Istanbul is a city of dizzying personality changes, from the village-like neighborhoods of antique shops and carpet boutiques to the majestic, glittering mosques dominating the skyline.
Hop on a boat tour down the Bosphorus strait, and you’ll get a glimpse of the metropolis during one of its most important eras—as the opulent capital of the Ottoman Empire. The water is lined with lavish structures built as palaces for various sybaritic sultans.
Here’s how you can delve into their luxurious lifestyles with museum visits, a palace-inspired hotel and indulgent dinners.
Make sure you’ve got plenty of time earmarked and Birkenstock-comfort-level shoes for a visit to Topkapı Palace, the main residence of the sultans throughout the first 400 years of the Ottoman Empire. Construction, ordered by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, began in 1459 and various additions were made in the following centuries.
At the UNESCO-designated site, you enter into a world of aesthetic resplendence and refined luxury that will make you immediately want to redecorate your house. The visitor route takes you through a mesmerizing series of staterooms and imperial halls frescoed with voluptuous foliage and gilded swirls.
In the sultan’s harem—where the wives, concubines, servants and eunuchs cohabited—the walls are a delicate succession of turquoise and royal blue floral-patterned tiles. Don’t miss the luminous chambers of the hammam where the sultan would have bathed. The caldarium, tepidarium and frigidarium are lined with white and pale grey marble with ceilings glassed in a honeycomb structure to let the natural sunlight in. Latticed gilded gates that close off the bathing area were to protect the sultan from assassination attempts.
If a 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. Though a new build, the hotel architecture mimics the palatial structures of the sultans.
Observant visitors (or those who ask staff about the design highlights) will notice a stylized tulip pattern in the decorations which, in Ottoman art, symbolized Allah. The corridor carpets represent the water of the strait and two adjacent continents, while lion footprint design furnishings recall what sultans once wore on their kaftans. Even if these details escape you, the overall impression of the marbled bathrooms, lacquered wood panels and plush velvet furniture in the bedrooms is one of sultanesque sumptuousness.
Even more dazzling is the early morning view of the Bosphorus—90% of rooms overlook the strait—as the sun dances golden on the surface of the water. Open the vast glass panels onto the terrace and you’ll hear the boats passing
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Turkish Airlines flies to 345 destinations in more different nations than any other carrier in the world, with one of the newest and most acclaimed airports as its hub. It also consistently ranks among the very best airlines and just won–again–Best Airline in Europe in the 2023 Skytrax World Airline Awards, the industry’s most influential, beating out the likes of Air France, Swiss, Lufthansa, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. It also took home four other Number Ones in the awards, including Best Economy Class Seat in Europe and Best Business Class Cuisine worldwide. (I recently wrote in detail here at Forbes about another award-winning carrier, Qatar Airways, which has won World’s Best Airline and World’s Best Business Class among other titles).
The company, established as a low-cost airline of global standards and to strengthen its competitive position in the market, will continue its operations based from Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen and Ankara Esenboğa Airports from the end of March 2024.
In November, which marked the seventeenth consecutive record month for Air Serbia, the most popular destinations in the region were Podgorica and Tivat, in Western Europe Zurich, Paris, Rome, and Milan, while in the broader Euro-Mediterranean zone, the most popular services were to Istanbul, Athens, and Barcelona.
LVMH luxury travel company Belmond is expanding its presence on the rails from Scotland to Singapore and South America with more lavish accommodations, top chefs and new itineraries ahead of rival Accor’s launch of a competing product in 2024. The moves are designed to take advantage of well-heeled travelers' desires for unique experiences, according to Belmond executives speaking to the media during the International Luxury Travel Mart.
Leading luxury hospitality company Four Seasons announces the latest line-up of Private Jet itineraries for 2025 with insider perspectives on the Four Seasons Private Jet Experience through guest testimonials. From the idyllic shores of the Maldives to the endless plains of the Serengeti, the three final journeys for 2025, International Intrigue, African Wonders, and World of Adventures, return with exciting new destinations and experiences, including an extended private cruise exploration of the Galápagos islands and a stay at the award-winning Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet. Based on a True Stay
I have traveled the world solo: I've hiked in Africa by myself; faced a humpback whale head-on in Australia as the only person in the water; and been lost for hours at a time in countries where I don’t speak the language. I'm used to dealing with the countless jabs aimed at solo travelers—a taxi driver needling about why I am not married with a wife waiting at home (I’m single and gay), or hotel reception wistfully informing me that only double rooms are available (as if I’m incapable of sleeping next to an empty bed without being deeply triggered). It takes a lot more to phase me at this point, yet few travel experiences have ever irked me so badly as when I was recently forced to change seats on a packed airplane in order to accommodate a couple.
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