Istanbul Travel Guide

The live-music venue that sparked the area’s renaissance. The live acts range from Cuban rap to Turkish folk music—but the club will definitely be packed with hip types swigging the signature Absinthe Ferrari cocktails.

Security regulations make it all but impossible to watch planes taking off from the airport, but these establishments in the Istanbul International Airport Hotel offer international cuisine, a fully stocked bar, and a fine vantage point for plane-spotting. The bar is open 24 hours.

The massive, flashy complex right on the Bosporus is packed with open-air restaurants, but the real draw is the nightlife, which lures millionaires and models, not to mention the beautiful people of Istanbul. No jeans or T-shirts allowed. Closed during the winter season.

Designed by Mahmut Anlar, Istanbul’s hottest restaurateur, this low-lit, sexy, and (yes) long-tabled space is festooned with whimsical bric-a-brac—including a flock of stuffed sheep, vintage Playboy posters, and a glowing white faux-porcelain grand piano.

The labyrinthian Grand Bazaar in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet neighborhood can be disorienting for shoppers, especially tourists hunting authentic goods at the best bargains. Those seeking old-world jewelry should stop into Can Diamond and Jewel inside Rabia Han in the southeast corner.

Inaugurated in 2004, this converted warehouse, directly on the Golden Horn, is Turkey’s first museum of contemporary and modern art—although in a city that can trace its roots to the late Mycenaean era, “modern” is a relative term, and the collection includes painters from the late 1800s.

This massive, dazzling, and cacophonous covered market is the ur-bazaar of the Orient; if you’ve envisioned what it will be like, prepare to have your expectations exceeded.

Compared to the Turkish Airlines Lounge, this airport-operated lounge is somewhat spartan, but it offers wireless Internet access, massage recliners, shower facilities, and a well-stocked buffet with coffee, snacks, pastries, sandwiches, and aperitifs. Admission is $45.

This family-owned Turkish chain sells lovely and unusual pieces that reflect Turkey’s cultural heritage. The designers use precious and semiprecious metals and gems to create contemporary drop necklaces, rings, and bracelets inspired by Byzantine and Ottoman Empire designs.

Istanbul's major state-run museums charge hefty admissions, but the Great Palace Mosaic Museum, just behind the Blue Mosque adjacent to the Arasta Bazaar, costs only $3.

In the stranglehold that eventually throttled Constantinople in 1453, the Rumeli Hisar (castle) served as the lynch pin. Constructed on the narrowest point of the Bosphorus north of the city, it blocked Byzantine access to the Black Sea.

Cult favorite Ümit Ünal, a longtime neighborhood resident, sells his avant-garde women’s designs here.

This well-regarded antiques shop carries Islamic calligraphy, religious icons, weapons, and reproductions of ancient Anatolian designs.

The sheer number of carpet stores in Istanbul, particularly in the Sultanahmet area, can be overwhelming, but Noah’s Ark has an excellent reputation for honesty, quality, and a willingness to educate customers without pressuring them (much) to buy.