Turkey’s largest and most cosmopolitan city is undoubtedly the historical heart of the country.
With a unique location that bridges both Europe and Asia, Istanbul has an enticing mix of cultures and a growing reputation for being a hip visitor destination.
The Bosphorus, or Istanbul Strait, serves as a stunning location for the divided city of Istanbul.
The banks are lined with lush greenery and parks, architecturally beautiful palaces and charming shore villages.
Known as the Gateway to the East for thousands of years, the city was the focal point of many conquests and this can be seen in the variety of buildings.
Greek and Roman palaces, Byzantine cathedrals and Ottoman domes all dominate the landscape.
Hagia Sophia, a grand church featuring gold mosaics, and the Blue Mosque, decorated with thousands of coloured tiles, are both must see attraction.
A visit to one of the many markets and bazaars is also worthwhile, with the fragrant Spice Market being a firm favourite.
However it’s not just historical features that make this an interesting holiday destination.
Today Istanbul has a reputation for embracing the future and its historic cobbled streets are lined with trendy boutiques, modern art galleries and nightclubs.
Many derelict neighbourhoods have been sympathetically restored and regenerated and the streets have a lively and atmospheric vibe.
Galata district is a perfect example of new and old blending together.
The ancient Galata Tower, which provides panoramic views over the old city, is at the heart of this busy bohemian area housing many hip and trendy boutiques and cafes.
Istanbul Modern is a cutting edge art gallery on the banks of the Bosphorus with a fantastic restaurant offering stunning views of the water.
There are also a number of shopping malls popping up offering high end designer goods and Istinye Park is a good mix of eclectic local shops and top brand designer boutiques.
Best Places to Stay in Istanbul
You’ll find a huge range of hotels to choose from no matter what your taste and preference.
Quirky boutique hotels rub shoulders with luxury chains, all offering the very best in style and service.
The hotels in Istanbul all benefit from their stunning surrounds and a sense of individuality.
The waterfronts of the Bosphorus Strait provide stunning views as well as a central location close to the old city district of Sultanahmet.
If you’re looking for a more modern location you might prefer Takism, a major shopping and leisure district.
The design and fashion conscious will like the Levent district, which is home to many new stylish skyscraper hotels that cater to both business and leisure visitors to the city.
A Feast of Turkish Delights
Istanbul has a dazzling array of places to eat which offer traditional Turkish food at budget-friendly prices.
Local specialities include delicious meats which are cooked close to a flame on a spit and served with fresh pitta or flatbread.
There are hundreds of varieties of kofta to taste; a meatball or meatloaf made up of succulent minced lamb or beef and flavoured with fragrant spices and herbs.
Treat yourself to the infamous pastry baklava dessert, layered with nuts and sweetened with honey.
Two of the finest traditional restaurants are Asitane, located near the Chora Church, and Feriye, uniquely housed in a converted 19th Ottoman police station.
The latter was restored in 1995 and offers an elegant and relaxing dining experience with stunning views over the Bosphorus.
History and tradition merge with modern design and hip vibes in this exciting city.
Will you be taking a cruise down the Istanbul Straits this year?Categories: Guides
Localities: Asia, Europe, Istanbul, Turkey