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Jason Goodwin’s guide to Istanbul

Jason Goodwin Bellini CardIstanbulFour Seasons Istanbul

Jason Goodwin is an author with an intimate knowledge and love of Istanbul. His internationally-acclaimed thriller series that began with The Janissary Tree is set in 19th-Century Istanbul. Jason is also the author of Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire. Here, he reveals his personal guide to Istanbul.

Best restaurant

Hamdi – unavoidable, touristy, delicious. Head upstairs past the dingy VIP rooms to the roof terrace, and revel in grilled meat and salads dressed with pomegranate molasses. The glass roof slides back and forth, according to the weather.  Always a possibility of seeing a Nobel laureate – or a party of visiting Swedes.
Kalcin Sok 17, Tahmis Cad, Eminonu; 90 212 528 0390

Best hotel

The Four Seasons: one of the lovely things about Istanbul is that its prime historical area, Sultanahmet, is also buzzing with very decent cheap hotels. The Four Seasons rises to the challenge of being an expensive hotel in the right place. A stone’s throw from the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, it is an oasis of luxury with uncannily intelligent staff. The rooms are big, the bar is nice and the food is superb.

Best hammam

Designed by the Ottoman Empire’s greatest architect, Sinan, in 1584, the Cemberlitas Hammam at the entrance to the Grand Bazaar is a renaissance temple to cleanliness and relaxation. Men and women steam in separate but identical marble halls. Follow the locals, and spend an afternoon getting awfully clean.

Best shop

You can spend as long as you like in the Grand Bazaar, eating, drinking or even having a bath or a pray between haggling, but you should not miss Egin Tekstil, where absorbent and luxurious hammam towels are soberly designed, pack small and soak up a lot of water. They’ve got great sheets and wraps too. Fixed price. Friendly people. Bliss.
Yaglikçilar Cad. 1, Istanbul 0212/528-2618

Best museum

A thousand years ago, a Russian visitor admitted to Hagia Sophia, the great Byzantine church, reported that he didn’t know if he was on earth or in heaven. The church was already old. In the intervening millennium it has been a mosque, and is now a museum. Go early and avoid the queues: I guarantee it will knock your socks off.

* Jason Goodwin’s most recent book is The Bellini Card. More information here.

Check out our editors’ recommendations for the best holidays in Turkey. We favour Exclusive Escapes for boutique hotels on the coast and family holidays in Turkey, and Cachet Travel for low-cost holidays with kids.

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