weekend away - Istanbul
Written by Oryx
Istanbul’s elite have idled away their summers in the city’s seaside villages for five centuries. Tristan Rutherford hops between them on a bespoke Bosphorus ferry tour.
Back in the 1950s, Istanbul’s population was a mere million. Each village along the 30km-long Bosphorus Strait was distinct, characterful, and only accessible by boat. Today Black Sea breezes continue to calm the nerves of the city’s 13 million residents. Better still, each waterside suburb retains its summery soul.
This pretty village of Kanlıca sits midway between Istanbul’s two international airports, Atatürk and Sabiha Gökçen. To get there, simply stroll up to any Bosphorus ferry terminal, purchase a TL3 (US$1.50) ticket, then head to the top deck for the world’s finest city tour. A TL1 (US$0.50) glass of tea completes the package. Kanlıca has been famous for its yoghurt – a secret blend of sheep’s and cow’s milk –since Ottoman times. Scoop up a pot in the waterside terrace of Kanlıca Yourdu, the village’s most atmospheric café.
Sail south to Çengelköy, renowned for its sugar-sweet cucumbers. These Bosphorus banks are also home to the Beylerbeyi (’Lord of Lords’) Palace. And the name is true: this palace’s ostentation knows no bounds. Neoclassical architecture meets arabesque design over 30 grand salons. Sèvres porcelain and Bohemian chandeliers are found in Ottoman kiosks and nargile smoking rooms.
Hop across the Bosphorus to Arnavutköy. This canal-crossed village is Istanbul’s Little Venice. As the nearest enclave to the grand hotels of Ortaköy, it’s also the city’s most cosmopolitan. Here the citizens of 100 nations dine on stuffed mussels and fried squid along the Bosphorus shores.
Guests wishing to recline in a breezy Bosphorus village are spoilt for choice. The Shangri-La (shangri-la.com) in Ortaköy is the city’s newest grand hotel. More atmospheric is Sumahan (sumahan.com) near Çengelköy. This 20-room waterside boutique hotel was built inside an ancient rakı factory. In Kanlıca, the A’jia (ajiahotel.com) is housed in an authentic yalı, or Ottoman wooden mansion. It has a complimentary speedboat service into town.