Just four hours from Dubai, the cool Turkish capital is the perfect long-weekend destination for those looking for stylish bars and chic shopping. Straddling both Europe and Asia, you’ll find a scattering of western designer boutiques such as Stella McCartney, Louis Vuitton and Valentino, but you’ll also experience an eastern flavour at the city’s buzzing bazaars.
Hone your bartering skills before you navigate the maze that is the Grand Bazaar. Home to over 4,000 shops, you can pick up a cut-price ‘designer’ leather handbag and leather jackets from around Dhs300. Look out too for bargain Turkish bath-worthy bathroom accessories (think luxe hammam slippers and super-soft cotton towels). Authentic embroidered rugs and antique gold jewellery are also worth haggling for.
Once you’ve blown the shopping budget, there’s plenty of glistening palaces, traditional Turkish baths and ditch-the-diet restaurants to keep you occupied.
Head to the Sultanahmet district for sightseeing, where you can take in the Haghia Sophia – a former Cathedral/mosque-turned museum – the Topkapi Palace and the famous Blue Mosque. Arty-types won’t want to miss the Istanbul Modern – the city’s new arts and culture epicentre.
Start your evening in ‘modern’ Istanbul, Beyoglu, boasting dozens of bars, clubs and restaurants packed with Turkey’s bright young things. Enjoy excellent mezze at the rustically charming and purse-friendly Cezayir, then join the beautiful people taking in the panoramic views in nearby rooftop restaurant, 360. Come midnight, the waterfront Bosphorus clubs are where it’s at. For all-out glamour with plenty of bling, check out Reina in Ortakoy, where you can wrap up your weekend sipping fabulous cocktails with the beautiful people.
While you're there...
Enjoy a Turkish bath
No trip to Turkey would be complete without trying out one of the marble-filled traditional baths. Check out Cemberlitas Hamami, near the Grand Bazaar, where a scrub down and massage will cost around just Dhs90.
Hit sumahan on the Water
A converted distillery on the water’s edge, this chic, modern and stylish hotel is the only way to unwind between ferry trips.
Go up on the roof
The city’s littered with so-hip-it-hurts rooftop hangouts, where the views match the awesome vibes. Ultra-chic Leb-I derya is one of Ahlan!s fave spots for cool beers at sundown.