With one foot in the East and the other in the West, Istanbul is the perfect citydestination with its captivating blend of sights, sounds and colours. Admire magnificent mosques, atmospheric churches, intriguing museums and Sultans' palaces or take to the waters of the Bosphorus to enjoy fresh fish overlooking the Black Sea. Explore the warren of streets in the Grand Bazaar or take in the heady scents of the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. And discover the metropolis of the moment that Istanbul is today with its stylish art galleries, world-class restaurants and electrifying nightclubs. They’re all here in one fascinating melting pot of a great 21st-century city.
Visit the city that has been home to three empires, the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman, and its unique blend of Christian and Islamic sites. See the Iznik tiles at the world-famous Blue Mosque, enjoy the majesty of the Hagia Sophia and tour the harem and exhibits at the home of the Ottoman Sultans, the Topkapi Palace. Also on your itinerary should be the unique Byzantine frescoes of the Kariye Museum, the Ottoman architect Sinan’s masterpiece the Suleymaniye Mosque complex overlooking the Golden Horn and the Genoese Galata Tower with its panoramic views of the whole city.
There are plenty of off-beat sites for those who really want to soak up the native culture and leave the tourist crowds behind. Explore the Eyup mosque complex at the top of the Golden Horn, a walk through its ancient cemetery hugging the hillside rewarding you with wonderful views of the city. A short trip across the Bosphorus on one of the city’s characterful ferries will land you at Uskudar, a bustling town with lots of important Ottoman architecture and some great food shopping. If you want to go further afield the Bosphorus ‘villages’ have much to offer: wooden Ottoman houses and the village ambience of Arnavutkoy, the fortress of Rumeli Hisar with its unforgettable views of the water and fresh seafood and walks at Anadolu Kavagi at the mouth of the Black Sea.
A city of youthful energy Istanbul has been making its name on the contemporary arts and culture scene in recent years with such venues as the Istanbul Modern museumand entertainment venue and Babylon with its live gigs. Beyoglu the old European quarter of the city is Istanbul’s bohemian quarter, full of cafes, street performers and trendy young people.
Turkish food is one of the great cuisines of the world and to be found in abundance throughout Istanbul, with a great variety of restaurants and eateries for all pockets and delicious fresh street food it is impossible to go hungry. For those who prefer to cook their own, fish markets offer the day’s fresh catches and a variety of flavourings are on offer at the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. All across the city you can rub shoulders with the locals as they visit their weekly markets and local shops for Turkish specialities.