Indagare’s Bridget McElroy and several members of the Indagare team recently traveled to Istanbul and Cappadocia, where they took in the city’s glorious cultural sights, stayed at the brand-new Peninsula Istanbul right on the Bosphorus and experienced Cappadocia’s surreal volcanic landscapes, underground labyrinths, fairy chimneys and much more.
Contact Indagare or email your Trip Designer for assistance planning a trip to Istanbul.
From the circa 324 AD Hippodrome and its ancient Egyptian obelisk to the impressive underground Basilica Cistern, built in the sixth century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, there is so much to see, experience and learn in Istanbul. Those who appreciate architecture will marvel at the buildings and structures of Byzantine, Genoese, Ottoman and contemporary Turkish origins. Now, modern rooftop bars stand adjacent to active archaeological dig sites, and the city’s latest and most dazzling hotels occupy heritage buildings from the early 20th century. Mosques, new and old, stand out like jewels on the horizon, and art and design lovers will be in awe at the craftsmanship, color and creativity—especially the tile-work adorning much of the city’s infrastructure and Topkapı Palace, which is a feast for the eyes. We also visited Cappadocia to take in the astounding natural topography and otherworldly formations, climbing through underground cities and hiking into cliffside chapels to fully immerse ourselves in the centuries-old destination.
Learn more about our October 2023 Insider Journey to Istanbul & the Bosphorus with interior designer Serena Crawford, which includes VIP historical, art and design tours, art lectures, private shopping experiences with art historians, creatives, thought leaders, collectors and more.
First Look: The Peninsula Istanbul
The Peninsula Istanbul, which opened in February in the historic district of Karaköy, is a stone’s throw from the famous Galata tower and a short walk to Istanbul’s Old Town. The original building, which dates to 1910, was the city’s cruise terminal circa 1937, and the light-infused and live music-filled lobby and dining area was once passport control for incoming passengers. The last ship to dock out front departed around a decade ago, though, and Istanbul’s new terminal is now entirely underground. That leaves the Peninsula with spectacular, unobstructed views of the Bosphorus. During renovations, the existing sea wall was extended, optimizing space for guests to enjoy the exclusive waterfront, along with the 82-foot pool, private cabana space, lush gardens and al fresco dining options. Of the 177 rooms, 66 have Bosphorus views, and many have good side views. The level of service and the warm, helpful staff that go out of their way for guests was a true standout during our stay. Plus, guests must not miss the creme brûlée French toast at breakfast, served in The Lobby Restaurant—it is both crispy and fluffy and absolutely delicious. Even if you just want a taste, order it alongside the traditional Turkish breakfast for an unparalleled start to your day.
Our visit was a few months after the devastating February earthquakes that impacted the entire country. Throughout 2023, The Peninsula Istanbul (along with Peninsula hotels in New York, Chicago, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Bangkok and Manila), will offer a donation of €10 per night to the hotel group’s “Hope for Türkiye” initiative. All proceeds will be donated to nonprofit and government-funded organizations that provide vital resources and investment for the redevelopment of the most affected areas.
Related: Read Indagare’s review of The Peninsula Istanbul
Our trip was quick and easy, thanks to Turkish Air’s nonstop routes to Istanbul from both JFK and EWR. Turkish Air also flies nonstop to Istanbul from Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Seattle, with Detroit coming later this year.
Calling all foodies
Check out the unassuming but tremendous Murver in Karaköy for exquisite open-flame, wood-fire grilled food as well as Sunset Grill & Bar, for a menu featuring both traditional Turkish dishes and Japanese cuisine.
You will be hard-pressed to head home from Istanbul without at least one purchase. The bazaar experience—the navigating, the negotiating and coming away with all kinds of treasures, from pashminas and ceramics to rugs, silver and more—gave members of our group such a giddy, exuberant rush that our guide Emre asked if we had enjoyed any champagne in the short time we’d left his side. If a more low-key experience (without the haggling) is more to your liking, you’ll also find plenty of options in the high-end showrooms in the Nişantaşı district or the boutiques in Bebek, which are also sure to please. One store I loved: a showroom in Bebek featuring the sustainable and trendy travel wear brand Bassigue founded by a Georgetown classmate of mine who is Turkish.
My Favorite Moment
Visiting Hagia Sophia. The monumental structure held the title of world’s largest church for nearly a thousand years before it was turned into a mosque in 1453. It became a museum in 1935 and then, controversially, back to an active mosque in 2020. Such is the rollercoaster of history that has taken place in Istanbul, Turkiye’s cosmopolitan cultural capital. I loved seeing the remnants of Christianity intertwined with Islamic iconography in the frescoes and embellishments on the walls and ceilings. Standing beneath such lavish displays of art, faith and humanity—shoes off, heads covered—is nothing short of humbling. At the Hagia Sophia, I felt small in the best way, merely a part of the ebb and flow of history.
Learn more about our October 2023 Insider Journey to Istanbul & the Bosphorus with interior designer Serena Crawford, which includes VIP historical, art and design tours, art lectures, private shopping experiences with art historians, creatives, thought leaders, collectors and more. Contact Indagare or email your Trip Designer for assistance planning a trip to Istanbul.