Few cities have collected as many names as Istanbul; Byzantium, New Rome and Constantinople to name but three. This was the capital of successive Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires and has had major influence both in the worlds of Islam and Christianity; it’s history alone could fill a small library.
All of which makes it bizarre to claim that Istanbul is in fashion – as if any city so glorious could be reduced to a passing fad. But sprawling across the Bosphorus Strait that divides Europe from Asia, the city has entered a new era of prosperity following the fall of the Iron Curtain and increasing east-west trade.
The Roman ruins and Ottoman mosques are still there, but you can barely walk down a street without seeing a restaurant or club that wasn’t there a year ago. The fashionistas are flocking to the ‘Queen of Cities’ and even the twelve million citizens are starting to believe the hype.
Where to stay
The Sirkeci Konak Hotel was a 2009 Traveller’s Choice winner in the family section, but the wide range of facilities, central location and helpful service make it just as good for business trips. The White House Hotel is a superb boutique on a rare quiet, central street in the Old Town.
Where to eat
The Swiss chef at Cinetemani previously spent years in Thailand, where he cooked for the King Bhumibol and the Emperor of Japan; his European interpretation of traditional Turkish food is an experience to savour.
What to see
The lavish Topkapı Palace was the seat of Ottoman power for three centuries; the Harem and Imperial treasury are must-see features. The Grand Bazaar is an overwhelming assault on the senses well worth experiencing; it’s also a great place to pick up souvenirs and do some serious shopping.