Reviewed on 30 Mar. 2020
Reviewed on 20 Mar. 2020
Straddling two continents, Istanbul is truly a city where the modern West meets the traditional East. In days gone by it was the seat of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires. Today, it is a cosmopolitan city that honours its deep past but also thrives in the modern age. Although Istanbul is not the capital of Turkey, it is the cultural heart of the country and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Visitors come for the history, art, music, culture, and shopping.
When you arrive in Istanbul, you’ll know that you’ve come to an intriguing place. Ancient historical churches share streets with mosques and skyscrapers to form the city’s prominent and constantly growing skyline. The city includes a variety of vibrant neighbourhoods, each with their own personalities and offerings.
The list of things to do in Istanbul is nearly endless. Historians can take a variety of tours that will bring them back through the millennia to the ancient days of Rome and Byzantium where they can still see the obelisk erected by Theodosius, the Hippodrome, and the Column of Constantine. Visitors with a more modern bent might prefer to get some shopping done at one of the city’s elegant malls or enjoy a true Middle Eastern experience at the Grand Bazaar. The bazaar is the world’s oldest and largest covered market, established in the 15th century, and spans more than 60 streets.
When the sun goes down, stop by one of the region’s famous wine houses or pubs and make sure you try a kebab. Finally, don’t leave before visiting Princes’ Islands, where you can enjoy tranquil, car-free streets and amazing seafood.
If you want an upscale accommodation to match this cosmopolitan town, you can live like a sultan at many luxury Istanbul hotels. You will also find several stylish boutique hotels in Istanbul that can put you in close proximity to amazing historical treasures or within view of the water. Budget travellers can find reasonable motels and cheap dorm rooms. If you are here on an extended stay, consider renting an apartment or holiday home instead of one of the other Istanbul hotels. The best way to choose between the options is to pick your favourite neighbourhood first and then search for accommodation in that area.
This busy city is served by not one but two international airports, the Istanbul Atatürk (IST), 24 km west from the city centre, and Sabiha Gokcen International (SAW), 45 km southeast of the city centre. If you hire a car in Istanbul, make yourself familiar with the main motorways: O-1, O-2, O-3, and O-4. If you prefer public transportation, the city offers a network of trams, metro lines, private buses, funiculars, and ferries.
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