For a change of scene, hop on a ferry across to Üsküdar. Just five minutes by taxi from the port is the pretty Bosphorus-front "village" of Kuzguncuk (incredible though it is to believe, sprawling Istanbul was formerly made up of a series of villages). Remnants of a fascinating Jewish, Greek and Armenian past include tiny, tucked away synagogues and churches. Today's leafy main street is made up of super-friendly grocers, patisseries and even the odd gallery. Once you've had a wander, stop at chic Ilya for a cappuccino and chin-wag with charismatic owner Arzu. Born and brought up here, she has many a tale to tell and before you know it, you'll have spent a couple of hours here. Cafe by day/intimate restaurant by night it'sa real find. Oh, and it's BYO.
Without a doubt one of the finest vantage points Istanbul has to offer. We took the free shuttle service from Taksim Square to SantalIstanbul (a former power station, now the Museum of Energy/gallery space on the Golden Horn, www.santralistanbul.com), spent the morning there, then hopped in a dolmus down to Eyup. A cable car brings you up to the shady, hillside cafe. It's a little touristy, but get a good seat and with cay pretty much on tap, you will be well and truly rooted. The Halic (Golden Horn) ferry snakes back via Haskoy. Look out for the partially submerged submarine, an exhibit belonging to the Rahmi M. Koc transport museum.
Pierre Loti Cafe, Eyup
Karyagdi Sok., EYUP
Phone: +90 (212) 581 26 96
Google map: tinyurl.com/ycz2aee
Although you absolutely must stay in a cave hotel when in Cappadocia, there are far too many to choose from these days and seemingly not much to separate them. We can vouch for The Kelebek however. Our room was exceptionally cosy, even in deepest darkest November. Staff were magnificent, often going above and beyond the call of duty. On our final morning they presented us with freshly cooked borek and cans of juice at 5am - way before breakfast! It's within walking distance of the Goreme Open Air Museum, a must-see, and the sunny terraces afford breathtaking views of the famed landscape. If you're too broke/chicken to take a hot air balloon ride, do at least make the effort to get up at dawn and you will be rewarded with the most magical sight of 20 plus balloons in flight. Doubles from €45 per night, with breakfast.
Aydinli Mahallesi, Yavuz Sokak No:1
50180 Goreme, Nevsehir, TURKEY
+90 (384) 271 2531
The Princes' Islands are a haven of peace and calm just under an hour by ferry from central Istanbul. The Karamanyan is a converted Ottoman mansion on the second largest of the archipelago, Heybeliada. Immaculately styled, with high ceilings and a sweeping original staircase, this place is a real find.
There are four apartments in total. We stayed in the penthouse which doesn't have use of the garden, but the gorgeous views from the pretty wooden balconies more than made up for that. The house is right next door to the former summer house of Ismet Inonu, Turkey's first Prime Minister. It's now a quirky museum. It's also within easy walking distance of the restaurant-lined promenade. Although if you're feeling a little worse for wear after one too many glasses of raki, you'll have to take a fayton (horse-drawn carriage) back up the hill, as motorised transport is outlawed on the Islands.
Great value for money and hugely atmospheric, if you can find it. Hop on a dolmus into Fethiye, get off at the last stop, then take the road behind the main mosque into the heart of the town. It's only about a two-minute walk (if you get lost, ask a local or follow the cats!) Buy your fish direct from the stall holders - levrek (sea bass) and cupra (sea bream) are both delicious - and one of the surrounding restaurants will cook it for you there and then, how you like, for a small cover charge with fresh bread and salad alongside. Mezes are extra and raki, the potent local aniseed-based tipple traditionally enjoyed with fish, is an absolute must. My favourite is Recep's Place and the owner, formerly a butcher, is a bit of a local celeb.
Hal ve Pazar Yeri, No: 51, Fethiye, Tel: +90 (0)538 304 0555).
I love, love, LOVE Leb-i-derya. I don't care one jot that it's over-priced. It's refreshing to find a society in Istanbul hangout that's friendly and welcoming - even on a Saturday night in July without a booking. And the views are sublime. Try to arrive before sunset otherwise you'll completely miss the point and good luck in finding it! If you get lost, ask the doorman at the Richmond Hotel on Istiklal Caddesi for directions...
Kumbaracı yokuşu 57/6 Tünel, Beyoğlu
Wow - probably the best restaurant I've ever eaten at (not just because of the food). Il Pentagono emerged mirage-like on our journey west from Villa Rey. We were starving and so had taken a gamble and followed the crossed fork and spoon signs along and then off the SS125. Totally empty when we arrived, we were soon treated to a feast of local delicacies, including mussel gratin, tasty seabass, fruit fresh from the farm and wine produced on site. Service was exceptional and although we had a plane to catch, it would have been rude to turn down the trolley of homemade liqueurs, wheeled out with the bill. The bill for four (three courses, plus wine, liqueur and an extra bottle of wine to take back) came to an unbelievable 60 euro.
presso Lago Simbirizzi Q.S. Elena (Ca)
Tel: 070 830879
There is comparatively little written about the east of the Island in the guide books which is a shame as Aleria is a bit of a find for foodies: L'Etang de Diana is France's foremost spot for the farming of oysters and mussels (they say) and the region is carpeted with vineyards. Our favourite restaurant was Le Maracana on the town's main street. Don't be put off by the roadside setting and plastic chairs... A 13 euro menu featured hearty local vegetable soup, succulent pork fillet served with figs and brocciu cheese and mint-stuffed omelette plus a choice of fresh desserts and a carafe of house wine. Simple, yet stunning.
Route de la Mer, 20270 Aleria
Tel: 04 95 56 24 84
Give the touristy, overcrowded day trip from Oludeniz a miss and head down to Fethiye harbour at around 10am. Take your pick of the boats departing for a day's cruising around Fethiye's islands and inlets: around 4-5 stops for swimming and snorkelling, plenty of opportunity to sunbathe and a leisurely BBQ lunch in between. Easily the best 20TL (around £9) you'll spend all holiday. Don't forget to stock up on snacks and drinks at the supermarket beforehand as it'll save you ££s on board.
One of Istanbul’s most photographed monuments which incredibly dates back over 2,000 years, you simply cannot miss the iconic Kiz Kulesi or Maiden’s Tower, out on its own little island at the mouth of the Bosphorus.
In its capacity as customs control, defence tower, lighthouse and now restaurant, you can’t help but wonder what this intriguing structure has bore witness to over the centuries. This is truly a unique dining experience in what is itself a one-of-a-kind city.
The food is good, but who cares? It’s the view of the sun setting over old Istanbul from the tower’s summit that people really come here for.
Transfers from Salacak (Asian Side) and Ortakoy (European Side) daily – check the website for times. Booking recommended.
Tel: 0216 342 47 47
Istanbul’s latest design hotel situated on the city’s Asian side. A recently restored Ottoman distillery with thoughtfully designed rooms that unusually manage to strike a perfect balance between comfort and modernity. Large windows enable guest to take full advantage of the spectacular Bosphorus views. For added convenience, the hotel provides free scheduled boat shuttle service to the city centre.
Tiny, traditional and the sort of place you find by accident, Aytekin Cay and Nargile Café is centrally located on a quiet street just off Taksim Square.
Perfect for a breather from the city’s frenetic pace, “Cay” or tea and “Nargile” (shisha/water pipe) are exactly what you should come here for as they do little else – but they do it well.
Seating is predominantly outside on the pavement and consists of stools and knee-high tables, but any discomfort is soon forgotten over a competitive game of backgammon.
Şehit Muhtar Cad. No: 71, Taksim;
tel: 212 361 8402
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