Istanbul
Istanbul

A truly unique city crammed with colour, complexity and contradictions. This fascinating city, divided into two continents by the Bosphorus, is a spectacular mix of East and West. Visit the stunning Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque), try one of the many tempting dishes in the vast selection of trendy and traditional Meyhanes and restaurants after exploring the magnificent Grand Bazaar.

Located on the Bosphorus, Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents, which gives the city a fascinating mix of European and Asian influences. Regularly amongst our top 5, Istanbul City Breaks allow you to explore the past empires of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman and soak up the heady atmosphere of this eclectic place.

What to see…

Located in the Sultanahmet district, the Hagia Sophia Museum (Ayasofya in Turkish), was originally a basilica then a mosque. Well known for its enormous dome and claiming to be one of the world’s finest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, the rich interior is full of mozaics and marble pillars. Home to the Ottoman Sultans for 400 years, the beautiful Topkapi Palace is now a museum housing fine examples of Ottoman architecture, treasured porcelain collections and historical weaponry. One of Istanbul’s more memorable landmarks is the Blue Mosque, which although being a working mosque is open to visitors daily (excluding the five daily prayer times).  Nearby is the Underground Cistern Museum, a water storage facility. Amazingly despite being built in 537AD, it is still the largest cistern in the city capable of holding 100,000 tonnes of water. The Medusa statue heads are popular with visitors and if it all seems a little familiar, some scenes from James Bond’s ‘From Russia With Love’ were filmed here. Stroll along Istiklal Avenue, which at 3km is Istanbul’s longest pedestrian street, which has a European flavour with art galleries, churches and cafes.  There is a historical tram running along the street from Taksim Square to the Tunel district. Taking to the water is easy on a Bosphorus cruise for a more relaxed view  A visit to a Hammam, which is an Ottoman bath ceremony, is an essential for those tired muscles after long day sightseeing. No visit to Istanbul would be complete without visiting the 66 streets and 4000 shops collectively known as the Grand Bazaar. The world’s first shopping mall dates from 1461  and is reknowned for jewellery, silver and leather as well as plenty of tourist paraphernalia. You can try your hand at the customary bargaining but there are fixed prices stores too.

Where to stay…

A well-recommended 3 star option is the well located  Erboy with comfortable beds and all the amenities one would need. Right by the Blue Mosque is the Celal Sultan, which is an elegantly decorated 4 star hotel that will not disappoint. For a luxurious 5 star property overlooking the Bosphorus, then the Hyatt Regency is a choice for you. To view our entire portfolio of Istanbul hotels, visit our website or call one of our dedicated reservations team.

What to eat…

Turkish cuisine is enjoyed across the world, with lamb being the most common but beef, chicken and fish too (no pork). However, it also incorporates lots of vegetables, soups and bread. Try a traditional messe which usually consists of several small dishes similar to tapas in Spain. Strong and short, Turkish coffee is popular across the world, but there is nothing quite like the real thing!

When to go…

Busy all year round, it can be rainy and occasional snow is not un heard of in winter. Summers tend to be hot, humid with lots of sightseers. We recommend spring and autumn which are pleasant and attractions are busy but not crowded.

In Our Opinion
Jonathan Quick

The final stop on the legendary Silk Route, Istanbul will entice you with tales of times gone by…

Customers Say
Very impressed with Cities Direct. All went swimmingly especially the transfers. Will definitely book again…Istanbul
Ideal For
  • Short breaks
  • History
  • Stunning architecture
  • Sampling delicious turkish cuisine
  • Shopping in the Grand Bazaar
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Florence
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