European City Breaks: 24 HOURS IN ISTANBUL: OLD EAST NEW WEST ; Scratch the Surface of Modern Constantinople and You'll Find Layer upon Layer of History. Plus There's Great Food, Bazaars, and Hi- Tech Hotels to Relish
1 Caviar, muffins and gunboats
Enjoy Russian caviar and a glass of fizz for breakfast on the terrace of the Ciragan Palace Kempinski, at 84 Ciragan Caddesi, Besiktas (00 90 212 258 3377; kempinski.com). The Ciragan is luxury on an Ottoman scale, one of a number of 19th-century marble palaces looking across the Bosphorus into Asia, with the largest breakfast buffet in either continent. There is something surreal about eating sushi and muffins while huge oil tankers and rust-stained Russian gunboats manoeuvre up and down the strait. Double rooms from $255 (pounds 145) per night, breakfast $32 (pounds 18) per person.
2 Swinging times in a coffee house
Hey, you just got up from breakfast, but it's time to sit down again. The Turkish passion for coffee died a death during the First World War when prices went through the roof, but Istanbul still has some great coffee houses and the tradition of finding the best place for a cup is kept alive mostly by tourists these days. Take a book to either the Pierre Loti Caf, at Gmssuyu Balmumcu Sik 1, Eyp, for some genuine 19th-century atmosphere, or to The Pudding Shoppe, at 6 Divanyolu, Sultanahmet, where Billy Hayes made the deal that landed him a 30-year jail sentence in Midnight Express. Sammy Suleyman, the grey-haired swinger in charge in the 1970s, is usually on hand to regale you with stories of Istanbul's hippy heyday.
3 Take a trip to a palace harem
At some point, you must visit the Topkapi Palace, Babihumayun Cadessi (00 90 212 512 0480), so why not lunch there? After a leisurely stroll around its gracious courtyards and the crowded harem, queue up for the state-run Konyali restaurant, Topkapy Sarayy Muzesi, Sultanahmet (00 90 212 513 9696) in Mehmet the Conqueror's garden courtyard. Good food and great views: down below, queue up to sail along the Bosphorus, while on the opposite shore you can't miss the Selimiye barracks where Florence Nightingale nursed the wounded during the Crimean War. Expect to pay pounds 20 per head for three courses.
4 Shop and ward off the evil eye
The Grand Bazaar, at Carsikapi Cadessi, contains more than 4,000 shops within its labyrinth of brick tunnels that have been here since the 15th century. It's like discovering a whole other Istanbul with its own post office, banks, police station and mosque. In From Russia With Love, the secret headquarters of James Bond's ally, Kerim Bey, were housed behind a shop in the Bazaar. …