I recently attended a familiarisation trip with a group of Events agents to Turkey’s most cosmopolitan city, Istanbul. In just a few hours we were in the heart of Istanbul relaxing on a water taxi along the Bosphorus; the river where Europe and Asia meet.
The transfer took us directly to our hotel The Grand Tarabya, a member of Leading Hotels of The World and set along Tarabya Bay. The spacious and tastefully decorated hotel has 168 deluxe guest rooms, 79 suites and 1 presidential suite all with breath-taking views. The hotel has a pillar free state-of-the-art Grand Ballroom and a foyer with natural day light and Bosphorus views – a great event venue for business meetings, workshops and seminars.
Once settled we all met up for dinner in the hotels Brasserie. The restaurant overlooks the bay and Marina and with an extensive menu to choose from we were spoilt for choice. After dinner we moved to the hotels Diba Bar where some traditional Turkish dancers awaited us and we had a chance to put our belly dancing skills to the test!
The following day we ventured out into the city and I was blown away by the culture! One of the first places that took my breath away was Hagia Sophia which is a masterpiece of Byzantine art and definitely a must see! We also had a look around the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern, both located in the old city and magnificent structures bursting with history.
After a delicious lunch at the Karakol Restaurant overlooking the Gardens of Topkapi Palace we made our way to the Grand Bazaar; one of the largest covered markets in the world. With 60 streets and 5,000 shops, the Bazaar is well known for its jewellery, hand-painted ceramics, carpets, embroideries, spices, antique shops and recently featured in the James Bond film Skyfall. I couldn’t leave without attempting to haggle for something so I put my negotiating skills to good use and got myself some spices and perfume at great prices.
After a day of culture and shopping we got back on a boat and headed to Blue Topaz; a fine-dining restaurant offering exquisite views of the Bosphorus. Located within Reina Bar (a classic of Istanbul nightlife) and open only in summer, Blue Topaz’s elegant and stylish decoration is reminiscent of Greek islands with its white-blue colour scheme. It was truly a unique experience to have a cocktail (or two) at the Reina Bar with its views of Europe on one side and Asia on the other side.
On the final morning of the trip and before our flights we headed out to see some beautiful venues located along the shore line ideal for all kinds of events. Sait Halim Pasa a waterfront residence, Les Ottomans and Esma Sultan Mansions both seaside mansions offer a superb combination of elegance, luxury and history – a stunning backdrop for any event.
Arriving back at the airport we checked ourselves in and headed to the Executive CIP Lounge. Unlike many airport lounges this one offered an extensive menu of hot and cold dishes, private relaxation rooms, in built cinema and music system, billiard hall, virtual golf, library and a business centre. Relaxing away from the hustle and bustle of the departure terminal was the perfect way to end the weekend before heading back to reality!
I had a wonderful time in Istanbul – with its beautiful blend of cultures and lifestyles, of old and new, this city should be on every corporate events list!