“Life can’t be that bad, I think from time to time. No matter what happens, I can always take a long walk along the Bosphorus. This is how the novelist Orhan Pamuk described his relationship with Istanbul, the bicontinental Turkish city known for being a gateway between East and West With sweeping views of the Bosphorus and stunning Byzantine and Ottoman architecture, Istanbul is the perfect destination for travelers who can’t decide between a European or Asian vacation.

Leah Romero

Karaköy

Galata Tower in Istanbul, view from the narrow street

Anton Aleksenko

As one of Istanbul’s trendier neighborhoods, Karaköy is filled with art galleries, shops selling handmade goods, and bakeries selling simit, Turkey’s favorite circular snack. There are tons of street art and coffee shops in the narrow alleyways; make sure to stop and pet all the cats (or bored 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 admire its high vaulted ceilings and stunning mosaics. There will be a queue to get in but it’s worth it.

The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops the construction of the core of the future Grand Bazaar started in 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? Yes, you will see many of them. But there are also beautiful Turkish tapestries and carpets, handmade lanterns, and my personal favorite: pistachios soaked in rose water, sold by the kilo.

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Karaköy Güllüoğlu

turkish dessert baklava with tea on silver tray dessert concept

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

Turk Fatih Tutak

Turk

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

Galata Simitsisi

turkish bagel and tea in istanbul

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Some may call the simit a “Turkish bagel”, but some may disrespect the simit as its own culinary art. The circular bread with sesame seeds 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

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With views of the Galata Tower and tons of all-weather indoor/outdoor seating, Zulu is the perfect place to kick back some raki and watch the sun go down.

Süreyya Teras Lounge

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Who doesn’t want to sip a freshly squeezed juice or cocktail while enjoying the view of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul’s most iconic landmark?

Taksim Square

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

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Leah Romero

Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet

four seasons

Four seasons

Tucked away on a cobbled side street around the corner from both the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, the Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet is a quiet oasis tucked away in the bustling city center. The hotel was renovated in July 2022 with brand 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.

Ciragan 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 converted into a 310-room hotel in the 1980s and boasts sweeping views of the Bosphorus area and a suite, called the Sultan’s Suite, that costs more than $35,000 per night. (Don’t worry, there are standard King rooms too.)

World House Boutique Hotel

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

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

Clean Swipe Hyaluronic Lip Balm

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Take your lip balm 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 blend of mango and murumuru seed butter cares for the lips, leaving them soft and kissable. (Blink blink.)

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Istanbul is known for its rainy and humid summers, while the winter is cold and windy. Whatever the weather, make sure your eyebrows stay in place with Wunderbrow’s waterproof eyebrow gel. Arguably one of the best on the market, some customers even boast that their eyebrows stay in place for up to three full days.

Main photo by Jessica Roy

Site Director

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

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