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Istanbul: Asmalimescit

Asmalimescit, part of Istanbul’s central Beyolu borough, may have reached its glamorous peak in the 1920’s, but it became run-down in the ensuing decades. Now it’s in the midst of a colorful renaissance. Istiklal Caddesi is the main entertainment strip, a car-free street that’s filled night and day with locals looking to wine and dine or take in a cutting-edge art exhibit. Restaurants and music venues dot the area’s bohemian byways, but the quarter, with its narrow streets and ancient façades, has retained the feel of old Istanbul. —Deniz Huysal


Pera Palace Hotel: Agatha Christie, Greta Garbo, and Alfred Hitchcock all stayed at this historic property, which finished a $32 million restoration in 2010. It now has a spa with a traditional hammam. 52 Mesrutiyet Cad.; 90-212/377-4000; perapalace.com; doubles from $365.


Otto: Pizza is a big draw at Otto, as is the nightly parade of DJ’s. For some local flavor, try the votka gelincik, a mix of vodka and a house-made syrup of poppy flowers. 5 Sehbender Sk.; 90-212/292-7015; ottoistanbul.com; dinner for two $45.

Mikla: Star Turkish chef Mehmet Gürs fuses local and Scandinavian flavors at Istanbul’s most stylish restaurant. Mikla takes up the top two floors of the Marmara Pera Hotel; the view of the skyline is one of the city’s most breathtaking.15 Mesrutiyet Cad.; 90-212/293-5656; miklarestaurant.com; dinner for two $115.

Istanbul Culinary Institute: The hands-on classes (taught in English) held here are a good way to perfect your technique for preparing Turkish pastries—and to meet locals. 59 Mesrutiyet Cad.; 90-212/251-2214; istanbulculinary.com; classes from $75.


Pera Museum: This superb institution, housed in an 1893 building, has a large collection of Orientalist works by 17th- to 19th-century European painters inspired by the Ottoman world. It also displays Anatolian artifacts and hosts traveling exhibitions. 65 Mesrutiyet Cad.; 90-212/334-9900; peramuzesi.org.tr.

Nejat Eczacibasi Building: Formerly the Deniz Palas, the headquarters of IKSV (Istanbul Foundation for Culture & Arts) includes a concert hall, a shop, and a rooftop restaurant with a sweeping Golden Horn panorama. 5 Sadi Konuralp Cad.; iksv.org; saloniksv.com; xrestaurantbar.com.

Arter: Collector Ömer Koç wants to make the five-story Arter Istanbul’s next great contemporary art venue. Its latest exhibition, "Tactics of Invisibility," was curated in collaboration with Vienna’s Thyssen-Bornemisza gallery and Tanas Berlin. 211 Istiklal Cad.; 90-212/243-3767; arter.org.tr.

Babylon: This neighborhood mainstay, one of Istanbul’s foremost music venues since 1999, is still going strong. You’ll hear everything from jazz and electronica to local rock bands. 3 Sehbender Sk.; 90-212/292-7368; babylon.com.tr.


Ümit Ünal Doors: Cult favorite Ümit Ünal, a longtime neighborhood resident and icon of the new Asmalimescit generation, sells his avant-garde women’s designs at this boutique. 1B Ensiz Sk.; 90-212/245-7886; umitunal.com.

Bilstore Tünel: What started out as a collection of uniquely designed white shirts has evolved into a concept store carrying Fred Perry tops, Linda Farrow sunglasses, Melissa shoes, and Nudie Jeans. 90 Mesrutiyet Cad.; 90-212/245-9020; bilstore.com.


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