Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, Europe and Asia, with the Bosphorus Strait dividing it in two. Considered by many as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Istanbul is an ideal destination for weekend breaks away as well as longer stays. The experience will take your breath away.
The city offers an array of enthralling sights to see, starting with the historic Old Town. Here you can find the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and the Basilica Cistern among many others.
The iconic Topkapı Palace is one not to be missed – breathtakingly beautiful, the palace contains important holy relics, along with a multitude of Ottoman artefacts with a unique exhibition of Ottoman treasures and jewellery.
The Basilica Cistern, an enormous underground structure, was commissioned by Emperor Justinian in the 6th Century and later closed by Byzantine emperors. It was then found in 1545 by scholars researching Byzantine antiquities. The iconic palace then lay abandoned until the 1980s when it re-opened becoming one of the city’s most popular attractions.
The Maiden’s Tower, an iconic structure depicting the city in numerous photographs, lies on a small islet in the middle of the Bosphorus. While there are many legends regarding the tower, one tells of an emperor who built it to prevent a prophecy of the untimely demise of his much beloved daughter. According to the legend an asp hiding in a fruit basket bit the young princess and she perished in her father’s arms. Today the tower hosts a restaurant which can be reached by boats departing from the banks of the Bosphorus.
Time to Shop
The Turkish are known for their exquisite linens, carpets, quilts and clothing, all of which are on offer throughout Istanbul.
The Grand Bazaar market is situated in the heart of Istanbul’s Old City and has been running for centuries. It is the oldest and largest bazaar in the world with over 3,000 shops covering 61 streets. An array of Turkey’s most traditional products are available including arts and antiques. Art Istanbul regularly produce exhibitions where around 100 galleries and 600 artists are featured throughout the Bazaar. Also readily available are ceramics, carpets, clothing and more. Make sure to visit the stalls and get something truly unique, such as your own hand-painted vase or hand-crafted carpet to take home with you.
With both local and international top brands under one roof, the Istinye Park shopping mall features nearly 300 shops in addition to entertainment, cafes and exclusive restaurants. Whether looking for luxury brands or high street labels here they come complete with a display of kinetic water sculptures. Istinye Park offers art, fun, sports, shopping and world cuisines for everyone.
When You Get Hungry
The most famous covered shopping complex after the Grand Bazaar is Istanbul’s Egyptian Bazaar. Built in the 17th Century, visitors are drawn to the intoxicating aromas of fragrant herbs and spices located in one of the largest bazaars in the city. With Turkish delight, dried figs, caviar and mature Turkish cheese on offer, visitors can expect a variety of local cuisine, as well as coffee and fresh produce.
Cicek Pasaji, the Flower Arcade, in the central Taksim area retains its name from the numerous flower shops set up in the early 20th century by Russian noblewomen. Today it hosts numerous restaurants perfect for the quintessential Turkish foodie experience – enjoying a relaxing meal of meze with friends.
While there are numerous unique dishes everyone should try, if you have time for nothing else, give börek a go. This savoury pastry may come looking like a spring roll, puff pastry or layered like lasagne. It can be filled with almost anything, but most commonly with meat, spinach or cheese. It can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a snack. They are delicious any time of the day!
The Thing You Never Knew
Tulips, nowadays associated with the Dutch, originated in Turkey growing wild and were first shipped via Istanbul to Europe in the 1500s. Being the national flower of Turkey, it is celebrated with the month-long Tulip Festival in Istanbul every year in April.
A mixture of Mediterranean, humid subtropical, and oceanic climates with average temperatures of 23°C in the summer and 7-9°C in the winter
2 hours ahead of Scotland in the summer time and 3 hours ahead in the winter
A Turkish Airlines destination
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