An Insider’s Tour of Istanbul

Gay Gassmann

French writer, poet and politician, Alphonse de Lamartine once mused, “If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.” What held true in the 19th century, still rings true today. This city—which was the imperial capital for 16 centuries and three empires, historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople—still conjures up images of opulence, extravagance, and stunning beauty.

The city’s architecture reflects the various empires and cultures that have called this city, between Asia and Europe, home. From classical Greek sculptures to Ottoman extravagance, Roman monuments to Byzantine richness, the city is full of sights at every turn. Come discover the breathtaking beauty and excitement of Istanbul with our upcoming AD Access Tour in this great city, which takes place from October 19 to 24. Join luxury travel group Indagare’s founder and CEO Melissa Biggs Bradley and myself, an AD Paris-based editor and art historian, on this journey, unlike any other trip you will ever take, through unlocked doors and AD-curated private access.

Spice

Guests will be able to stroll through Istanbul's aromatic spice market.
Photo: Getty Images/Ihsan Eroglu

In addition to the spectacular must-see sights, including the 17th-century Blue Mosque, with its 260 stained glass windows, and the magnificent, restored Topkaki Palace, AD Access will also take you through closed doors and behind the scenes with a host of Istanbul’s movers and shakers, creatives, and historians. We will be welcomed for dinner in the private residence of Ottoman expert, tastemaker, author, and decorator Serdar Gulgun. Well-known in Istanbul and beyond, Gulgun will open his mansion on the Asian side of the city with delicacies inspired by Ottoman cuisine, music, and a fortune teller who reads coffee grounds.

No visit to this vibrant city would be complete without a day of shopping in the bazaars and the 17th-century spice market. From there, it's onto an exceptional, private after-hours visit to Hagia Sophia, one of the most iconic monuments of Istanbul. Each day promises more visits to private homes and meals with local creatives and art collectors, and there will be a visit to the home of a cookbook author, TV personality, and celebrity chef for a private cooking class.

Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia, one of the most recognizable buildings in the world, is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture.
Photo: Getty Images/Emad Aljumah

The richness of Istanbul cannot be overstated, and an exclusive cruise on the Bosphorus to view the riverside palaces, one after the other, will offer another way to see the city from a fresh prospective. Napoleon is quoted as saying, “If the earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.” Don’t miss out on discovering the hidden and private treasures of Istanbul, and discovering for yourself why Napoleon was so taken by this thriving city that lies between East and West.

For more information on the next AD Access trip to Istanbul, which will run from October 19 through 24, 2019, please visit: indagare.com/ad.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest