January 22, 2012

The Five Best Places to Live in the World, and Why


What's going for it? I bet guide books blethered on about "where east meets west" when Istanbul was Constantinople. But at least it's finally coming true again. On account of Turkey's wooing of both the EU and east Asia, the past decade has seen the city turn from lovely-if-decrepit museum piece to lovely-if-decrepit museum piece with great bars, economic growth and an OK public transport system. Not all of the change has been for the best. But spots like Cihangir make it all seem worthwhile. This is an Orhan Pamuk kind of neighbourhood. You'll still pass woodturning workshops, button warehouses and old ice-cream parlours en route for that dark, urbane bookshop. It still feels old and ancient and unrestored and a bit shabby. There are still whiskery grocers who'll deliver figs to the door. The dervishes still whirl up the hill at the Galata Lodge. Only now there's a great rooftop bar or six with views over the Bosphorus (I'd consider moving here for the views alone) and a good modern art gallery at the bottom of the hill. What with culture and economics so shifted to the east, this feels like where the world begins.

The case against Earthquakes. They're waiting for a big one, and who knows what horrors lie within those teetering apartment blocks. Be sure to get a very, very good structural survey. Those views come with a price: exceedingly steep hills, which turn into white-water-raft courses in rain showers.

Well connected? The tottering, creaking tram plying along Istiklal Caddesi isn't just for the tourists, nor the new one up the Bosphorus and off across the Galata Bridge. In between, use your thighs, or hail one of the billion yellow taxis.

Hang out at… Susam Sokak (Sesame Street) is a laid-back cafe by day, a slinky cocktail bar by night. Good place to pretend to write that novel.

Property Recent property liberalisation means it's simpler for foreigners to buy. Think lofty, skinny apartment blocks. Fight for the views. Small flats (70-100m2), £60,000-£100,000; 100m2 flats with a good view, £100,000-£130,000; big 'uns (150-250m2), £130,000-£250,000; swanky, up to £500,000.

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