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ELLE Escapes: Istanbul

“Life can’t be all that bad, I’d think from time to time. Whatever happens, I can always take a long walk along the Bosphorus.” That’s how the novelist Orhan Pamuk described his relationship to Istanbul, the bicontinental Turkish city known for being a gateway between the East and West. With sweeping views of the Bosphorus Straight and stunning Byzantine and Ottoman architecture, Istanbul is the perfect spot for travelers who can’t make up their minds between a vacation in Europe or one in Asia.

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Leah Romero

Karaköy

galata tower in istanbul, view from the narrow street

Anton Aleksenko

As one of Istanbul’s trendier neighborhoods, Karaköy is brimming with art galleries, boutiques hawking handmade goods, and bakeries selling simit, Turkey’s favorite circular snack. There’s tons of street art and coffee shops dotting the narrow alleyways; be sure to stop and pet all the cats (or kedi in Turkish) you see along the way.

Hagia Sophia

ayasofya was a greek orthodox christian patriarchal basilica, later an imperial mosque, and now a museum in istanbul, turkey

Emad Aljumah

Hagia Sophia has a lot of history, first as a Greek church, then a mosque, then a museum, and now a mosque again. Tourists flock to the monument to marvel over its high arched ceilings and stunning mosaics. There will be a line to get in, but it’s worth it.

The Grand Bazaar

the grand bazaar in istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shopsthe construction of the future grand bazaar's core started during the winter of 145556, shortly after the ottoman conquest of constantinople

Ayhan Altun

The ultimate shopping destination in Istanbul, for everything from spices and gold to…fake designer goods? Yeah, you’ll see a lot of those. But there are also gorgeous Turkish tapestries and rugs, handmade lanterns, and, my personal favorite: pistachios soaked in rosewater, sold by the kilo.

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Karaköy Güllüoğlu

turkish dessert baklava with tea on silver tray desset concept

alpaksoy

You can’t go to Istanbul without eating a little baklava (or a lot). The first-ever baklava shop in the city, opened in 1843, this place is kind of like the mecca of the Turkish dessert. Expect to be very overwhelmed by the flavor choices.

Turk Fatih Tutak

turk

Four Seasons

For fine dining, head to this Michelin-starred restaurant famous for its revolving tasting menu. The food is incredible, but even the décor itself is worth the trip.

Galata Simitçisi

turkish bagel and tea in istanbul

ugurhan

Some may call the simit a “Turkish bagel,” but some may be disrespecting the simit as its own culinary art. The circular, sesame-seed encrusted bread is a popular street food, and one of its best incarnations is at this charming bakery, also in Karaköy.

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Zulu Galata

zulu

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With views of the Galata Tower and tons of indoor/outdoor seating for any weather, Zulu is the perfect place to knock back some raki and watch the sun set.

Süreyya Teras Lounge

surreya

Surreya

Who doesn’t want to sip on a fresh-squeezed juice or cocktail while taking in views of the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul’s most iconic landmark?

Taksim Square

taksim

Alexander Spatari

One of the most famous tourist areas in Istanbul, Taksim is also famous for its nightlife, with plenty of bars, clubs, and lounges for whatever mood you’re in.

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Leah Romero

Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet

four seasons

Four Seasons

Tucked on a cobblestone side street around the corner from both the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, the Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet is a quiet oasis hidden in the bustling city center. The hotel was renovated in July 2022 with all-new interiors, and it shows—the rooms are spacious, comfortable, and the beds? The beds! One night I slept for 12 hours, and it wasn’t even due to jet lag.

Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul

ciragan

Ciragan Palace

If “literal Ottoman palace” is more your vibe, Istanbul’s Kempinski is your place. The one-time imperial palace was transformed into a 310-room hotel in the 1980s, and boasts sweeping views of the Bosphorus and a suite, called the Sultan’s suite, that costs more than $35,000 a night. (Don’t worry, there are standard King rooms too.)

World House Boutique Hotel

world house

ea

If you’re looking for a hotel that’s independent and more affordable, World House is the perfect choice. In the young and hip Galata Tower area, it only has 10 rooms, but each is furnished and decorated with impeccable taste.

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leah romero

Crème Riche Anti-Aging Peptide Night Cream

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Take advantage of the humidity and slather this magical potion—er, lotion—onto your face. Whether you’re looking to deliver intense hydration and soothe dry skin or lock in moisture, this nutrient-dense, peptide-powered moisturizing cream is a great option.

Clean Swipe Hyaluronic Lip Balm

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Take your lip balm game up a notch with Beautycounter. Available in four shades and blended with hyaluronic acid, jojoba seed, and avocado seed oils, this formula leaves your lips plump and hydrated. The mix of mango and murumuru seed butters conditions lips, leaving them soft and kissable. (Wink, wink.)

Waterproof Eyebrow Gel

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Istanbul is known for its rainy and humid summers, while the winter is cold and windy. No matter the weather, ensure your eyebrows stay in place with Wunderbrow’s waterproof eyebrow gel. Arguably one of the best in the market, some customers even brag that their eyebrows stay in place for up to three whole days.

Headshot of Jessica Roy

Site Director

Jessica Roy is the Site Director of ELLE.com.  Previously, she worked as the News Editor of TheCut.com. She likes baking, running and Instagrams of your dog.

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