Visitors looking to explore Istanbul on their way to Cappadocia typically put the historical sites, including the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace Museum and the Hagia Sophia Museum, front and center on their itineraries.

But the city also offers newer, trendier attractions for those looking to explore the lesser-known side of the city. In Karakoy, for example, visitors can take in the Istanbul Modern Art Museum, the artSumer gallery, Kramph Gallery and Mixer Arts.

This neighborhood also is known for its rooftop churches, noticeable for their onion domes, as well as for Murat Muhallebicisi, a well-known coffee house.

In Beyoglu, the Misir Apartments showcase some of the city's avant-garde artists in venues such as the Galeri Nev galleries, located within restored 19th-century buildings.

Visitors will find vintage wares for sale in Istanbul's Cukurcuma and Tophane districts.
Visitors will find vintage wares for sale in Istanbul's Cukurcuma and Tophane districts. Photo Credit: Felicity Long

Shoppers can check out everything from fashion created by up-and-coming Turkish designers to antique and vintage wares in the Cukurcuma and Tophane districts.

Finally, you can visit the Museum of Innocence in the Tophane district, an homage to the work of Turkish author Orhan Pamuk.

For accommodations, we stayed at the five-star Ciragan Palace Kempinski, a 282-room property overlooking the Bosphorus. Formerly a sultan's palace, the property welcomes celebrities and dignitaries with its own helipad and upscale amenities. There are six restaurants in all, including Tugra for fine dining and the Bosphorus Grill for seafood and barbecue, both overlooking the river.

Expect to pay about $390 per room per night; $33,000 for the 11 top suites.

For more European elegance, we also dined at the Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah, a designated "museum hotel," where menu entrees are named for such frequent guests as Greta Garbo, Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock.


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