It may no longer be the capital, but Istanbul still remains the cultural and economic heart of Turkish life. It’s a city with a history dating back to over 2,500 years, situated where two continents meet. Travelers enjoying a holiday in Turkey will see rich heritage on every street corner from its impressive landmarks to the vibrant bazaars and local cuisine. If you’re considering a first-time visit to this incredible country, take a look at this guide on the best Istanbul has to offer.
1. Savour Some Top Shopping
One of the city’s major attractions, you can’t visit Istanbul without exploring its labyrinth of markets. Although the Grand Bazaar attracts the biggest crowds, visit the lesser-known markets for an authentic experience. Yeşilköy takes place on a Wednesday and is popular with the locals for its quality products. Once there, you can find an exciting mix of hand-crafted jewelry, discounted make-up, and surprisingly good replica products.
2. See Spectacular Sights
From the towering minarets to the water mansions of the Bosphorus and the awe-inspiring palaces, Istanbul is a feast for the eyes. It’s best explored on a guided tour of the city. Set aside some time for the major landmarks including the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and Aya Sofya.
The Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum is also a must-visit destination and a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the culture. This vast complex houses an impressive collection of hand-made carpets. Full-sized reconstructions display the interior of a 19thcentury Bursa mansion as well as a nomad tent which offers an insight into the past.
3. Relax in Turkish Baths and Spas
Where better to unwind after a day of sightseeing than at a traditional bathhouse? Commonly referred to as hammams, these steam rooms are the site of an ancient practice involving rituals of bathing, scrubbing, and relaxing. With hundreds located throughout the city offering spa treatments as well, you’ll never be too far from therapeutic indulgence.
4. Enjoy Numerous Nightspots
Rivaling the biggest cities in Europe, Istanbul’s nightlife guarantees you an unforgettable evening of partying. Whether you prefer laidback bars or three-tier mega-clubs, there is something to suit all. The hedonistic district of Beyoğlu is the best choice with the largest concentration of late-night locations. Rock venues sit alongside reggae clubs and glitzy rooftop bars. Some even feature world-class DJs, and many stay open until the early hours.
5. Sample Fantastic Food
There are plenty of fine dining eateries throughout the city, but for an authentic taste of Turkey, nothing beats the street food. Highlights include lamb kofta, the fish sandwich known as balik ekmek and Turkey’s answer to pizza, pide. It’s best washed down with the cold yogurt drink, ayran, and be sure to sample the sweet treats. Honey-soaked baklava and Turkish delight are both perfect pick-me-ups in between sightseeing.
Turkey holidays should always include a visit to Istanbul. With so much to see and do, there’s always something new to discover in this vibrant city.
Images by shioshvili and szeke, and used under Creative Commons license