Exploring Istanbul's Byzantium Beauty with Begüm Khan
06 May, 2019
Jewellery designer Begüm Khan takes us on a lavish journey through Istanbul, unearthing the city's most notable spots with the same fun and whimsy deployed in her designs.
Impractical and imaginative, jewellery designer Begüm Khan is no slave to the ordinary. Her designs - ranging from malachite-green beetles and golden roosters to Byzantium-hued, jewel-encrusted squirrels - delight and beguile their wearer.
We're in Istanbul, Begüm's hometown, taking the weekend to explore the city while pushing our auricles to their limits. Lobe to helix are clad with Bosphorus-blue clip ons and sundial-inspired studs, courtesy of Begüm's covetable collection.
Born into a family of Ottoman art collectors, Begüm's obsession for natural curiosities and unusual beauty flourished during her childhood, and exploring the city with her now conjures a childlike excitement (perhaps it's the sense of dress up spurring us on).
From the verdant Topkapi Palace to scene-y Lucca, regardless of where we venture, jewels are lavishly deployed.
The best hotel to wake up in the city is...
Favourite city districts worth exploring…
Old Town, Bosphorus on both the European and Asian side and Beyoglu.
What's the best way to explore the city?
Wandering around - make sure you have a good Istanbulite friend with you.
How should we spend 48 hours in Istanbul?
Enjoy a full Turkish breakfast overlooking the Bosphorus before heading to Old Town (wear trainers).
Try to pack in as much as you can; Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern and the Chora Museum are a good start.
Take a lunch break at Pandeli in the Spice Market or at Havuzlu Lokanta in The Grand Bazaar. In the evening, a drink at George's Hotel is a nice precursor to dinner at Les Ottomans' Bar.
By day two, you'll have earned a little relaxation; head to Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami for a full Turkish bath ritual followed by lunch at Karakoy Lokantasi. Walk off your mezze with a lap around Nisantasi.
For dinner that evening, book a table at Ulus 29 and then move on to Lucca for dancing.
What's the city's dress code?
Achingly cool by day, fabulously glamorous by night.
Where should we head for the best shopping?
Grand Bazaar for treasures like fabrics, antiques, Turkish delight and other oddities. The Nisantasi area is popular for contemporary fashion.
What about for a low-key lunch?
Pandeli in the Spice Market.
Other food spots we should try…
Hunkar Sofrasi, Karaköy Lokantası and Ciya Sofrası.
Where's good for an evening tipple?
Lucca for both before and after dinner drinks. It's Istanbul's to-see and be-seen-in spot.
For a taste of history head to…
The Sultanahmet District, where Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern are all located.
Must-visit museums include…
The Chora Church and museum as well as the Archeology Museum.
Great day trips from the city include…
You'll probably need more than a day in each, but I would say Cappadocia and Mardin for history and Bodrum for blue coast and fun.
Underrated spots worth a visit…
Any number of the tiny cafés and restaurants positioned on the Asian side of the Bosphorus.
One place only locals know about is…
Suna'nın Yeri. A tiny, catch-of-the-day fish restaurant on the water near Kandilli.
How should we spend the final day of our trip?
Getting lost in the nooks of the city.
A book to read before we go?
Murder on the Orient Express. Be sure to have a drink at Pera Palace Hotel, where Agatha Christie penned her now classic work.
What one souvenir should we take home?
And finally, what's in your SUITCASE?
Magazines, books, chargers, high heels, my make-up bag, a long frill skirt, a leather jacket, black blazer, jeans and lots of jewellery