Turning to Turkey
Where East meets West, Istanbul is the perfect combination of Europe and the Middle East, perfectly caught in time between history and the modern world.
Day 1 — Old City wonders
Start your day with a visit to one of the most magnificent shrines of the Muslim world, the Blue Mosque. Built between 1609 and 1619, it is famous for its exquisite interior blue tiles, cascade of domes and six minarets (closed at prayer times).
Make your way across from Sultanahmet Park to the Aya Sofia (church of divine wisdom). This former church, later converted into a mosque, is a museum, with mosaics dating from the 10th century.
Cross the tramlines in front of the Aya Sofia and immerse yourself into the atmospheric underground wonder of the Basilica Cistern, which was built in the 6th century.
On your way out, follow the tramlines up Divan Yolu for a half-hour stroll to the Grand Bazaar. This is Turkey's largest covered market, with an average of 4,000 shops, most of them beaming with authenticity.
Next, take the tram all the way down to Eminonu Square. Walking across the Galata Bridge towards Beyoglu, take the time to enjoy Turkish tea, shisha and backgammon at one of the many little cafes nested over the Golden Horn.
A Beyoglu night
From Istiklal Caddesi, get into the narrow streets of Balik Pazar, the central fish market, and make your way to Nevizade Sokak. The place is filled with friendly people, music and laughter.
After enjoying your drinks, cross the way into one of the traditional meyhane to enjoy mezze and fresh fish. Even after a gargantuan meal, you will not resist having a delicious sweet at Saray, an institution since 1935. The address is: Istiklal Caddesi, 102-104.
Day 2 — Topkapi Palace
In Beyoglu, climb to the observation desk of the AD1348 Galata Tower for amazing views. Then, return to the pedestrian area of Istikal Caddesi for lunch at Otantik and sample some of their crispy gozleme (pancakes) and their delicious Turkish dishes.
This will give you enough energy to spend the afternoon at Topkapi Palace — a fascinating and impressive environment that was home to the Ottoman sultans until the 19th century. Your trip will not be complete without a Turkish bath.
Cemberlitas Hamam, a jewel of 16th-century Ottoman architecture, features steam rooms lit with star-shaped holes in the domes. Just off Divan Yolu. www.cemberlitashamami.com.tr
After the sightseeing, we suggest Reina, in posh Ortaköy, a chic dining concept described as "world under one roof".
With its choice of world cuisine, it is a great metaphor for multicultural Turkey and a great way to close your 48 hours in Istanbul. For reservations www.reina.com.tr
The Four Seasons, Tevkifhane Sokak, 1, Sultanahmet, (0212) 638 8200. www.fourseasons.com
Richmond Hotel, Istiklal Caddesi, 445, Beyoglu, (0212) 252 5460. www.richmondhotels.com
Hotel Ayasofya, Kucuk Ayasofya Cadessi, Demirci Resit Sokak, 28, Sultanahmet, (0212) 516 9446. www.ayasofyahotel.com
Natalie Richard is a UAE-based freelance writer