Photo of cat sleeping on a street in Istanbul behind a carpet.

Greetings from Istanbul

Photo of cat sleeping on a street in Istanbul behind a carpet.

Istanbul is one of my favourite cities in the world. Set across two continents, straddling both Europe and Asia. It is a city that is a feast for your senses.

There are so many things that I love about this dynamic city which combines the ancient and modern in the most seamless and harmonic way. Istanbul offers a vast array of inspiration for the creative person. The rich and intricate tapestry of this city combines colour, texture, pattern, narrative, poetry, music, art and architecture. For me, Istanbul has it all.

This is a city with the dreamiest of skylines best enjoyed on the local passenger ferry that takes you from Kadıköy a vibrant district on the Asian side to Eminonu on the European side.

From my travels in Istanbul I want to share with you some of my personal recommendations.

Photo of a traditional Turkish tile art in blues, white and brown with detail of a bird and flowers hung on a pistachio coloured wall.

The Bazaars

The bazaars of Istanbul are not to be missed. They are a kaleidoscopic mirage of intense swirling colour, intricate pattern, opulent textures, melodic sounds, and deep aromas. Just strolling through these markets you cannot help but be inspired by the array of things that you can see.

There are stalls of colourful aromatic spices, succulent Turkish delight, glistening gold and silver jewellery, delightful and eccentric antiquities and tea, to name but a few. When it comes to tea you’ll find hundreds of different varieties. Tempting mixes such as ‘lover’s tea’ and ‘passion tea’ might lure in the tourists but I prefer the traditional kind.

Turkish tea, taken black with sugar and served in a small tulip shaped glass is one of the familiar tastes of this city. Apple tea which is less traditional also tastes and smells delicious. The best version I had was intensely syrupy and was served in a carpet shop whilst I negotiated a sale. If you ever go to Istanbul and decide to shop for a carpet be ready to have a cup of tea in every establishment that you enter as serving tea is a gesture of warmth, generosity and hospitality there.

Photo of a red floral carpet in a mosque in Istanbul.

Midye Dolma

When it comes to food in Istanbul you are never too far from a tasty snack. There is so much great street food but my favourite is Midye Dolma. These are stuffed mussels and they are deeply satisfying. Sold in the streets by vendors you can find them almost everywhere. You pay for however many you consume, given they are so tasty this is a very good business model. The mussels are stuffed with a delicious combination of spiced rice, pine nuts and currants and are always served with a lemon wedge that you squeeze on top before eating. Incredible.

Photo of the neon sign with goose logo of the restaurant Kadi Nimet in Istanbul.

Kadi Nimet

Owing to Istanbul’s coastal proximity there is so much great seafood to be found here which brings me to my next recommendation Kadi Nimet. This is a gem of a fish restaurant located on a popular market street in Kadıköy

Selling fresh fish on their own market stall whilst serving as a restaurant inside, you can select your own fish which is always fresh and really good. As well as fish they have a great selection of side dishes and mezes to enjoy.

I washed down meals here with a crisp Efes beer or a glass of Raki, a traditional alcoholic drink that transforms from a clear liquid to a cloudy haze when you add water. Raki is often drunk with meals in Turkey, it is a fragrant drink made from twice distilled grapes, anise and cinnamon and is very refreshing.

The décor of Kadi Nimet is rustic and set out over 4 floors. The quirky signage and photographs on the walls add character but the food steals the show. Simple, fresh and served with a smile. I have enjoyed many a great evening in this place.

You might wonder why the logo of the restaurant has a goose on it? This is because the restaurant is named after a goose called Rodi who gave up his ordinary life on the water to live like a local on the fish market.

Fisherman Nimet Koseoglu first met Rodi before relocating to Istanbul. When he arrived there and endeavoured to sell the animals that he had brought with him, Rodi was reluctant to leave. From that day forward Rodi adopted the life of a fisherman, spending his nights at the market and his days with tradesman waiting for Nemit to arrive. Nemit came to regard Rodi as his son, and in tribute to him named Kadi Nemit after him.

Photo of fresh fish in the Kadikoy market in Instanbul.

Kadıköy market

On the same street as Kadi Nimet you will find Kadıköy's bustling fish and produce market, this is the place to go to see, taste and experience what Istanbul has to offer in terms of fresh and local and organic produce.

A really fun thing to do is to visit the market in the midmorning with an empty picnic basket, then fill it with all the tasty treats you want to try out. This will be no ordinary picnic I can assure you as you will be spoilt for choice here. Expect top quality meat, dairy, stuffed peppers, fruit, nuts, baklava, fresh bread and mezes to go.

Emirgan Park and Pierre Loti Hill

Once you have filled your basket and are looking for somewhere to eat your delicious gourmet picnic I would recommend Emirgan Park which is one of the largest public parks in the city. It’s beautiful, boasting incredible tulip displays and sensationally colourful flower beds. A really romantic spot to enjoy your picnic, sketch, read, people watch and have a rest from the busier parts of the city.

There is another place which is perfect if you want to escape from the crowds, it’s called Pierre Loti Hill and is located in Eyup, on European side of Bosphrous, Istanbul. There is a cable car that you can take to the top of hill where you will find a teahouse with the most spectacular views of the city. This place is off the beaten track and is popular with locals and the occasional traveller like me.

Pierre Loti was a French author who wrote a novel called Aziyade. It is believed that his book was named after an Ottoman woman that he had fallen in love with. In Istanbul you can also find a street named after him.

Photo of Anadolu Kavagi fishing village in Turkey.

Anadolu Kavagi

My last recommendation is Anadolu Kavagi, a historical fishing village in Istanbul, it is a great place to take a boat trip to if you want to escape the city in search of some more peace and tranquillity. The charmingly colourful ramshackle houses set the scene here. There are some nice places to eat, draw, relax and soak up the atmosphere. It was here that I found a wall of broken ceramic pottery that inspired elements of my print design. I created my Greetings from Istanbul pocket square as a souvenir of my travels in this incredible city.

The Greetings from Istanbul pocket square

The design is my own personal response that aims to pay homage to the colour, pattern and architecture that I experienced there. In homage to the atmosphere of the bazaar and traditional Turkish tea, which is crimson in colour, the pocket square has an intense red base.

The swirling floral motifs are inspired by the tranquil Yildiz park, the perfect place to have a picnic with the one you love. Traditional Turkish ceramics have influenced the border design where a painterly style speaks of makers hands, a subtle reference to the many artisans at work in the city.

One design cannot capture every aspect of an experience of a place not even close so I hope you have enjoyed reading my recommendations for travel to Istanbul and I hope that hearing the stories behind my designs may inspire you to experience Istanbul for yourself.

Crimson Rose Xx

Shop the Greetings from Istanbul pocket square.