The city certainly isn’t all about the past though; top restaurants, bars, clubs and galleries have resulted in Istanbul being regarded as one of the most chic cities on the planet. The legendary Turkish passion and hospitality is at its zenith in Istanbul, where locals are just as likely to get involved in what the city has to offer as the tourists! The popularity of Turkey holidays has grown immeasurably in recent years which is in no small part down to the country’s hot weather. While Istanbul isn’t as hot as seaside resorts, it still averages over 20°C weather between May and October, meaning it’s not just the city’s nightlife and culture that’s ‘hot’.
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The Ottoman Sultans’ primary residence for 400 of their 624-year reign, Topkapi Palace has enough stories to fill a book and is culturally significant enough to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At over 7,500,000 sq ft, the palace sits imposingly at the side of the Bosphorus and contains historical collections of robes, weapons, murals, treasures, jewellery and important holy relics of the Muslim world, such as Prophet Muhammed’s cloak and sword.
The Bosphorus has historically been the divide between Europe and Asia, and as such a cruise along the river offers incredible views of Istanbul and its incredible melting pot of cultures. You’ll see palaces, mosques, fortresses and mansions as you drift down the Eurasian boundary. Cruising the Bosphorus is a great to experience the city’s inimitable style and should be considered a must do on Turkey holidays. After all, how often do you get to drift from one continent to another in such majestic surroundings?
Istanbul holidays needn’t just be about walking around sightseeing, the country is renowned for its markets and located in the city is one of the most famous on the planet. The Grand Bazaar’s – which in fairness, is quite a sight to behold in its own right - construction began in 1455 and despite countless catastrophic events, like fires and earthquakes to name but two, the Bazaar remains fully-functioning and is one of the oldest and, with over 3,000 shops, largest in the world.
The Sultan Ahmed (Blue) Mosque
The sight of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, more commonly known as the Blue Mosque, is synonymous with Istanbul, and one of the most iconic Turkey attractions. One of the most beautiful Mosques in the world, the Blue Mosque is nicknamed so for the colour of the tiling on its interior. Even discounting the majesty of the domes, the sheer size and scale of the place of worship is awe inspiring. If you wished to enter, it’s free of charge but the Sultan Ahmed Mosque can be appreciated just as well from the outside as it can from inside. Just make sure you see it!
If taking a cruise down the Bosphorus is the way to get a flavour of Istanbul, then taking a walk around the city and its neighbourhoods is how to get a full taste. There are plenty of walking tours available if you would prefer a guide, but if you want just one neighbourhood that will offer you views, shopping, restaurants and bars, then Ortakoy is for you. Right on the Bosphorus and in the shadow of the Bridge of the same name, Ortakoy is a busy area that gives you an authentic experience of Istanbul. Visit at night and get a front row view of the impressive nightly Bosphorus Bridge light show.
Currency: Turkish Lira
Visa: 90 day multiple entry visa for UK citizens available upon arrival
Vaccinations: Hepatitis A is recommended.
Dress code: Cover up arms and legs when visiting Mosques.
Important numbers: Embassy: 0207 393 0202, Tourist Office: 0207 839 7778
Other info: N/A