For the ultimate Turkish bathhouse experience, head to the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamami in Sultanahmet in Istanbul’s Old City. The hamam was built in 1556 by Mimar Sinan, the chief Ottoman architect, for Roxelana, the wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The public bath closed in 1910 (and later housed convicts from a nearby prison) but reopened last year after a spectacular renovation. Spa treatments include a traditional scrub and a warm bubble massage, administered in a domed room lined with Marmara marble. .
Located in an Old City townhouse, Tulu Textiles features four floors of bedding and textiles. The American owner, Elizabeth Hewitt, designs her own hand-blocked fabrics and bed linens and supplies hand-made fabrics to Oscar de la Renta and Jeffrey Bilhuber. Also in store: an impressive collection of vintage and antique Central Asian rugs and textiles. .
The 17th century Egyptian Market—Istanbul’s spice bazaar—is a marvel just on its visual merits. And then the snacking begins: cheeses, nuts, endless cups of tea. My favorite stall was 140-year-old Malatya Pazari, one of the oldest in the bazaar. Head to the back where the owner keeps a massive copper bowl filled with rose-scented Turkish Delight, which is weighed to order and beautifully packaged in gift boxes to take home. .
The stylish bi-level dining room—with its cast-iron spiral staircase and turquoise tile—would be enough of a draw for design hounds. But Karaköy Lokantasi, a seafood restaurant near the docks in the neighborhood called Karaköy, is also a must-visit for its food—from a wonderful assortment of Turkish meze, or cold salads, to grilled octopus, and the local fish of the day. .
Istanbul’s The House Hotel chain operates three intimate boutique hotels in some of the city’s chicest neighborhoods, including Galatasaray and Nişantaşı. Turkish design firm Autoban oversees the chic modern decor. The breakfast buffet, included in the price of the room, is one of the best in town. .
Looking for more? Check out ELLE DECOR Goes to Istanbul.