Adding to the glamour and mystery is Topkapi palace, former home of the Ottoman sultans, with its lavish collection of sparkling jewels. The Byzantine Hagia Sophia and the iconic Blue Mosque, an architectural wonder with six minarets and striking blue tiles are guaranteed to dazzle. Take in the Spice Market’s bountiful array of aromas, tastes and colors. Art devotees head to the hip scene at Salt. Have your coffee grounds read by a friendly local as you sip Turkish coffee at Bebek Kahve, on the water’s edge. Whether you like dancing the night away at swinging clubs like Reina, or taking in the soulful gypsy haunts, the steamy nightlife will not disappoint.
No trip to Istanbul is complete without an indulgent visit to a Hamam, aka a Turkish Bath. One of many, the historic Ayasofya Turkish Baths, originally built for the wife of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent features lustrous marble, flowing fountains and every amenity. Men and women, in separate areas, are bathed from head to toe in steamy rooms and massaged by pampering attendants.
Create special experiences for clients such as a private cruise on the Bosphorus, visiting the Harem in Topkapi, a personal guide for the Grand Bazaar or Dohlmabache Palace, a shopping excursion at designer boutiques or hard-to -get reservations at choice restaurants.
WHERE TO STAY
Ciragan Palace Kempinski: The opulent former home of the Ottoman Sultans, set amid lush gardens on the Bosphorus, boasts lavish palace suites and exquisite rooms plus huge pool and spa. Stunning interiors feature elegant antiques, plush furniture and private butlers for palace guests. Enjoy superb classic Ottoman cuisine at restaurant Tugra. www.kempinski.com
Four Seasons Sultanahment: This luxurious hotel, a spectacularly transformed former prison, in the heart of the charming old district, features rooms and suites with stunning interiors, posh decor, restaurant and new rooftop terrace / bar done in Ottoman Sultan style.
Four Seasons Bosporus: Housed in a 19th century palace, this sumptuous hotel features pool, spa and restaurant. www.fourseasons.com
Les Ottomans: Set on the Bosporus, this palatial seaside mansion delivers the utmost in over the top luxury with pool, spa and dining. www.lesotto mans.com
Pera Palace: Located in lively Beyoglu, this museum-hotel renowned for its historical grandeur and famous guests, features elegant rooms and suites, with spa and restaurant. www.jumei rah.com
Shangri-La (www.shangri-la.com) and Raffles (www.raffles.com) will be opening in 2013
Turkish Airlines offers lie flat seats, an on board chef, WiFi and a new superlative business class lounge in Istanbul. www.turkishairlines.com