Istanbul is a major city in Turkey that straddles Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait. Its Old City reflects cultural influences of the many empires that once ruled here. In the Sultanahmet district, the open-air, Roman-era Hippodrome was for centuries the site of chariot races, and Egyptian obelisks also remain. The iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia features a soaring 6th-century dome and rare Christian mosaics.
Revealing anew Karaköy’s glorious past, the hotel occupies two historical buildings dating from 1863: the first was once a bank, the Crédit Général Ottoman, and the second is the former home of the Neve Shalom Jewish community. The interiors are the work of a leading local designer, Sinan Kafadar, also responsible for the classy Four Seasons Sultanahmet and Four Seasons Bosphorus. The hotel impresses on entry with all the airs and graces of a bank from the great days of wealthy Constantinople. Continue on into the handsome lobby with its dramatic high ceilings and bar incorporating the bank’s old vault, and run your eye over the shelves lined with collector’s editions, the antiques and the design pieces dotted here and there. An admirer of Renzo Piano, Sinan has successfully retained the soul of the place, restoring the historical building and designing a range of contemporary furnishings that creates a link between heritage and modernity. As a further stylish touch to this luxurious setting, curator Zeynep Berik was tasked with displaying the art collection built up by the hotel’s owner, Yilmaz Ulusoy, and to acquire a selection of contemporary works specially commissioned from young Turkish artists. The luxury rooms on the first two floors have original stencilled ceilings. The bathrooms in green, beige and white Carrara marble are supplied with a sumptuous selection of bath products by Lokum Istanbul and its Istanbul Rituals range, specially designed for the hotel. Besides the two restaurants, one offering panoramic views of Topkapı Palace and Hagia Sophia, there’s a huge spa with a hammam. A new top-notch destination for Istanbul and reasonably priced.
Fey is a rare gem in the lush fashion district of Nisantasi. Stepping into the subtly serene ambience of this store, one enters the world of Fatoş Yalin (Turkish Marie Clairemagazine’s long-time general manager and publishing director). Enjoy the luxury of taking the time to explore Yalın’s vision. The store has the personal feel of a private wardrobe-cum-showroom. Fey presents a flawless line of understated, elegant pieces, a handpicked selection of vintage bags and accessories, handcrafted snakeskin ballerina flats, Venetian slippers, Taschen art books, modernist Danish porcelain and antique jewellery. Need one add that Fatos Yalin is one of the most stylish women in Istanbul?
Karaköy may be the neighbourhood on the rise, compared to Eminönü, but Karaköy Lokantasi keeps it even further ahead when it comes to a meyhane (a traditional meze restaurant). The interiors are by Autoban, the celebrated Turkish design team, who were inspired by the turquoise ceramic tiled walls of the sadly defunct Pandeli restaurant in the Egyptian Bazaar. Starched white tablecloths and brass light fittings create the timeless chic of a favourite local spot. Always buzzing, the restaurant is filled with regulars, businessmen and young hipsters. The wrought-iron staircase lends vitality to the space, and the wide marble bar, lined with shelves groaning with raki bottles, remains the centre of attention. There you can order fillets of bonito in oil, sea-bass ceviche, artichoke hearts and vegetable meze (peppers, aubergine, cardoons and cucumber). Displayed as a colourful assortment in a refrigerated glass cabinet, these starters sit alongside the catch of the day and baked octopus. Karaköy Lokantasi will be as much a vibrant feature of this district tomorrow as it has always been.
Founded by Demet Müftüoglu-Eseli and Alphan Eseli, ISTANBUL’74 is a major creative platform in the city. Its mission? To connect Istanbul to the international cultural scene through festivals, workshops, art exhibitions, film screenings and artistic collaborations involving creative minds from around the globe. It initiated, and runs, the Istanbul International Arts & Culture Festival, an annual, high-profile event open to the public. ISTANBUL’74 was responsible for introducing the work of Tracey Emin in collaboration with the Lehmann Maupin Gallery, the photography of Inez & Vinoodh with the Gagosian Gallery, and the work of artist duo Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe with the Marlborough Gallery. Its gallery-cum-cultural centre is located in a beautiful, historic apartment building in Maçka. It also has a strong digital presence, exploring new ground with ’74Escape (www.74escape.com), featuring online travel diaries by artists, editors and tastemakers.
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