Istanbul is confusing and fascinating with a rich past and a vibrant present. Ambitious architectural projects such as the Istanbul Modern Contemporary Art Museum, designed by Renzo Piano, and the Istanbul Museum of Painting and Sculpture, designed by Emre Arolat, are set to open soon.
Five of Istanbul’s leading chefs, who have been defining modern Turkish cuisine for years, will receive their Michelin stars in 2022, expanding the city’s fine dining scene to international fame. Istanbul is also confronting its past with the Miras (Heritage) project by Istanbul Municipality, which is actively restoring abandoned historical structures, from Ottoman fountains to dilapidated neoclassical apartments.
Here, four of our design-led tours of Istanbul, travel writer and guidebook author, 500 Hidden Secrets of IstanbulFeride Yalav-Heckeroth shares some of her favorite discoveries from her favorite city.
What to do in Istanbul: A design lover’s guide
Floria Atatürk Marine Mansion
A structure that rarely makes the list of famous Istanbul sights, Atatürk’s secret summer residence in Floria is a Bauhaus dream that seems to float above the sea. Built in 1935 by Turkish architect Sefi Erkan, who worked with Hans Poelzig in Berlin, the house served as a retreat for the first president of the newly formed republic. Nowadays, the Samudra building is a museum, with its immaculate Bauhaus furniture on display as well as Atatürk’s personal belongings and photos; A true journey through time. Another nostalgic experience awaits a few steps away at Beti, the city’s best kebab restaurant, in a stunning brutalist structure with Ottoman-inspired details from the 1970s by renowned Turkish architect Yilmaz Sanli.
turkishmuseums.com (Opens in a new tab)
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Part of Istanbul Municipality’s Miras Renovation Project, the former Cender Hamidiye Pumping Station – Built in 1902 to supply water to 100 fountains around the city during the Ottoman period – Cendere Sanat has been renovated as an art gallery and cultural center. In its garden with a historic plane tree, a glass pavilion designed by Istanbul-based firm Zemberek Design houses a modern cafe with a sunny outdoor terrace.
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Restoration is the goal Kutnu – A traditional silk and cotton blend from Gaziantep, once worn exclusively by Ottoman sultans – Kutnia was founded in 2017 by Julide Konukoglu. Working with designers Gunseli Turke and Selen Shahin, the sustainability-focused brand creates both modern ready-to-wear womenswear collections as well as home textiles. With every bit of fabric produced by master Gaziantep artisans, Kutnia’s luxurious collections are bursting with color as well as craftsmanship.
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Overlooking the Bosphorus and the historic peninsula, Murver is Michelin Young Chef Award-winning Mevlut Ozkaya’s gastronomic sanctuary, where ingredients from the Turkish land and sea are prepared on an open-flame wood-fired grill. Ashed octopus with sumac, isot pepper and sour pomegranate and trachya kıvırcıkSlow roasted lamb shoulder with smoked Phyric The wheat, spicy apricot compote and salted yogurt have become classics, as have the restaurant’s signature cocktails.
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Inspired by a pair of hand-embroidered shoes she found in her grandmother’s antique wedding chest as a child, architect and designer Bilge Ken founded Anatolian Craft in 2016 to create her own wearable heirlooms. The brand’s collection of slow fashion shoes, handcrafted sew The fabric is hand-embroidered by talented female artists from Anatolia. Each built-to-order pair is one-of-a-kind with colorful motifs of flora and fauna that express timeless elegance.
anatolian-craft.com (Opens in a new tab)
@Anatolian Craft (Opens in a new tab)
Hidden away on a busy bar street in Kadikoy, one of the best cocktail bars in Istanbul is an experimental affair where unexpected ingredients come together to create unforgettable concoctions. Mixologists Burak Ayaz, Eren Sonmez and Engin Basal offer cocktails such as the Mardini, a blend of gin, sumac pomegranate molasses and parsley, or the Leb-Derya with mezcal, beetroot bushes, mustard and sprouts and agate.
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Six Senses Cockatoos Mansions
Built in the second half of the 19th century, the Turkish-Ottoman Sayt Pasa and Kokatas Mansions have been renovated by Six Senses to become one of the city’s most unique accommodations. With interiors designed by Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu, the historic heritage buildings boast unrestricted views of the Bosphorus from their rooms and suites, offering guests dining, spa treatments, private boat tours and strolls along the hotel’s more than two acres of landscaped paths. A crowded Turkish megacity.
sixsenses.com (Opens in a new tab)
@sixsenseskocatasmansions (Opens in a new tab)
Dating back to 1830, this historic Turkish bath became popular in the 1990s when it was featured in Italian-Turkish director Ferzan Özpetek’s popular film, Hamam. After closing in 2007, the historic structure underwent extensive renovations, reopening in 2018 with a more luxurious demeanor. Çukurcuma Hamamı offers a traditional Turkish bath experience with its body scrub, bubble wash and massage in a more refined and private setting, complete with a relaxation period with tea and dried fruits in the lounge.
cukurcumahamami.com (Opens in a new tab)
@cukurcumahamami (Opens in a new tab)
Wallpaper* City Guide: Istanbul
Find out more in the Wallpaper* City Guide to Istanbul, £8.95, phaidon.com (Opens in a new tab)