Grand Bazaar and Spice Market
If you are at all into shopping, then the Grand Bazaar will be right up your street…literally. It has been said that one can lose days in this maze that is perhaps another one of Istanbul’s most recognisable sights. It seems that almost anything you require can be found here and the shopkeepers will do almost anything to appease you into purchasing from them and not their nearest competitor. From glass tea sets, to brightly coloured lanterns (a must have to add colour and sparkle to your home!) and from Turkish delight, to fake designer handbags, your wish is their command to these genies of Istanbul’s very own Aladdin’s cave. I finally tracked down the perfect rose gold crescent moon necklace here, which had the shop owner running back and forth all over the Bazaar (I kid you not!). It would appear if they don’t have it, they will simply go out and get it for you – I like their entrepreneurial spirit!
Try your hand at bartering, or simply browse the streets – this is an experience that is essential to experience quintessential Istanbul.
Go underground to the Basilica Cistern
They say that whenever you visit a new city you should look up. For it is when we look up, that we truly see. We see the beauty of the buildings surrounding us, and we see the love that goes into creating every city that many, many tourists (and even residents) miss. Whilst the same is true of Istanbul, one of it’s more surprising beauties, is actually underground. In fact, it wasn’t really meant to be seen at all. Commissioned by Justinianus I, the Byzantium Emperor, (the part of my mind that loves old school history is now in overdrive!) this surprising discovery was constructed as an underground water reservoir. Yes, you read that right – this vast underground space, which will frankly take your breath away, was never actually meant to be seen… now if that isn’t dedication to beauty and ascetics I don’t know what is! One of the few benefits of the snow was that many people had not ventured out that day, so the Cistern was very quiet and warm – go figure! A visit while the crowds are away comes highly recommended, not only for the obvious reasons of not being able to see anything and the potential hazard of being pushed into the water, but so you can really get a sense of how vast this underground chamber is. There is a certain stillness that can be found there which is almost therapeutic, and after 2 days of freezing my little butt off, I was in need of some therapy! (I say again – Claire, I am NEVER listening to your weather predictions again!)
Whether you are a history, science or art geek, there is something here for everyone to admire and be astonished by. If your approach to life is a little more hedonistic, simply watch the fish swim by and imagine what an awesome party you could host down there… those ACOUSTICS!
Discover the Basilica Cistern here.
Dinner with a View – The PerDerPey Restaurant at the Richmond hotel
I have yet to meet a person who does not love an incredible view over a landscape, be it the countryside, a seascape, or a cosmopolitan city. Now, if you can combine said view with amazing food, then I am quite possibly the happiest girl in the world. On the terrace of the Hotel Richmond lies the PerDerPay restaurant which overlooks the peninsula of Istanbul. For me, it has the perfect view. You can look out onto the water to see ships of all shapes gliding silently through the water, while across the water the modern buildings of ‘new’ Istanbul form the perfect opposite to the beautiful ancient mosques which are so synonymous with the city. The food is excellent, specialises in Ottoman cuisine and presents menus which are updated and changed regularly. The staff are super helpful and will accommodate your requests… even if this means taking endless photos of you standing with the whole of Istanbul at your feet.
Book your table here.
The special place that is Paris has in my heart is always with me. From the wild times of Las Vegas, to the still waters of the Maldives, no one in my book does it quite like Paris. Imagine my amazement (read total delight!) to find a tiny Parisian style tearoom tucked in the corner of one of the most glamorous hotels in Istanbul. In case you hadn’t already realised, the Pera Palace became our go to comfort blanket when we were in need of a little warmth with an added dash of luxury. Please note, when I go on holiday I like to fully get involved in the local culture, but sometimes, the familiar is just want is required.
After a particularly long, and cold day (yes, there were many of these!) Claire and I decided to venture in for cake on our way ‘home’. The dusky pink interior (my new favourite colour) welcomed us in, and despite our very bedraggled appearance, we were shown to a table by a very sweet girl. The choice of cake was vast ranging from Parisian macarons to cupcakes with a twist.
If you are in search of an luxurious heaven, then this is quite possibly it. Attention to detail is displayed in everything that they do. Even the uniforms of the staff (Pink in case you couldn’t guess!) were pressed pristinely. This was topped off with a black fascinator for a touch of style and eccentricity – too cool! The vast chandeliers, the marble floors, the beautiful cakes all lead you to the conclusion, that if you like elegant things, you have well and truly come home.
This little slice of heaven is Patisseries de Pera
Many people reflect on that fact that the world is such a vast place, and it is! 510,072,000 km² to be precise! It in fact seems so huge, that people state that there also seems so little time in which to see it. I would in turn, say this to them. If you have a hunger to seek out the world, do just that… little by little. Look to what has been left by the past for inspiration and to see what great things can be achieved. Istanbul is a fabulous place to be reminded of this. We can learn lessons from Empires now consigned to the history books, yet they still live on through the buildings and culture that remain today. Our predecessors that have gone before us have left us a message, and if you listen closely you may just hear it. Start today, and build your tomorrow. The Topkapı Palace in Istanbul took 14 years to build, but this did not dissuade it’s creators from starting… this time is now.