Jul 04, 2022
Over the past few years, through a mix of old and new, East and West, Istanbul has been quietly reinventing itself.
A city already known for its rich cultural history and centuries-old bazaars is now home to a slew of new attractions. The newly-opened port, Italian architect Renzo Piano’s-designed extension of Istanbul Modern and the country’s largest mosque are just three reasons to rediscover this metropolis in 2022.
Turkish food is so much more than kebabs and meze plates. The cuisine is gaining global accolades for its adventurous and creative flavours and Istanbul’s top chefs are curating menus that explore the country’s signature dishes and ingredients.
Look out for traditional foods like kaymak (clotted buffalo cream), grape molasses and tarhana (a fermented mix of grain and yogurt that is often made into a soup). Turk Fatih Tutak by Chef Fatih Tutak is a must-visit, named one of the world’s best new restaurants for 2020 by CNN Travel, it’s located in the up-and-coming Bomonti district and making waves for its creative riffs on classic Turkish dishes.
Working closely with local farmers and fishermen, his innovative creations see popular street snack midye (stuffed mussels) reimagined as a mussel shell made from dried tamarind, coloured with squid ink and filled with mussels, white onion and rice. www.turkft.com
The city’s iconic Blue Mosque should still be worked into the travel itinerary, but the new one in town is also a must. Completed in March 2019, the hard-to-miss Grand Camlica Mosque is located in the Asian quarter of Uskudar.
Built in an Ottoman-Seljuk style of architecture and designed by female architects Bahar Mızrak and Hayriye Gul Totu, it’s Turkey’s largest mosque and can hold up to 63,000 people. Apart from being an immaculate place of worship, the mosque houses an art gallery, library, conference hall and the Museum of Islamic Civilizations, which opened earlier this year in the holy month of Ramadan.
The museum is a trove of some 800 art pieces including the sultan's caftans, and the childhood notebook of Mehmed the Conqueror, and Ottoman-era coins.
There are several compelling reasons to check out the sparkling new Galataport in trendy Karakoy. Not only is it the world’s first underground cruise port but its development has laid open a 1.2 kilometre-long stretch of coastline previously closed to the public for over 200 years.
It's arguably the city’s new gourmet hotspot with a slew of celebrity chef restaurants (SALTBAE Burger, Liman Istanbul and Muutto Anatolian Tapas Bar) and The Populist, Istanbul's first brewery from 1890. There’s also the Renzo Piano-designed Istanbul Modern – it’s Turkey’s museum of modern and contemporary art – opening later this year and beautifully restored sights like the 1848 Nusretiye Clock Tower that had been buried for decades. www.galataport.com
What was once a gasworks facility that operated for over a century has been reimagined as a complex housing a science centre, climate and cartoon museum, contemporary gallery, local-craft marketplace and the occasional candle-lit concert.
The Muze Gazhane (also known as the Gasworks Museum) in Kadikoy’s Hasanpasa neighbourhood offers visitors an opportunity to experience local life in a venue that exists thanks to the efforts of the Gasworks Environment Volunteers association which campaigned for two decades to keep the area public and accessible. www.muzegazhane.istanbul/en
Istanbul holds a host of secrets with a labyrinth of ancient cisterns hidden under the city’s streets developed by the Byzantines to store water. While it’s likely the larger Basilica Cistern located close to the Hagia Sophia will be part of your itinerary, a visit to the 1,600-year-old Theodosius Cistern (also known as Serefiye Cistern) in Cemberlitas is a must.
There, visitors can explore its subterranean dwellings and enjoy an immersive light show. Staged hourly, videos and images telling the history of Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul are cast against the cistern’s nine metre-high ceilings and 32 marble columns to spectacular effect.
Straddling both the East and the West has its advantages and a quick ferry ride will bring you from Istanbul’s Europe side (Eminonu) over to the Asian side (Kadikoy). There, neighbourhoods like Kadikoy and Moda have become a hotspot for cutting-edge bars, art spaces and cultural hubs to set up home. Some names to check out include Ciya Sofras known for its Anatolian dishes; Arkaoda, an independent music and arts center; and jazz club The Badau.
The atelier of a modern master calligrapher and bookbinder, an abandoned Greek school, a 15th-century hammam, are just some of the venues for the 2022 Istanbul Biennale (17 September-20 November 2022). Organised in specific locations (Beyoglu, Kadikoyand, Fatih) to amplify the connections between present-day life and Istanbul’s rich cultural past, the various projects aim to reveal the social histories and contemporary challenges faced by Istanbulites in the midst of constant change.
Credit: Ataturk Cultural Center
Following a 13-year closure, this newly-reopened cultural complex in the heart of Taksim Square has transformed itself into an arts hub. The space with its 1960s-style external metal cladding now includes a theatre, library, art galleries and unusual performance spaces like the concert hall located inside a red-tiled sphere - a homage to the work of the centre’s original ceramic artist, Sadi Diren. If undecided on what to book tickets for, check if a Turkish opera is being staged. www.akmistanbul.gov.tr/ataturk-cultural-center-1
Istanbul occupies a special position as a bridge between Asia and Europe. Flanked by the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea, Fraser Place has two properties, one conveniently on the Asian side (Fraser Place Antasya) and the other on the European side of Istanbul (Fraser Place Anthill), so you’re never too far from the action.
Located in the commercial district of Umraniye, the Fraser Place Antasya is an ideal spot for business travellers who need to be close to the business district but still be a short drive from Akyaka Park shopping center and the trendy Kadikoy district. Comprising one- and two-bedroom pet-friendly serviced residences with a well-equipped kitchen, washer, and dryer, it is ideal for longer-term business travellers looking for a luxurious home setting to operate out of.
Across the bridge, the Fraser Place Anthill apartments located on the 39th to 52nd floor of the sprawling Anthill Residence complex boast stunning views of the Bosphorus Strait. The spacious apartments (one, two, three, and four-bedroom configurations) come with a host of amenities including a luxurious spa and all-day dining restaurant with a pool, gym, squash and table tennis courts, and an indoor ski slope. Located just a five-minute drive away from iconic Taksim Square, it’s perfect for the in-the-know urbanite eager to explore Istanbul.