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Find information on Istanbul in our Travel Guide covering sights, foods and nightlife plus more...
Istanbul lies in the Marmara region of Turkey and being divided by the Bosphorus Straits it straddles two continents with Europe to the west and Asia to the east. It sits between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Istanbul is a large modern city with an ancient romantic heart. Owing to its strategic geographical position, its history has been turbulent having been invaded and conquered many times over the centuries. The Istanbul that tourists flock to see, is Sultanahmet, the old town with its many fine buildings including the famous Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya. Istanbul is a shopper’s paradise with so many shops and bazaars that it would be impossible to visit all. The same can be said of the variety of restaurants which surely cater for even the most pernickety of tastes. Istanbul is stunning at night when viewed from the water.
Istanbul is a lively city that attracts large numbers of visitors every year. Although half of the city is in Europe, the skyline with its domes and minarets looks distinctly eastern. Istanbul is considered to be the cultural, as well as the party capital of Turkey. It has excellent hotels and restaurants, shops and bazaars as well as bars and clubs. There are many tourist attractions that can be visited on foot, by tram or by boat.
Istanbul is popular destination for those taking a city break. It is considered to be a romantic town and attracts couples of all ages. Those with an interest in history and architecture will be fascinated by the splendour of many of the buildings in Sultanahmet, the old town.
The holiday season lasts from early spring until late autumn when the temperature range is from 20 to mid 30 degrees, summer being the most popular time. Early and late season is popular with sightseers when the temperatures are cooler.
Istanbul is a vibrant old city containing the remains of many diverse civilizations and cultures. The city is filled with contrasting sights from centuries old churches and mosques to modern glass and steel structures. It is to the old district of Sultanahmet that most visitors gravitate in search of the famed Blue Mosque with its large number of minarets, and the Saint Sofya Church with its massive gold tiled dome, a feat of amazing engineering built over sixteen hundred years ago. Owing to earthquake damage and wear and tear, the dome has been rebuilt several times but always following the original design and with no obvious supporting structures. Other popular tourist attractions are the Topkapi Palace, the Hippodrome and the Grand Bazaar. Couples enjoy the romantic Bosphorus cruises especially at night when the stunning silhouette of Istanbul is at its most stunning. While in Istanbul, take the opportunity of visiting a ‘hamam’ or Turkish Bath. The oldest and most beautiful of these is situated in Sultanahmet. Here you can relax and revive your weary body with steam rooms and massages and emerge fresh and energised. There is so much to see in Istanbul that one weekend is hardly time to do justice to the city. Either take a longer holiday or promise to return.
Istanbul nightlife has something for everyone. Beyoglu is the thriving centre of modern Istanbul where there are bars, clubs and some of the best restaurants in town. The old town also has a wide range of venues where you can enjoy a meal or listen to music. The Supperclub provides excellent cuisine as well as entertainment with live shows and guest DJs. Another modern venue is the Crystal Club where you can dance until dawn on Fridays and Saturdays.
Istanbul is a shopoholic heaven with its sheer number of retail opportunities from department stores to shopping malls and from bazaars to market stalls. The Grand Bazaar is a short tram ride from Sultanahmet along the old roman road. You can spend hours here as you search for your holiday bargains in hundreds of shops. . There are many outlets for leather goods, carpets, textiles, ceramics and gold and silver jewellery. Don’t forget to buy the blue glass beads to protect you from the evil eye!
Istanbul has a vast number of places where you can enjoy every type of food. There are small bistros and cafes serving traditional fare as well as high class restaurants providing international cuisine.Turkish food is very tasty and includes stuffed peppers, aubergines and vine leaves, clay-pot casseroles, kebabs and of course feta cheese, olive and tomato salads. Borek are puff pastry pies filled with meat, cheese or potatoes that make delicious snacks. Rice dishes are also popular. If you wish to sample local cuisine, try a plate of meze, the Turkish equivalent of Greek Tapas, where you are given small portions of a variety of dishes.
Apart from strong black coffee, the national drink of Turkey is ‘raki’, an aniseed and liquorice flavoured alcohol.