How to indulge like an Ottoman Sultan in Istanbul
Istanbul is a city of astonishing changes in character, from the village-like neighborhoods filled with antique shops and carpet shops to the majestic, shimmering mosques that dominate the skyline.
Take a boat tour of the Bosphorus, and you’ll get a glimpse of the city during one of its most important eras – as the opulent capital of the Ottoman Empire. The waters are lined with luxurious buildings built as palaces for various luxurious sultans.
Here’s how you can delve into their luxurious lifestyles with museum visits, a palace-inspired hotel, and delicious dinners.
What to see in Istanbul: Topkapi Palace
Make sure you have plenty of time allotted and comfortable Birkenstock shoes to visit Topkapi Palace, the main residence of the sultans for the first 400 years of the Ottoman Empire. Construction began by order of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in 1459 and various additions were made in the following centuries.
At the UNESCO designated site, you enter a world of aesthetic brilliance and refined luxury that will immediately make you want to redesign your home. The visitor’s route takes you through an enchanting series of staterooms and imperial halls decorated with attractive foliage and gilded swirls.
In the sultan’s harem — where wives, concubines, servants and eunuchs coexist — the walls are a delicate succession of flower-patterned tiles in turquoise and royal blue. Don’t miss the illuminated bath rooms where the Sultan was supposed to bathe. The caldarium, hot bath, and frigidarium are lined with white and light gray marble with glass ceilings in a honeycomb structure to let in natural sunlight. The latticed gilded gates that closed the bathing area were to protect the Sultan from assassination attempts.
Where to stay in Istanbul: Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus
If your visit to the Imperial Palace has you yearning to live, sleep and spa like a Sultan, consider staying at the Mandarin Oriental located right on the edge of the Bosphorus. Although the building is new, the hotel’s architecture emulates the opulent structures of the Sultans.
Observant visitors (or those who ask the staff about design highlights) will notice a stylized pattern of tulips in the decoration, which in Ottoman art symbolizes God. The corridor carpets represent the waters of the strait and the two neighboring continents, while the furnishings with a lion’s print design are reminiscent of what the sultans once wore on their kaftans. Even if you missed these details, the overall impression of the marble bathrooms, painted wood panels and luxurious velvet furniture in the bedrooms is one of royal luxury.
Even more stunning is the early morning view of the Bosphorus – 90% of the rooms overlook the strait – while the golden sun dances on the surface of the water. Open the wide glass panels on the balcony and you will hear boats passing a few meters away and seagulls, the inhabitants of Istanbul, flying overhead.
Spend the day like a gentleman and enjoy a Turkish bath in the hotel’s spa, where the pale marble and transparent vaulted ceiling remind you of the Topkapi Baths, or visit the upscale shops on the lower floors. If you need anything, just WhatsApp your butler.
Where to eat in Istanbul:
There may not have been a dinner for the Sultan, but it appears that Bandili Restaurant entertained a grouchy Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. This historic restaurant sits atop the fragrant Spice Bazaar, where you can inhale a myriad of scents and drool over rows of rainbow-colored desserts.
Pandeli Restaurant, which has been awarded the Bib Gourmand Award, a Michelin nod for quality food at affordable prices, serves dishes such as Hunker likes thisSultan’s soup of slow-cooked lamb on a bed of charred eggplant purée, and eggplant pie served with a sheet of cooked charcoal. Kebab sandwiches. Finish sounding unappetizing but surprisingly delicious Kazandibi– Caramelized milk pudding with chicken breast.
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(tags for translation)Istanbul