Aptly dubbed as the ‘City of World’s Desire’ Istanbul bristles with minarets during the day and animated high-velocity parties at night. Sprawled on both sides of Bosphorus strait the city unites Asia and Europe, physically as well as culturally. From the picturesque cobblestone streets, to the bustling Bazaars, Istanbul’s unparalleled beauty combined with the city’s rich culinary delights and astonishingly diverse cultural melange will render all your senses intoxicated. Exec brings to you a ‘must-do’ and must-have’ in Istanbul, to render your trip a fulfilling one.
A crispy ring-shaped bread dusted with toasted sesame seeds is the most beloved food item of the locals and a must-have for the tourists. It can well be called the Turkish bagel. A popular breakfast item and a favourite evening snack among the Turks, Simit can be eaten with cheese, marmalade, jams, yoghurt and pretty much any other accompaniment you can think of. Compliment it with a strong, fragrant and a rejuvenating cup of Turkish tea and you are ready to take on the day’s work. Simit vendors dot every street and corner of Istanbul. Simit Sarayi (Simit Palace) is a fast food chain where you can pile up your plate with assorted variations of the bread.
Reminiscent of the tapas-style small plates, mezes come in hot and cold variety. After a hard day’s work turn your steps toward a Meyhane (Tavern) and indulge in one of the assortments of the delicacy. You can opt for a plate of meze made from seasonal food item like artichoke or from perennial favourites like Circassian Chicken. Meze made from eggplant, cooked to your preferred style—smoked, stuffed or just fried—are also quite popular. Visiting a meyhane is a ceremony in itself, which is not complete without drinking raki – an alcoholic beverage much liked by the Turks. Sip on raki while munching on mezes.
Hamsi, visualise it by the name of anchovies. To be caught between two seas and not have seafood is not a palatable idea to many. Brought to the kitchens of Istanbul from the Black Sea coast, you can devour this finger-length fish with pilaf. Anchovies are seasonal fish and are available between period starting mid October to early winter.
Hunkar Begendi, which literally translates to ‘the majesty liked it’ is a meal that was first prepared in the royal kitchens of the Ottoman rulers. The dish comprises succulent chunks of lamb served on a bed of creamy eggplant puree. The evolution of this mouth-watering delight has allowed it to now be served with chicken or meatballs, instead of lamb.
Tavuk Gogsu, which means Chicken breast, is a ‘must-try’ Turkish dessert. Though an unusual name for a dessert the meaning is not misleading. Tavuk Gogsu is a milk pudding that is served plain or with a sprinkle of cinnamon dust on top. As for the chicken breast, it is boiled and finely shredded and is used as a thickening agent to give the pudding a gooey texture.
A Night to Remember
Yes, Istanbul has more spice to it than just in its food. If you are anchored on the Asian side of the city trace your steps to Barlar Sokagi and Kadife Street. Each of these streets is concentrated with pubs and bars that are bound to keep you entertained for the night. If you are on the European side then the entertainment destinations are scattered across districts. With all meetings done and all deals signed, dump your laptop on your office bed, don your best clothes on and go to one of the many clubs by the Bosphorus shore. Here you can soak in a panoramic view of the strait as you dance the night away.
This three-storey mansion houses a club on the third floor, offering its visitors a broad food and cocktail menu and a trendy, dynamic party atmosphere. Each floor of the club/restaurant thumps to a different best of music. Let the wide-angles mirrors at Anjelique add to the fun you will be infused with at the venue
If monotony has the better of you, go to Blackk. Either their resto-lounge, or the Levendiz Greek tavern, or the club set in a modern and classic blend will recharge your energies. The glitter of the crystal curtains will bedazzle you as you walk through the club’s corridor. The menu is crafted to cover cuisines from around the World and you can choose to quench your thirst from an enviable collection of wine.
It is another entertainment venue with an elite ambience. With 3 bars and 6 restaurants the place is open from 06:00 pm to 04:00 am. At 12:00 when the DJ turns up the volume and morphs the entire venue into a dance club, the location re-treats lovers of contemporary house music and hip-hop. Fridays and Saturdays are the hottest nights of the club.
Thronged by tourists and locals, Reina is a spacious and elegantly designed club, perfect for a chic evening. Many would call it the trendiest club of Istanbul with portions designed to look like a cruise deck. Boasting of many restaurants and bars, Reina has been host to a number of Hollywood celebrities. If making a visit to this club ensure that you have a lady on your arm. The club strongly believes that fun is equivalent to an equal male-female ratio.
For a little more adventure venture beyond the shores of the Bosphorus and step on to the island of Kurucesme and explore SauAda – a club that hosts the most glamorous events of Istanbul. Jazzed up with a pool, a nightclub and six restaurants SauAda will undoubtedly electrify your night.
If you wish to revel in a night quintessential to Istanbul, make way to Al Jamal. The ingredients of Al Jamal are western and oriental music within harem-like interiors, Middle-Eastern cuisines and belly dance performances, all with a great view of the Bosphorus.
Babylon stages music performances in myriad genres, including jazz, reggae, Latin and Turkish vibes, indie pop and rock acts. The place has a bar but does not serve food; so fill up your bellies before you go there. There is no entrance fee to the venue but purchase tickets for the concerts beforehand.
Check out Living Indigo to experience state-of-the-art sound system coupled with a spectacular projection of laser lights. Indigo is another location where you can throw up your arms and sway to live music.
Jolly Joker Balan
With an old pub design, Jolly Joker Balan will entertain you to Turkish rock, pop and alternative music performances by bands, old and new. While you cheer the performances, try the locally brewed beer. Also amuse yourself with a walk on the glass floor of their bi-level performance hall.
The club is perched atop a 19th century building presenting a fascinating panoramic view of the Sea of Marmara, Gold Horn and the Bosphorus. The club is peppiest and perkiest on the weekends and the environment is made sprightly by live vocalist and dancers and all the guests who move to the groovy music of the DJs.
A walk through the Bazaars
The tradition of organizing weekly markets is practiced in Istanbul from the time of the Ottoman rulers. Roughly 200 markets are set up in Istanbul on different days of the week. So rid yourself of the showroom nostalgia, polish your bargaining skills and head to these markets to grab bag loads of goodies.
This is the largest covered market in the word with a teeming 5,000 stops distributed across 60 streets. The estimates are that 2,50,000 to 4,00,0000 visitors flock the streets of the Grand Bazaar everyday to shop for jewellery, spices, carpets, hand-painted ceramics, leather and the likes. Besides shops the market houses 2 mosques, 4 fountains, 2 hamams and numerous cafes and restaurants. The market is open Monday to Saturday from 09:00 am to 07:00 pm.
Locals call it Carasamba market, which when translated means Wednesday. The market comes alive every Wednesday between 05:00 pm to 09:00 pm. It boasts of as many as 4800 stands and 2500 vendor stalls that sell everything from vegetables to fruits to household items. Take a walk through this market and experience the local way of shopping
When translated the word means ‘Green Village’. Spread over an area of 12 thousand square meters one can count as many as 2000 stalls. Besides these stalls the Market is decorated with floral displays and flecked with tea cafes.