According to Oya Delahaye, “Inspiration can be found in the narrow streets from the Cihangir neighborhood to Galata [modern Karaköy] on the northern shore of the Golden Horn, with its medieval Genoese citadel and 14th century tower.” “I love going to the Princes’ Islands,” Delahaye says, citing the third-largest island in the archipelago, Burgazada, as a particular favorite. “Kuzguncuk, a quaint small village on the Bosporus on the city’s Asian side, and the old Greek and Jewish districts of Balat, are equally engaging historic areas that few know,” she adds. The Hagia Sophia (Hagia Sophia Square, Sultanahmet Fatih; 90-212-522- 17-50; ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr) is perhaps Istanbul’s most iconic architectural gem.
“Its sheer size takes your breath away,” according to Delahaye. “And there is also beauty in its detail, especially the mosaics of Emperor Alexander and Empress Zoe.” Another essential stop is the former home of the Ottoman sultans, Topkapı Palace (Sultanahmet Fatih; 90-212-522- 04-80; topkapisarayi.gov.tr). “Everybody expects to find an oriental version of Versailles. On the contrary, it is very discreet; you don’t see much from afar, but when you come close you discover the level of refinement of the Ottoman lifestyle.”
The buildings of Mimar Sinan are Delahaye’s personal favorites. Sinan designed the Süleymaniye Mosque (Süleymaniye Mh., 34116), the city’s largest mosque. Completed in 1558, it was constructed with a monumental colonnaded courtyard using granite, marble, and porphyry.
The flavors of Turkey are known throughout the globe, but Istanbul offers the most authentic. “The Black Sea produces some of the world’s finest fish,” says Delahaye. “I love going to Arsipel (Kuruçe¸sme Mh. Kuruçe¸sme Cd., No. 11 Be¸sikta¸s; 90-212-265-96-00; arsipel.com
.tr), a seafood restaurant in Kuruçe¸sme offering the tastiest of all mezes.” For contemporary cuisine, Delahaye’s top recommendation is Lokanta Maya in Karaköy (Kemanke¸s Cd. 35/A, Karaköy, 90-212-252-68-84), which chef Didem Senol opened five years ago.
Delahaye suggests a trip to the Galata Tower area, where new design shops have been springing up. “The IKSV–Istanbul Culture and Art Foundation shop (Nejat Eczacıba¸sı Binası, Sadi Konuralp Cd., No. 5, Si¸shane 34433; 90-212-334-07-00) in Pera is a fascinating place to find the creativity of today,” she says.