In honor of Tu B'Av (the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av), the Jewish holiday of love, I will recylce an article I wrote a little while ago for the Valentine's Day issue of the English version of Time Out Istanbul. Enjoy:
Though Istanbul does not have the romantic reputation of Paris or Venice it still boasts its own brand of picturesque charm. Walks by mosques dramatically lit in the moonlight, ferry rides at sunset, and dinners in ancient palaces are just a few of the romantic joys possible in this former capitol of the world. Pick a few of these hot spots to share with your significant other and you will find that you may fall head over heels for this magical city as well as your “plus one.”
1. Prince’s Islands: Long famed for their peaceful absence of cars and the general congestion of their urban neighbors, the Islands are an ideal location for a romantic getaway. Horse-drawn carriages, long bike rides, and fresh fish restaurants abound at all the islands but venturing to the less traveled and thus less touristed island of Heybeliada will prove worthwhile. There you will find lush green forests and virtually private cliffs overlooking the Bosphorus. Rent bikes and enjoy breathless glances as you crest through the sloping rode circling the island. A Raki and fish dinner at the Mavi Restaurant caps off a ruggedly romantic day. Ferries depart daily for the Islands from Sirkeci and Bostanci stations.
2. Cemberlitas Hamam: Though Hamams have yet to make couple’s night a feature of the traditional communal bathing experience, there is a certain romantic potential for a joint trip to the hamam with your special someone. Enjoy a massage as you imagine your partner’s parallel experience on the other side of the marble wall. Savor a missed-you-so-much reunion kiss after being freshly scrubbed by Cemberlitas’s famed staff. And look forward to a careful inspection of your honey’s pristine nooks and crannies in your post-hamam glow. (0212- 522-2424) Vezir Hani Caddesi 8, Beyazit. www.cemberlitashamami.com.tr.
3. Submarine in Koc Museum: Westward up the Golden Horn in the aging industrial neighborhood of Haskoy is the wonderfully outfitted Koc Industrial Museum. Among old cars, trains, boats, and diagrams of Kombi gadegts, you can take a tour of an old “Denizalti,” or submarine. The cramped quarters of the shiny ship are perfect for sneaking smooches and pretending you are the captains of your very own love boat. Afterwards you can pretend you are in Paris with a dinner at the Museum’s Café Du Levent. (0212- 256-7153) Haskoy Caddesi 27, Sutluce.
4. Walk across Galata Bridge: Sundown is the best time to walk across Istanbul’s bridge over the Golden Horn. Connecting the old and new city, the bridge will draw you two closer as you admire the buzzing skyline and brush past fishermen who line the bridge daily.
5. Camlica: The highest peak in Istanbul is perfect for those days when all you want to do is hold hands and pretend you two are the only people left in the world. The fact that there is a tea garden conveniently nearby only adds to the comfort of this gem of the Asian side.
6. Kumpirs in Ortakoy: The weekly crafts bazars in Ortakoy every Sunday are certainly something to share with someone special, however the Kumpir, or stuffed potato is even more of a treat to enjoy with your lover. Stop by Ortakoy’s Kumpir row late Sunday afternoon when the crowds have left and take your pick of a bevy of potato vendors. Take turns choosing toppings for your sumptuous treat, grab two spoons and head over to the benches by the Ortakoy Mosque so as to enjoy your delectable spud while watching the “Yakamoz,” the reflections of the moon on the water.
7. Fennerbace Park: Recently restored and manicured by the Turkish Touring Association, Fennerbace Park is the ideal place to stroll with the person with whom you are feeling amorous. Plenty of places to sit and admire the sea, the charming flora, and five separate tea and pastry gardens make this a must for people who take romance seriously.
8. Gallery Browsing: The next best thing to looking at art is staring into your lover’s eyes. On a gallery walk you do both. Head over to Asmalimescit Sokak off Istiklal Cadessi or to Tesvikiye and stroll through Istanbul’s burgeoning gallery districts. Swap pretentious comments about art while debating the merits of buying a piece for your love nest.
9. Yildiz Park: As you walk through Yildiz Park about half a kilometer up you will see a small bridge to the right. Stop there with your love. Listen to the sounds of nature and let the stillness and silence of the park be the setting for an unforgettably romantic moment.
10. Tea in Cengelkoy: Further up the road from Beylerberi palace on the Asian side of the Bosphorus sits the little neighborhood of Cengelkoy. Underneath an overgrown plane tree is a charming little café that serves tea and toast. Bring the object of your affection there for a relaxing evening of chatting, professions of love, and enjoying each other’s company. Cengelkoy is accesible by dolmus from Uskudar.