Living it up in Istanbul, three ways
Kate Parham, Houston Chronicle
While you re Istanbul's Old City, there s no more historic place to eat than Matbah Restaurant, one of two restaurants in town offering authentic Ottoman cuisine. Sit on the covered terrace and enjoy the magnificent views while you nosh on bona-fide Ottoman dishes like quince stuffed with minced meat, honey b rek and tender goose kebab baked in pastry.
Photo: Matt Kordsmeier
There's never been a better time to visit Istanbul. Not only has Turkish Airlines just launched a direct route from Houston to Istanbul, but the transcontinental city, which straddles the bustling Bosphorus, will welcome 100 new hotels, nearly 40 of which are five-star, over the next two years.
And whether you want to savor Turkish delicacies or visit some of the world's oldest sites - Istanbul has been around since 660 BC, after all, and they've got the mosques, palaces and basilicas to prove it - here are three ways to make the most of one of the world's fastest-growing metropolises.
For the history buff
Where to stay: If you want to stay in the heart of Istanbul's Old City, consider the Four Seasons Hotel at Sultanahmet, housed in a century-old former Turkish prison - not that you'd ever know it, with the hotel's perfectly groomed courtyard, neoclassical décor and stunning hand-woven Turkish carpets. Rates from $690; fourseasons.com.
What to do: If it's your first trip to Istanbul, consider hiring a guide from Unison Turkey, a boutique tour operator known for their local and historical expertise and friendly guides (all of whom speak English). They'll likely take you to the Hagia Sophia, a 6th-century cathedral turned mosque that now serves as a museum showcasing Byzantine architecture. Nearby, the 15th century Topkapi Palace offers visitors a peek at the Ottoman Sultans' residence for nearly 400 years. Be sure to stop in the imperial treasury where you'll find age-old weaponry and jewels. And finally, the Blue Mosque, famed as much for its blue tiles as for its controversial six minarets (ask your guide for the juicy story). Finish a day of sightseeing at Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam, a traditional Turkish bath designed and built by Mimar Sinan, the leading Ottoman architect.
Where to eat: While you're in Old City, there's no more historic place to eat than Matbah Restaurant, one of two restaurants in town offering authentic Ottoman cuisine. Sit on the covered terrace and enjoy the magnificent views while you nosh on bona-fide Ottoman dishes like quince stuffed with minced meat, honey börek and tender goose kebab baked in pastry.
For the foodie
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