Istanbul, where oriental bazaars meet trendy design

I am writing this on the plane, traveling back from a wonderful week with friends in Istanbul. This city was always on my ‘to-go-list’ and I am pleased to say: it was 100% worth it! Istanbul is surprisingly western; a big mediterrenean city interspersed with minarets. It feels modern and familiar, even though you can find plenty of more traditional neighbourhoods as well, with muslim women fully covered in long black dresses or at least wearing head scarves and long coats. We were staying in the Beyoglu part however, which is full of the young and trendy and saturated with buzzing cafes, original boutiques and yummy restaurants. A great area as starting point for your daily trips through the city.

Sure, we did all the usual touristy stuff including visits to Aya Sofia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi palace and Byzantine churches. We wandered endlessly through the grand bazaar, ancient tiny streets, snacked all Turkish street food under the sun and took a boat trip up the Bosporus lined by the most expensive villas and boulevards full of posh looking people with big designer sun glasses.

But we also ended up a bit ‘off the beaten track’ at Santral, a lovely art centre (with even lovelier museum shop 😉 in an impressive looking old electricity plant, on the university campus just outside busy Istanbul city centre. Changing art exhibitions in one part, a science museum in the other. The shop contained some great ceramics by Turkish designers as well as a rather cool chair made out of a suitcase.

If you rather buy some traditional Turkish style products, you’ll find plenty of ceramics, kelims and decorative items in the Grand bazaar and around the tourist hot spots. I bought a designer necklace as well as some colourful blue tiles (to use as coasters or just as decoration). I also bought loads of Turkish delight and I doubt whether that will last the week!

Beyoglu, ‘our neighbourhood’, has some superb independent designer boutiques (mainly clothes and jewelry) and a couple of streets full of antiques. Great to see some beautiful old Turkish furniture, old maps, vases and textiles – different from styles in the UK. To further please my interior and vintage obsession, we were lucky to stay in a gorgeous loft-style apartment, tastefully decorated by the French owner in a mix of antiques and IKEA.

If you haven’t been to Istanbul, put it on your list! It is a friendly, welcoming city that stimulates the senses: wonderful food, plenty to see. You’ll come home recharged and inspired.

Photos top to bottom: antiques in Beyoglu, tiles in a mosque, interior shop in Beyoglu, more antiques in Beyoglu, shops, textiles and cafe in the Grand bazaar, suitcase chair and ceramics in Santral museum shop, a trendy cafe near Santral, detail in byzantine church, Turkish breakfast at garden cafe Limonlu bahce in Beyoglu, our apartment and the Blue mosque.

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