Turkish Delight | Photo: Steve Leland

The Suites and Sweets of Istanbul

The exotic allure of Istanbul is undeniable. The mix of culture and history, blended with diverse food influences is a recipe for a unique experience unlike any other. On a recent cruise visit we participated in a culinary tour with the foodie experts at Culinary Backstreets and bathed in the warmth of the Hurrem Sultan Hamami and it was those two experiences that made the argument for a return visit and three weeks later we found our way back to discover even more about this fascinating city.

Weaving your way through the tangled streets of shops, restaurants and coffee shops can be overwhelming but the area that borders Taksim Square establishes a welcomed comfort zone. The wide, colorful pedestrian walkways brim with locals and tourists alike, each seeking an evening of gawking at people and stores, dining at restaurants or simply out for a stroll.

InterContinental Istanbul | Photo: Steve Leland
InterContinental Istanbul | Photo: Steve Leland

Go Ahead, Make My Stay

Istanbul is divided into distinct areas and deciding on an area to stay can be a daunting task. The old city is home to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace but can be overwhelming with its throngs if tourists. The Asia side divided by the Bosphorus Strait is a little too remote for touristic endeavors but for first time visitors, the Taksim Square area is perfect for street exploration that remains well within soft adventure boundaries.

The InterContinental Istanbul is the ideal hotel accommodation for cruise guests and is utilized by premium cruise lines the likes of Silversea, Oceania and Regent for their pre and post cruise stays. Perched high atop a hill with commanding views of the city and the never ending boat traffic of the Bosphorus, it is secluded away in a park like setting yet only steps away from the vibrant sidewalks of the central Taksim area. 

Elegance is on full display in the grandiose lobby area with an adjacent half inside, half outside garden lounge perfect for cocktails or afternoon tea. An opulent staircase encircles the reception area and leads up to the property’s restaurant that provides a bountiful breakfast of typical Turkish dishes and western favorites.

The classic ambiance of the Intercontinental brand is carried out by trained staff and perfected in the design of the spacious accommodations. As in sister properties, Club Level rooms come with a bevy of benefits, none more enjoyable than private access to the exclusive lounge serving cocktails, snacks and a full buffet breakfast.

The property offers a luxury spa to massage out the stress of long flights and even a Turkish hammam. For those that prefer a DIY approach to healthy well being, the property features an amazing gym facility. The outdoor pool is surrounded by trees and landscaping to embellish the feeling of ultra luxury.

Take dining to new heights with a sumptuous dinner in the rooftop Safran Restaurant as the stars twinkle above and the lights of the city glimmer below. After dinner the celebration of the good life continues with music by a DJ, drinks and dancing in the rooftop City Lights Bar. Hospitality is an essential requirement of any holiday and the InterContinental Istanbul delivers in every category.

InterContinental Istanbul
InterContinental Istanbul | Photo: Steve Leland

Sweets In The Streets

Turkish cuisine, street food or the revered coffee can be found without effort but nothing is more endemic to these sidewalks than the shops hawking Turkish Delight and Turkish Baklava. The sweet addictive candy is broadly called lokum, loosely defined as throat comfort and if sugar is your guilty pleasure you’ll find dozens of outlets catering to your weakness.


The sweet jelly like cubes come in several flavors and are dusted with a light powered type sugar to prevent sticking together and the tubelike variety is loaded with pistachios or other crunchy condiments. Turkish baklava is baked in the thinnest of phyllo dough layers dripping in sugar cane syrup and stuffed with pistachios or walnuts. You’ll find several outlets of

Hafiz Mustafa, one of Istanbul’s most famous confectionaries and their iconic fez wearing assistants dispensing the delectable sweets in shops dotted throughout the city.

If you are compiling your destination bucket list, don’t let Istanbul slip over the edge. It’s in a category of its very own in a world removed from the ordinary.

As a former Cruise Director, Steve has been cruising the world for the past forty years. Bringing a new dimension to cruise journalism, he continues to spin the globe searching for off the grid cruise adventures and unplugged destinations to share with Porthole Cruise Magazine readers.