For the most part, 90 percent of the restaurants and eateries in the neighborhood of Sultanahmet are sadly lacking, and although you can forgive an eatery a less than stellar meal at lunchtime, I for one can't forgive the extortion. Instead, I recommend you sample the honest home cooking at the various innocuous lokantas (dives with steam tables), particularly along Pierloti Caddesi, between the Hippodrome and Cagaloglu and in the working streets around the Grand Bazaar. In a pinch, head over to Buhara 93 (Sifa Hamami Sokak 15A; tel. 0212/518-1511) for some pretty good, cheap basic Turkish fare, and pizza that I've come to know and love. For dinner, spring for a taxi (about 6.75YTL/$5) and venture beyond the confines of the tourist trap for one of Beyoglu's more genuine restaurants or meyhanes (traditionally male-dominated taverns or pubs serving food and drink). The restaurants of Beyoglu and Taksim are more consistent in that they serve a regular stream of locals and businessmen rather than rely entirely on the tourist industry. A bit farther up the Bosphorus in Besiktas and Etiler are the five-star restaurants that attract Turkish jet-setters and consulate personnel, for the most part providing a wide selection of fresh-fish specialties, excellent service, and spectacular views.
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The neighborhood of Kumkapi on the fringes of Sultanahmet capitalizes on the fish market across the highway, a year-round carnival crammed with typical tavernas. Don't walk there alone, though, as these are the streets that attract the worst petty thieves.
Restaurant dining rooms resemble ghost town eateries in the summer, but if you just continue up the steps, you'll see why. Istanbul is a city of rooftop terraces, and summer dining is almost exclusively enjoyed high above the city accompanied by warm breezes and breathtaking panoramas.
Dressing for dinner in Turkey requires the same amount of good judgment as anywhere in the Western world. Although a jacket and tie (or black dress for women) would be perfectly appropriate for a Saturday evening meal at an upscale restaurant or hotel dining room, a pair of pressed pants and a nice shirt will also do the trick in any listing indicating "dress smart." Leave the beachwear for the beach (including Bermuda shorts, cutoffs, and tank tops), and you should avoid any unnecessary faux pas.
For someone new to Istanbul, one of the first questions you will ask yourself is "where should I make my base?" In previous editions, I unreservedly directed my readers to Sultanahmet, where old dilapidated homes converted into "Special Category" hotels created the perfect gateway to an authentic past. There have been three very important developments in the past few years. First, hotel rooms that used to cost 40€ ($50) now charge 80€ ($100) and up, for absolutely no added value. Admittedly this is primarily a disadvantage for those paying in U.S. dollars, but on principle I refuse to pay upwards of 80€ ($100) for a room that once cost me 16€ ($20). Let me put this further into perspective: The luxury five-star Hotel Ceylan Inter-Continental (reviewed below) has Internet rates as low as 133€ ($160). Second, given the enormous profit margins that a hotel can bring in, it seems as if everyone has gotten in on the act -- transforming a market of family-run houses into a sea of mass-produced soulless "boutique hotels." Finally, and most disappointingly, the hassling by carpet salesmen and their ilk has reached new levels; last time I stayed in town several hotel guests opted for the safety of the hotel lobby rather than brave the irritating and stressful storm of harassment. It is therefore with a heavy heart that I recommend this neighborhood only with the admonition to book through a reputable agent, stay vigilant (for formal and informal crime), or preferably, base yourself in Beyoglu, where hotels are managed by people schooled in hotel management (and not carpet sales), and the food and nightlife are better anyway.
The price of your hotel room generally includes breakfast and tax, although a few higher-priced hotels tack these on top of the room rate. The price categories listed in this section are to be used mainly as guidelines due to the market-driven nature of the industry. It's not uncommon, for example, for a room listed at 205€ ($250) a night to sell for significantly less through an agency. For this reason you may find fewer options in the "Inexpensive" or "Moderate" categories.
In general, agency rates can be as much as 75 percent less than the rack rate, and even after the agency commissions are tacked on, you can still get a better rate than if you booked it yourself. Meanwhile, many hotels are offering special rates via the Internet that undercut even the agents, so it's important to do the legwork if you're looking to get the best rate.
For those game enough to hole up on the less-convenient-to-everything Asian side, there are two pretty amazing options that promise to mitigate the trouble of getting there and getting around. The first is the brand-new luxury boutique Sumahan Hotel, in Çengelköy. It's deluxeness rivals that of the Çiragan, and more amenable given that the latter's best rooms are booked more than a year in advance. The hotel provides three shuttles per day to the Kabatas docks (just below Dolmabahçe Palace). There are also commuter boats from the waterfront near the centrally located Eminönü two times daily.
The posh and luxuriously restored Bosphorus Palace Hotel (previously and popularly known as the Bosphorus Pasha), Yaliboyu Cad. 64, 34676, near the Beylerbeyi Palace (tel. 0216/422-0003; fax 0216/422-0012; www.bosphoruspalace.com) is another time-honored option on the Asian side. The Radisson SAS Bosphorus Hotel (tel. 0212/310-1500), Çiragan Cad. 46, 34349, on the banks of the Bosphorus Strait, opened in January 2006, and posts prices that range from a moderate 135€ ($165) to an extravagant 650€ ($790) per night.
Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for the arrival of the new Four Seasons Bosphorus, scheduled for 2007, which promises to provide flawless hospitality to the waterfront around Ortaköy.
For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed restaurants, visit our online dining index.
For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed accommodations, visit our online hotels index.
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