The Hedonist: Bar-hopping in Istanbul

What to see and where to be seen

Ask anyone: they'll say the same thing. Istanbul is a historic city, where East meets West, leaving cultural legacies galore, blah, blah, blah. Unfortunately, my holidays tend to be those where I return a shameful shade of grey from too many hours spent in a haze of fist-pumps and neon lights. Just this once, though, I decide to do things right. So, bumbag securely fastened, SPF30 smoothly applied, I join the sandal-wearing masses to see the cultural side of this city. I start with a walk around the Hagia Sofia, the soaring church-cum-mosque-cum-church again, but fatigue sets in, so I hop on a double-decker tour bus to see more sights (the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace were the obvious highlights).

I get off at Taksim Square and walk down the Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul's equivalent to Oxford Street. Suddenly I'm back in my element. Slipping off onto a cobblestone side street, I sit for a drink at Lokal Tunel (00 90 212 245 40 28;, a smart-looking café at Tunel Meydanı 186a. Lokal is a popular watering hole with clued-up locals, which I discover when I strike up conversation with a few media types, who invite me for dinner. Well, a girl has to eat – and I'm done with sightseeing for the day.

We meet up at Karakoy Lokantasi (00 90 212 292 44 55;, a smart restaurant along the up-and-coming Karakoy dock area. The place is buzzing with groups of well-groomed diners nibbling on tiny dishes. It seems that no weekend meal here is complete without raki – an anise alcohol that's a national favourite. I take a sip and the liquorice flavour takes me back to my schooldays. In two minutes the first carafe is gone.

After hours of feasting and a lot more raki, we stumble out and head for aperitifs. By night, Istanbul seems to be even more abuzz. We make a beeline for 5Kat (00 90 212 293 37 74; at Soganci Sokak 7, a rooftop bar with attractive martinis. But bar-hopping's the thing here, so we're swiftly on to another watering hole called Dulcinea (00 90 212 249 8753;

Fast forward a few hours and I am strobing to deep house in a tiny club called MiniMuzikhol (00 90 212 245 1996; back on Soganci Sokak. It is clearly the place to be. The room is packed with pursed-lipped hipsters.

Thank goodness I'm staying at the Georges Hotel (00 90 212 244 2423;, a new 20-room guesthouse. The informal, no-lobby policy means my fumbled 7am entrance is hardly noticed and the roof bar makes for an excellent nightcap before hitting my goose-down duvet.

I miss my 9am pick-up to tour the Bosphorus and decide to view it from a sunlounger instead. At the top of the Marmara Pera Hotel (00 90 212 334 03 00; on Mesrutiyet Caddesi, I find everything I need – a pool, a bed and a 360-degree view, way better than spending six hours crammed onto a tiny dinghy.

But my head still thumps, so I get a hammam spa treatment at Ian Schrager's Edition hotel (00 90 212 317 7700; on Buyukdere Caddesi 136. An hour later I'm squeaky clean, headache-free, and ready for round two.

The writer travelled to Istanbul with Pegasus Airlines (0845 0848 980;, which flies from Stansted twice daily from £134.98 return.

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