Istanbul is a city where history clashes with modernity and Eastern ways of life collide with Western to give birth to one of the most culturally rich and remarkable capitals in the world. Immersing yourself in Istanbul's incredible past, its ancient buildings, its modern bars and art galleries as well as its mind blowing bazaars and steamy bath houses will guarantee that you will never be bored during your stay. Our Istanbul hotels provide the perfect base from which to explore this always fascinating and surprising city.
With such a high concentration of historic buildings in Istanbul it can be easy to be overwhelmed but a great place to start is the Hagia Sofia Cathedral. This astonishing building dates back to the 6th century and remained the largest cathedral in the world for over 1000 years. During its history it has functioned as a Mosque and a Church but nowadays it's a museum open to the public and is absolutely essential to visit. Staying in an Istanbul hotel and venturing out to one of the renowned bazaars is also a must and the best of all is probably the Grand Bazaar. This market has been in place for centuries and the vendors all have plenty of experience luring even the canniest of shoppers into a purchase but as long as you remember to keep a good sense of humour you will find the kilometres worth of shopping lanes to be captivating. Gulping down the endless supplies of tea in the bazaar should help keep the energy levels up too. For food lovers, heading to the Spice Bazaar is worthwhile as you can buy herbs, spices and vast amounts of Turkish delight to take back as gifts.
Resting those market-worn feet and retreating to one of our many hotels in Istanbul for a break is one way of relaxing but we would recommend you track down a traditional Turkish bath instead. Cemberlitas Hemami is a highly recommended bath house and one that has been keeping customers clean and content for over 500 years. By the evening Istanbul turns into a modern creature as bars and restaurants open up to satisfy the crowds and show that the city also has one foot firmly in the present.
While many of the most visited sightseeing attractions reside on the European side of Istanbul, including the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya, and Topkapi Palace, the more residential Asian (or Anatolian) side also has its own unique charms. Be sure to explore the beauty of both sides to make your trip to Istanbul complete.
From the Blue Mosque to the Grand Bazaar
One of Istanbul's nicknames is the 'the city on seven hills.' Like Rome, the Istanbul of antiquity was built on seven hills, each with religious monuments, in both the Byzantine and Ottoman periods.
Today you will still find many stunning sights on these hills. Topkapi Palace was the former royal residence of the Ottoman sultans. Set by the sea and overlooking the Golden Horn, today's Topkapi Palace is open to the public as a museum, with four primary courtyards and a wealth of treasures. Wander through leafy gardens and airy libraries, an imperial harem, and impressive gilded pavilions.
Head for another hill and the Grand Bazaar awaits you. One of the largest covered markets in the world, featuring more than 6,000 stalls, the Grand Bazaar is a mecca for shoppers. Jewellery, spices, carpets, and pottery combine to create a seemingly endless range of tempting items. Test your bargaining skills or just enjoy a stroll around the structure itself, which seems almost like a palace.
Side by side are two other must-see Istanbul sights. The beautiful mosaics and massive dome of the 1400-year old Aya Sofya leave visitors mesmerized. Equally extravagant is the working Blue Mosque whose six slender minarets are one of the most famous components of Istanbul's skyline.
Istanbul is one of the oldest cities in the world and with such a long and rich legacy it would be easy to tour only the city's historical wonders. However, present-day Istanbul is one of the most vibrant, sophisticated, and cosmopolitan places on earth and no visit would be complete without experiencing what the modern city has to offer. An evening out could include cuisine from all corners of the world (though be sure to try the sumptuous mezzes and kebabs), cocktails at an elegant bar on the Bosphorus, and clubbing until dawn. Istanbul at night is a beautiful sight.
Take some time for leisure, too, like a traditional Turkish bath or a cruise down the Bosphorus Strait. One visit to Istanbul could never suffice and how could it? There are two continents to explore! So slow down and sip some fragrant mint tea, while you plan your return visit. Hide