Set on the glittering banks of the Bosphoros where East meets West, Istanbul is a city like no other. Minarets dominate the skyline of the old city, while upcoming neighbourhoods offer a relaxed and contemporary vibe.
A city shaped by history, Istanbul offers visitors a wealth of cultural and historical sites, excellent food, and atmosphere not found elsewhere.
Eat and Drink
While you may have tried it back home, Turkish coffee sipped on the bustling streets of Istanbul is quite the experience. Famed for its coffee, unassuming Mandabatmaz offers visitors great service and relaxed vibe.
For those who prefer their dining a little more refined, Mikla offers exceptional food in a stunning location. The dining room has an outdoor terrace from which guest can gaze out across the Bosphorus at both Asia and Europe. Dubbed the New Anatolian Kitchen, it sources rare ingredients such as halhali olives and halwa from obscure villages all over Turkey andaims to explore ancient cooking techniques – experimenting with clay pots, urns and other earthenware vessels – to keep old traditions alive.
For authentically Turkish cuisine, sample the kebab at Buhara Ocakbasi Restaurant, followed up by Baklava served by the friendly team at this number one rated local spot.
Visit the beautiful Hagia Sophia, arguably one of the most important historic religious buildings int eh world. Built in the sixth century, the domed basilica epitomises the Byzantine style. Home to one of the worlds most visited museums, Hagia Sophia is a site not to be missed.
Go underground and visit the Basilica Cistern. This remarkable piece of Byzantine engineering once bought drinking water with aqueducts from what is now Bulgaria to Istanbul. With dimmed lights and classical music playing it’s a highly atmospheric trip. Tread the walkways while watching fish swim between the supports.
The city is also a hotbed of artists, showcased at the city’s main art fair, Contemporary Istanbul which features around 100 galleries and 600 artists who reflect the city’s busy art scene. Art Istanbul brings together the city’s museums, foundations and galleries for talks, exhibitions and openings.
For an authentically Turkish shopping experience, visit the Grand Bazaar. With over 5000 shops covering 60 streets, its history dates back to the 15th Century, where it was erected shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Prepare to haggle as you browse through an endless array of goods, and soak up the atmosphere of being surrounded by the smells of spices, vibrant colours and rich architecture.
Istanbul’s modern malls offer everything from high end to high street. Try Istinye Park, a mini village populated with designer brands and high end offerings. There are even gold carts available to help you back to your transport if you’re overloaded with shopping bags.
The area around the Galata Tower showcases trendy, upcoming local designers and independent boutiques offering clothing, antiques and bookshops.