish pastries as far as the eye can see and the stomach can handle. An overwhelming sense of euphoria floods through your body as the buzz of local chatter and beeps from old automobiles fill your ears. As you explore further witness the interconnection that fuels this city. Whether it’s in the diversity of the cuisine or in the locals’ contagious appreciation for the simple things in life, detox your mind from negative energies by simply taking a stroll and experiencing the generosity and hospitality of this community.
As the capital of Turkey, this place transcends the boundaries between culture and time while reminding us of the oneness we all share together. It holds a special place in our hearts and leaves us dreaming of more, which is why we’re guiding you through how we spent 48 hours in Istanbul.
Where we stay:
One of our favourite places to stay in Istanbul is a chic and modern hotel where service is second to none and they seriously know how to do breakfast. If you’re anything like us then you truly value breakfast time, coffee is essentially heaven’s way of touching down on earth. We fell in love with breakfast at Shangri-La Bosphorus. Freshly baked pastries, Turkish coffee, a plethora of fresh meats, fruit and vegetables, cheese and croissants, I mean come on, Turkish food is absolutely the best thing to wake up to. Although grand hotels usually aren’t our thing, we always make an exception when it comes to Shangri-La Istanbul because they always make us feel like family.
If you don’t find us there, we will be resting our head at the uber cool Soho House, definitely our home away from home in the city. From it’s textured decor, sumptuous furniture, fixtures and fittings and those tiny interior details usually reserved for someone’s private home, yet somehow is all par for the course when you walk through the doors at Soho House. The boutique hotel with it’s homely facade, intimate fully stocked bar, that whips up some of the yummiest cocktails in town and chic guest spaces that allow you to roam freely, finding your perfect spot to unwind with a book, experience a spa treatment or simply do nothing.
When we need to live and feel like a local, we head over to the Witt Hotel, Istanbul. Located in a residential street, within a chic bohemian neighbourhood, filled with cool cafes, independent boutiques and vintage shops. We are able to roam with ease, acting either as the ultimate purveyors of everyday local life in Istanbul or getting our hands dirty and engaging in some mischief. Add the breathtaking roof-garden at the Witt with its panoramic views overlooking the city, creating the perfect place to watch some beautiful sunsets at the end of a crazy day discovering Istanbul.
Where we eat:
We’re always on the go, so getting a big breakfast and late lunch only makes sense right? We spent our time thoroughly investigating the food scene in Istanbul to bring you back the best spots with the best bites. For the best breakfast spread, hit up Mangerie that served us up the works, teamed with being in an uber cool neighbourhood, we spent many leisurely morning’s people watching, while stuffing our faces with a menu that merges traditional turkish delicacies with modern European flare.
We only have two words for this place, and that’s Pancake Brunch. I mean who doesn’t love a fluffy pancake, fresh fruit and homemade whipped cream combo? The quality of Emirgan Sütiş products is credited to the local and organic sourcing of their cheese, conserve and milk, while their bread is baked fresh daily.
In our experience, follow the people and you’ll find the food. Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi is our classic find, serving only a few special dishes that are Turkish food for Turkish people. Expect to wait in line, and expect the experience to be worth the wait.
Are you even in Turkey if you haven’t had baklava? Well we went straight to the source to bring you the best baklava spot in town. In fact, it’s the original baklava spot in town! Stretching back from generations in the 1800s, Karaköy Güllüoğlu introduced the dessert to the people and has remained a local favorite since. Enjoy this sweet staple and cleanse your palette with a cup of freshly brewed black tea.
If there’s anything that we found out about Turkey, it’s that they take their meat very seriously. We wined and dined with some friends for the perfect blend of comfort and elegance at Markus Ribs to relax and absorb the energy that cames alive as the sound of laughter and live jazz music filled the atmosphere around us.
It’s not our first time at Ulus 29 and it certainly won’t be our last. We were lured there for an early dinner, and who are we to say no? We ended up staying for a night cap or two. I must say, I thought I would get used to the view overlooking the Bosphorus but each and every time the dazzle of the city lights took my breath away. The crazy thing is that the view wasn’t even the most impressive part! The secret to this place is that they make their own dry aged meats as well as, wait for it… Homemade ice cream and pasta. Their menu is gastronomy focused and as diverse as the city with dishes ranging from traditional Turkish cuisine to sushi. After you’ve filled yourself with delicious food be sure to hang around on the weekends as this place turns into a hip spot for dancing feet.
We aim to curate and craft travel experiences that enrich our souls and open up our perspectives to new and exciting cultures. With their motto being “Food for the Soul”, we had to feed our curiosity and check out the hype behind Banyan which we must say, we have fully jumped on bandwagon. We ventured up to the top of a historic building that is wedged between the Bosphorus and gives you a true sense of the working polarities between the East and West influences in this capital. Enjoying the brilliance of the city lights while savouring on sichuan pepper steak, duck satay, and dim sum is always a big win in our book.
The iconic Maiden’s Tower has become somewhat of a signature for Istanbul, and provided us with a unique dining experience we will be slow to forget! The historical and multi cultural influence that has blossomed in Istanbul can be seen, tasted, and heard throughout the entire restaurant. The magical view of the Bosphorus from all sides made our meal that much more memorable, add in the live music and friendly chatter and we’ll meet you at Maiden’s any day.
What we do:
The Spanish have their siesta, the Italian’s have their riposa, and in Istanbul they have their tea time. An hour or two dedicated to quality time and conversations with friends, tasty petite finger foods washed down with warm tea to soothe the soul. Within one visit, Dem Moda became our favourite little tea house, their peaceful and tranquil atmosphere makes for the perfect intimate experience.
They say the way into a man’s heart is through his stomach, and we’ll tell you a little secret that travel is no different. One of our favourite ways to dive into understanding a country is through food. By cooking with a local you become more familiar with cultural customs and traditions, while learning the heritage and history of Turkey. We have known the Cookistan team for a while, as if extended family. Their style of cooking and the overall experience is as if learning from your mother, directly in her kitchen. From the local exploration you do with them that helps you discover the neighbourhood, to then curating produce from local suppliers and farmers markets. They delve deep into not only the history and heritage of the neighbourhood but the food you are preparing If you would like to cook through a local lens, then hit our experience page to discover the unique experience we have curated with Cookistan.
How we roam:
The Turkish work hard and play even harder, we went out in Ortakoy to get a taste of the night life and we must say we woke up feeling anything but disappointment. The neighbourhood has an impressive array of restaurants, tea houses, and bars as well as world renowned nightclubs. If you happen to be visiting in the summer, chances are there’s a concert or street show happening so be sure to cancel whatever plans you had scheduled for the evening.
Shop ‘til you drop at the Grand Bizarre. Rugs, tapestries, spices, wooden cookware, intricately designed bowls, artisanal handcrafted goodies, purses, bags, jewelry, you name it, they have it! Be sure to designate a few hours of the day to this shopping haven or you’ll end up spending all 48 hours there!
Take a break from the chaos and commotion of the urban jungle and check back in with your higher purest self at Cihangir Yoga. You’ll find a variety of practices offered as well as unique workshops and a daily meditation during the weekdays at 12:30 open to anyone wanting to renew and ground their energy.
We tapped into our higher selves and became curious observers at the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul. How humbling and eye opening it is to walk in the same space where thousands have once entered and prayed, stood and talked, cried and laughed. A beautiful foundation built around an energy that has been flourishing for many years.
One of our favourite parts of traveling is the fact that with every new destination, our minds are opened to new and exciting methods of healing. With wellness being one of our main pillars, we look forward to trying anything and everything that comes our way. In Turkish culture there is something called a Hammam, not to be mistaken for the Moroccan Hammam, although they share similarities, purpose and methods are different. Turkish Hammam is an ancient bath used for cleansing and relaxation. Every time we go to Istanbul we head to Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami, the space from an architectural and design prospective is phenominal, add the service, expertise and feeling you have when you leave. We love the balance between modern luxury and ancient wisdom. They also have a killer boutique to find classic goods you can bring home to remember your hammam experience.
Something that seems to remain a constant with every country we travel to is our love for street vendors. We’ve found that some of the best food you can find is from the small mom and pop restaurants, carts, or if you’re lucky a little hole in the wall. There’s something about the taste that assures you the cook put their whole heart and soul in, a certain sense of quality of quantity that seems more rare to come by these days. It also provides the perfect opportunity to discover local cuisine and people. We have had some of the best conversations and heard some of the most amazing stories from street food vendors.
Visit Jennifer’s Hamam, a creative shop owned by Canadian designer Jennifer Gaudet. Here the quality of craftsmanship can be seen in each and every organic hamam item offered including towels, robes, bath wraps and more. The unique thing about Jennifer’s is that they only work with the few local artisan families who still carry on the tradition of weaving using old-style shuttered looms, (did we forget to mention how you’ll get to watch your piece being handmade?) We always talk about a balance of giving and receiving through our words, intentions and actions. And we can’t think of a better way to give than to empower the local community in the places we explore!
Experience the workspace and shop of Özlem Tuna, where you can pick out and buy beautifully crafted custom jewelry and houseware that uniquely highlights the simplicity of life