Discovering Istanbul

View of Bodrum harbor on the Turkish Riviera during a hot summer day
Bodrum Turkey // Photo by monticello/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Luxury travelers looking for a little spoiling have often turned to Istanbul. The city that straddles two continents is rife with A-list hotels, world-class shopping, dining and historic sites that give most international cities a run for their money. It can be overwhelming to try and see it all, but here is a list of what not to miss.

The Sights

Istiklal Caddesi
Easily Istanbul's most famous thoroughfare, this pedestrian walkway is jam packed with boutiques, restaurants, pastry shops and art galleries. 

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The Blue Mosque
Known to locals as the Sultanahmet Mosque, this iconic structure was built in 1609. It has a main dome, eight secondary domes and six minarets. 

The Grand Bazaar
The oldest and largest covered market in the world, this centuries-old site packs a punch to the senses. It was built in the mid 15th-century and brings together a mesh of what makes Istanbul a cultural crossroads. 

Hagia Sophia
Built in the year 532, Hagia Sophia was completed only in the last five years. It was set to be the largest church in the world, and it remained so until the Renaissance.

Hot Hotels

St. Regis Hotels & Resorts will be taking its luxury self over to Istanbul in the first half of 2014. Located in the Nisantasi neighborhood on the European side, The St. Regis Istanbul will be close to boutiques, restaurants and cafes. The hotel will have 118 rooms. Note: Four suites will have custom interiors by major designers. The palatial Presidential Suite will cover a 2,000-square-foot space. Other features include the signature St. Regis Butler service, a brasserie-style restaurant, a rooftop restaurant, spa, fitness center and more. 

Mandarin Oriental has signed an agreement to manage a hotel on the Bosphorus. The hotel is slatted to debut in 2016. Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus, Istanbul will have a waterfront location on the strait. There will be 130 guest room sand suites, with outdoor terraces for drinking in views (and cocktails, of course). The Spa at Mandarin Oriental will have a selection of deluxe VIP treatment suites, along with a menu of beauty treatments. We hear an indoor swimming pool, fitness center and meditation room will also be available.

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Shopping

If you know where to look, Istanbul is a gold mine for shoppers. But be careful not to be fooled! There are those looking to take you for a ride, as well. 

If you have a taste for the exotic, fist Yastik by Rifat Özbek. Turkish-born Rifat Özbek brings shoppers cushions in vibrant colors, using textiles sourced from parts of Anatolia and Uzbekistan. 

Run by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts in the organisation's headquarters, the IKSV Design Boutique focuses on local designers' work and has the sophistication of a museum shop. The varied collection includes jewellery, accessories and decorative items by emerging designers, as well as reproductions of artwork by several 20th-century Turkish painters on ceramic items, pillowcases and the like.

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