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Posted on May 3

Istanbul by Yannis Henrion

This is the first part of my Istanbul city guide. Before coming, I was told that the city is very touristic, loud and suffering from terrible traffic. However, there is so much to discover in the city where the east meets west. What touched me most about Istanbul were the constantly changing view-points. This can be literal, like when you walk through the streets and suddenly you can see the sea, or you suddenly find yourself in a different world. I found walking through the city’s streets and encountering so many dark corners and harsh contrasts to be the essence of Istanbul.

Istanbul by Yannis HenrionIstanbul by Yannis Henrion

I tried to get an overview of what the city has to offer by trying the stuffed mussels and grilled meat sold in the street, but also going for a fancy dinner at Munferit. I loved its modern Turkish ‘meyhane’ vibe and its interesting new generation of meze, traditional Turkish appetizers. Ask for a table in the discreet, private garden, just off the street and order as many meze, as you can. When the night comes, take a cab and pay a visit to Soho House, at the Palazzo Corpi, a 19th-century Italianate mansion, which served as the U.S. Embassy until 2003. The property’s original Italian frescoes and marble floors remain intact. As for hotels, I stayed at both Four Seasons locations in the city, taking advantage of the high quality service that you get there. Both locations have a lot to offer—Bosphorus is close to the boat station where you can hop on a daily trip to the Prince's Islands, and Sultanahmet is directly next to the Haga Sophia and Sultan Ahmet mosque in the historic city. 

Istanbul by Yannis HenrionIstanbul by Yannis HenrionIstanbul by Yannis Henrion

The Four Seasons Hotel on the Bosphorus is a former 19th century Ottoman palace which sits on the river’s bank on the European side. Upon arriving, head down to the spa area for a swim in the mosaic indoor pool which its underwater sound system. Being able to wake up and see across to Asia with the Bosphorus view from our room in the antique building was beyond amazing. In the morning, order some Eggs Benedict to eat on the waterfront terrace and take a moment to relax in the hammam or sauna.

The other Four Seasons Location in Sultanahmet is located in a former prison and is the intimate and personal version of a high-end hotel, vibrantly painted in a mustard-yellow color. The real advantage of this one is its amazing rooftop with stunning views of Hagia Sophia. Again, the concierge service is exceptional and this place soon feels like a luxurious home. I loved the Turkish neo-classical style of the building, and the experience of sleeping in the building made famous by the movie "Midnight Express".