Tag Archives: Istanbul

Book a hotel near a hammam on your next visit to Istanbul.

6 Things You Need to Know to Enjoy a Hammam in Istanbul

When visiting Istanbul, you’ll likely haggle in the Grand Bazaar and explore the Topkapi Palace. But what’s next? There’s nothing better than partaking in the traditional hammam experience to get a true taste of the culture of Istanbul. A hammam is a traditional public bath rich in rituals. Many hammams have been in existence for centuries and are integral to the culture. A hammam is also an excellent way to rid yourself of jet lag. Most hotels in Istanbul can advise on the best places to go. Here’s a lowdown on what to expect.

1. Get the Timing Right

Men and women bathe separately in Turkey. When you choose your hammam, do check out the timing so you go to the right session. It is also worth inquiring whether you need to bring a towel or soap. Most upmarket hammams provide these items, but the more basic do not. Hammams are plentiful around the city; many hotels in Istanbul have a bathing facility. One of the best is the Grand Cevahir Hotel.

2. Dress for the Occasion

You pay for the treatment when you arrive at the bath house. Next, you’ll be shown to a changing room where you undress and wrap a cloth around you. Nudity is generally not acceptable in the male hammam, but it is sometimes experienced in female baths. Do take spare underwear as it will get wet. If in any doubt, just observe the locals. An attendant will show you into the hammam itself.

3. Turn up the Heat

You’ll be shown into the steam room where you sit and sweat. This is very relaxing, but some people find the heat a little too much. After a while your pores will open, and you will sweat your way to the next stage.

4. It’s OK to be Dirty

An attendant will call you to the big marble slab or the belly stone. This is the fun part where you’ll be scrubbed within an inch of your life. It is a matter of pride that these attendants find old skin and dirt on you even though you showered earlier. Expect to be shown a brush full of dead skin and dirt which has just been removed from your body. You’ll be soaped and lathered and completely scrubbed, as is the tradition here.

5. Relax Your Muscles

You receive a massage once the wash is complete, and your limbs will be stretched and pummeled. This is the finishing touch on one of Turkey’s most traditional rituals. The attendants know exactly where to press to treat aching muscles. You’ll then be able to change clothes.

6. Chill out With Tea

After a hammam, do relax in the lounge with a cup of tea. You will feel cleaner than you ever have before. Just try it — you’ll be glad you did.

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The view of the skyline and New York city's hotels from the East River.

Cities Divided By water

Many of the world’s great cities are situated on oceans or riverbanks. In historical times, access to water offered clear advantages for resources and defense. Some cities have expanded across their waterways over the centuries; this act has often shaped internal and external city perceptions. Paris, Istanbul and New York are three such cities affected by the channels of water that divide them.

Water as containment

New York City’s identity is largely formed by Manhattan’s watery borders. The island will never become larger, so its sense of place simply intensifies with time. Every iconic vision of New York — Central Park, Wall Street, Times Square, Fifth Avenue or Greenwich Village — is contained within the boundaries of Manhattan. The “outer boroughs” (Queens, The Bronx, Staten Island and Brooklyn) didn’t become part of New York City until 1898; even now, residents of those boroughs still call Manhattan “the city.” The elegant Bentley Hotel is located right on the East River, with a view of the 59th Street Bridge.

Istanbul, with a far longer history, similarly concentrates its identity in the water-bounded spot of its original founding: the European side of the Bosphorus. While the city has grown in all directions, its most important historic features are contained in the section that was once Byzantium. The Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and Taksim Square are so absorbing that many Istanbul visitors only board the ferry to get a good photo vantage point. Istanbul’s Golden Horn Sultanahmet Hotel provides an immersion in the European side’s ancient glamour, with easy access to ferry landing points.

Waterways define identity

Paris is defined by its waterways. Over time, even though the “left bank” and “right bank” were part of the same city, they developed different cultural identities. Until recently, the right bank was associated with grandeur, authority and establishment wealth. The Champs-Élysées, the Louvre, the Bastille, the Palais Royal, tony nightlife and historic glory rub shoulders here. The left bank has held onto its identity as the creative heart of the city. The Sorbonne students, the artists and intellectuals who gathered in Montparnasse cafes, and the crowded backstreets of the Latin Quarter: these places convey a deeper consciousness and a more affordable human scale. The Hotel Pont Royal, located just a block from the Seine, puts you in the heart of left bank’s cultural riches.

Istanbul’s Asian side is home to residents who feel strong generational roots in its quieter, less-crowded neighborhoods. The leafy parks along the waterside and the more peaceful pace of life allow traditions to linger. At the same time, Marmara University students and the youthful culture in the Kadikoy district give the Asian side of Istanbul a sense of connection to the larger world.

Iconic crossings

In all three cities, the bridges and ferries that cross the water express the iconic city glamour. There is a fast subway line underneath the Bosphorus, but few people use it for travel. Watch the seagulls wheel in the blue mist over the heads of fishermen, or buy toast and tea aboard the well-worn ferry. These experiences are an integral part of experiencing Istanbul.

In New York, various bridges and trains offer rapid access to Manhattan, but the iconic crossings are made on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Staten Island Ferry. Thousands of pedestrians and cyclists make their way across the Brooklyn Bridge each day just for the experience, while many more ride the free Staten Island Ferry.

Paris has 37 bridges crossing the Seine, but a handful at the city’s center (Pont Alexandre III, Pont Neuf, Pont des Arts) have won the hearts of visitors and locals. Almost every view of Paris includes one of the central bridges.

With the help of Hipmunk, flights — and fascinating international destinations — are easy to find. Travel makes the world more accessible; pick three port cities in the world, and see how their identities are shaped by their waterways.

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Istanbul Nightlife – Here we Come

You might not appreciate it off hand but Istanbul has a nightclub and cafe culture as developed as any of those in the rest of Europe. Being one of the oldest cities in the world and located as it is on one of history’s most pivotal points in terms of trade, education and culture Istanbul has a thousands of years of experience of people coming together.

This fact is borne out by the size of the city and the variety in cultural hubs that you will see as you hop from nightspot to nightspot. I booked a great central spot with this site, so didn’t have far too trek back on those late nights out partying!

Despite the fact that Turkey is by tradition a Muslim nation the government is secular and what with all the European influences bars, restaurants, clubs and pubs all exist within the city, although nightclubs predominate on the Western side of the Bosphorus. However, beer, wine, raki and other spirits are all perfectly legal in licensed premises all over the city.

This being the case Istanbul has a night scene just like any other major European conurbation, there are venues that appeal to those who want to see a show, dance, party, watch bands, spot celebrities  or whatever else it is you choose to do with your evenings while on vacation.

If you want to play by the sea then the Ortakoy area is where you should be headed, where the three floors of the Anjelique await, There’s a nightclub on the top floor while the other floors are dedicated to Angelique’s restaurant and cocktail bar. People head here for the atmosphere and the music.

Alternatively there is Blackk, they describe themselves “With our elegant decoration and world-class music, Blackk is a unique night club in Ortaköy, Istanbul offering a magnificent view of the Bosphorus. On the upper floor, you can find a resto-lounge where you can enjoy the view of the Bosphorus as you dine or have a drink at the bar.

Then there is Suada, not actually on the coast but on a small island just off it. 165 metres from the European shoreline the nightclub and 6 restaurant s are just one part of a complex owned by Glatasaray Sports Club and is famous for its glamorous soirées frequented by internationally famous celebrities and sportspersons as well as its first class food.

Alternatively you might like to stay within the city’s precincts, for the best city centre nightlife you need to head over to Beyoglu. It’s here that you’ll find spots such as Al Jamal, a venue that defines what it is to be Istanbul, there is middle eastern cuisine, belly dancing, a harem interior with western music, food, drinks and live entertainment.

Then there is Babylon, a venue which exists for live bands to play in a small, intimate space, musicians and musical styles from all over the world including Latin, Jazz, Electo, Reggae and even Turkish can all be found here. Entrance is free, however, there is ticketed admission for concerts.

Confusingly there are four Buddha bars in Istanbul, The Buddha Rock Bar, Big Buddha and Little Buddha as well as The Buddha Bar. The Buddha Rock Bar caters mainly for students, it’s cheap and comfortable and a good place to start a night out. Big and little Buddha play a range of music from Latin and Blues to Techno and Jungle. The Buddha Bar plays alternative rock from the 90’s and 00’s.

If you want to sample some fabulous local cuisine while listening to Pop and Jazz performed by locals too then Hayal Kahvesi is a cafe bar you’ll want to check out.

That’s just a few of the best known nightclubs in Istanbul, local guidebooks or staff at your hotel will be able to give you a good idea of the best clubs and bars local to where you’re staying.

[Photo via live.villapashahotel.com]