Worth getting out of bed for
The Istanbul Modern (www.istanbulmodern.org) is an old dockside warehouse turned art and design gallery, a short roll down the hill from the hotel. The bar-restaurant, which offers brilliant Bosphorus views, is a key lunch spot – but take a taxi back up the hill; it's a brutal slope. Opposite the Witt Suites, on the other side of the river, sits the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul's most magnificent Byzantine building, now a museum. For a proper Turkish bath, try the Aga Hammam (+90 (0)212 249 5027) five minutes away on Turnacaibagi Sokak, a small, neighbourhood baths built in 1454 and frequented by Mehmet the conqueror.
Situated in an elegant corner venue in one the cities oldest districts, the European-brasserie-feel Karaköy lokantası (+90 (0212) 292 44 55) has striking blue-tiled walls and specialises in traditional Turkish Mezes and finely-crafted seafood. Only a few doors down the street, Didem Şenol ‘s Lokanta Maya (+90 (0212) 252 68 84) has been a firm favourite amongst Istanbul’s foodies since opening its doors in 2010. In a bright, Scandinavian-chic dining room, the restaurant offers sophisticated fine-dining in the form of gourmet Mezes and modern gastro-Turkish cuisine. Those looking for a more intimate experience will enjoy Münferit (+90 (0212) 252 50 67); with outdoor tables lingering along its cobblestoned alleyway and subterranean patio, this sleek and exquisitely stylish dim-lit restaurant serves up contemporary Turkish-fusion Mezes. After 11pm the louche, New-York-chic bar takes the main stage, where you’ll find hip Istanbulites sipping finely-balanced cocktails into the early hours.
In a lavish penthouse space and awning-flanked al fresco bar-and-dining deck, overlooking the Bosphorus, the ever-popular Sunset Bar & Grill (+90 (0212) 287 03 57) serves Turkish-fusion and New Japanese cuisine to those looking for a more picturesque dining experience. The evening views of the illuminated Bosphorus Bridge make for a charming setting in which to indulge in sushi and cocktails. Similarly, Bebek Balıkçısı (+90 (0212) 263 34 47) is an elegant water-side eatery, situated in Istanbul’s ancient port-neighbourhood. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with celebrity and high-society clientele, you can look out across the Bosphorus and sip a glass of Turkish sauvignon blanc while merchants haggle with a local fisherman over the day’s catch. This is traditional, simply-cooked seafood at its best. The restaurant is usually busy, so reservations are highly recommended.
Meyra (+90 (0)212 244 5335), at the junction of Akarsu Caddesi and Matara Sokag, combines a tasty Mediterranean menu with evening DJs and a creative clientele who enjoy the atmosphere until 4am. Slightly more backstreet and bohemian, Alti Café (+90 (0)212 293 0849) just off Akarsu Caddesi, has a shaded green garden and a hip, cheery vibe.
Nearby Cuppa on Yeni Yuva Sokak (+90 (0)212 249 57 23) serves an appetising area of fresh juices, quality coffee, and tasty salads.