Turkey’s largest city Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople is a city of many contrasts. Straddling the Bosphorus Strait, with one foot in both Asia and Europe there is much to see, do and experience. It is both ancient and contemporary, traditional and progressive, loud and vibrant. But, whichever version you experience, Istanbul is utterly enchanting.
Budget – Oba Hotel located close to the sights of Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace – all less than a kilometre away.
Mid-range – Just a 10-minute walk from the Grand Bazaar is the Kent Hotel in the old city.
Luxury – a luxurious retreat right on the banks of the Bosphorus, the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul At The Bosphorus is a converted Ottoman palace.
Our suggestions are to try some of the amazing street food available in Instanbul, these four classics will not disappoint –
- Turkish apple tea
- Balik ekmek (fried or grilled fish vegetables served in a Turkish bread roll)
- Kumpir (stuffed baked potato)
- Simit (sesame crusted circular pretzels)
- Do not miss the hustle and bustle of the Grand Bazaar. Open since 1461, it is home to over 4,000 stores covering 60 streets – from spices to Turkish lamps or jewellery – you will find almost anything to haggle over with the store owners.
- Allow an hour to visit the Basilica Cistern and take a stroll in the forest of hundreds of marble columns. The cisterns were built in 532 AD by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I to store fresh water for the palace and nearby buildings. Open daily from 9:00 – 18:30.
- Take a cruise on the Bosphorus, the stretch of water separating the two continents of Europe and Asia. Şehir Hatları is Istanbul’s official ferry company, with its sales office located on the left docks of Eminönü when coming off the Galata Bridge.
- For a breathtaking view over Istanbul and the Golden Horn, climb the 15th century Galata Tower, once part of the defence walls of Istanbul.
- Experience the delights of a traditional hamman (Turkish bath) which were historically a place to cleanse both body and soul. The Kilic Ala Pasa Hamam is located in Istanbul’s harbour district, it was built between 1578 and 1583 and features an impressive main dome, one of the largest domes in Istanbul – a soaring 55 feet high and 45 feet across.
- Watch a whirling dervish ceremony, during which participants whirl continuously in anticlockwise circles in a form of physical mediation.
- Take a ride on the Tünel, a funicular between Karaköy and Tünel Square. The Tünel has the distinction of being the second oldest underground train in the world after the London Underground. The commute takes around 90 seconds and trains run every five minutes.