East meets west in Istanbul, a truly fascinating destination
Thursday, 18 December 2014

Turkish delight

Enjoy an exciting city break in exotic Istanbul

Written by Wendy Gomersall
With one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, Istanbul is one of the most fascinating destinations for a short break. It’s hard to take a bad photograph of the unique cityscape, with its mosque domes and intricate spires, famous bridges joining east and west, grand old palaces and new office towers, all reflected in the deep waters of the Bosphorus.

A hotel overlooking the strait is best for great views, so why not treat yourself to a stay at the gorgeous and luxurious Shangri-La Bosphorus? The 186-room hotel features opulent European, Asian and Turkish design, including more than 1,000 pieces of art and a spectacular twinkling chandelier in the atrium.

The rooms come with small luxuries such as a pillow menu, bathrobes and slippers, Bulgari amenities, delivery of a daily newspaper and fresh fruit.

The two restaurant options are Ist Too, with Asian, Mediterranean and Turkish cuisine, plus Japanese sushi bar Sushi Too, and Shang Palace, which serves classic Cantonese dishes. Enjoy a raki – Turkey’s refreshing aniseflavoured aperitif – in Le Bar, and take afternoon tea in the elegant Lobby Lounge.

A visit to Chi, The Spa for a relaxing massage or facial – or an invigorating Turkish hammam treatment – a swim in the indoor heated pool or a workout in the gym will also help you unwind ready for some splendid sightseeing.

You could easily spend a week on all the sights and experiences of Istanbul. Certainly don’t miss Hagia Sophia. Built as a cathedral and later converted into a mosque, it’s now a museum, and it has a particularly splendid dome and mosaics. I adored the Topkapi Palace, too, filled with Ottoman treasures including exquisite jewellery.

Travel-Dec19-02-590Spice of life: a fragrant stall in the Grand Bazaar

Also well worth a visit is the Basilica Cistern, or ‘Sunken Palace’, a huge underground water store with marble columns and two mysterious stone heads of Medusa. The Mevlevi Sema spiritual ceremony at the Hodjapasha Cultural Centre, featuring a whirling dance carried out by dervishes, is equally intriguing.

The Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, has thousands of stalls and shops, is exhausting but great fun, and the place to haggle for souvenirs. I especially liked the colourful hanging lamps.

For quality gifts, jewellery, olive oil, Turkish delight, and a delicious lunch, head for the Armaggan store and the fifth-floor Nar Restaurant.

Or, at The Glass Furnace, make your own souvenirs. The hotel can organise this for you, as well as all the other sightseeing mentioned. The glass factory offers visitors the chance to design their own glass pane or dish, with a lesson on glass-cutting first. Later you can even have a go at blowing glass to make a heart or bauble for your Christmas tree. Mine’s a slightly odd shape, but I’m very proud nevertheless.

Double rooms at the Shangri- La Bosphorus cost from €297 (£235) per night: 0800-028 3337, www.shangri-la.com

For British Airways direct flights from Heathrow: www.britishairways.com

Contact Wendy at wendy.gomersall@lady.co.uk

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