Laurent Vella/Courtesy Relais & Chateaux
Top 10 European Cities for Smart Splurges
THE DRAW Istanbul, the former capital of the Ottoman Empire, presents a dazzling mix of attractions, including buzzing nightlife, dramatic ancient architecture, and great food. The city is celebrating its designation as this year’s European Capital of Culture with a nonstop series of concerts, screenings, and exhibitions. While Istanbul is by no means cheaper than most European cities, Americans can get a bit more here for the dollar. Plus, many museums offer free entry.
DON’T MISS The newly opened Deniz Palas, reinvented as the headquarters of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (www.iksv.org), houses a smartly edited shop of Turkish designers and X, a chic modern restaurant with impressive views of the city’s historic neighborhoods.
WHEN TO GO Visit anytime between spring and fall, but skip August, when it’s too hot to walk very far.
WHERE TO STAY First timers in Istanbul are usually surprised by how expensive a decent room can be, which makes the new hotel Witt Istanbul Suites (www.wittistanbul.com) that much more of a find. Its spacious rooms, designed by the local studio Autoban, are a funky mélange of wood and mirrored and marble surfaces. The suites combine all the best characteristics of an apartment with those of a hotel. Tomtom Suites (www.tomtomsuites.com), a conceptually similar hotel, is in the buzzing Galata neighborhood, home to some of the city’s trendiest restaurants and bars.
COMBINE WITH A trip to Buyukada, the largest of the Princes Islands, a tiny archipelago about an hour’s ferry voyage from Istanbul’s center. The new Museum of the Princes Islands opens in July.