Can’t decide between Europe and Asia for your next getaway? Need a city that’s a little bit pious, and a little bit wild? Like that one friend who’s a great listener but also knows when you just need a drink, our Istanbul hotels are here for you. Istanbul has the notable distinction of being the only city in the world on two continents, so when you book a trip, you get to visit a couple places at once!
Things to Do in Istanbul
When it comes to Istanbul holidays, you might as well go big or go home. Head to the Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets (established in 1455 and taking up 61 blocks!). If you ever wanted the bling-iest of gold chains, a traditional sword inlaid with pearls or an authentic belly dancing outfit, now is your chance. Once your arms are heavy with bags and you can’t possibly look at one more fez, head back to your Istanbul accommodation and unload. Then throw on that new bling (maybe leave the belly dancing outfit at home) and get ready for the nightlife.
You could hit the megaclubs along the Bosphorus, and sure, you might see a few celebrities, but if you want to party like a local, you should be sipping raki at a meyhane, preferably with fasil. Sounds fun, but what do all these words mean? Raki is the booze (the anise-flavoured beverage of the people), meyhane is the establishment and fasil is the music (typically a drum, clarinet, string instruments—and YOU on the tambourine!).
Getting To & Around Istanbul
Flights to Istanbul will land at Ataturk Airport (IST), about 20 km from the city centre. Once you’re in, you’ve got more options to get to your accommodation in Istanbul than there are Real Housewives. Hop on the M1A Red Line metro for an easy ride to Aksaray or Yenikapi railway stations, where you can hook up with other metro lines or buses. For door-to-door service that’ll save you enough cash for a little Turkish Delight, check out the airport shuttle options. But for ballin’ options to go along with your future bling, taxis and limos are available for the picking.
Best Time to Travel
Hotels in Turkey are always bustling, and Istanbul is full of surprises in any season. Say “Cheers!” (“Serefe!”) to the New Year with a cruise and fireworks on the Bosphorus Strait. Missed your chance to make reservations? Just book one of the Istanbul hotels with a rooftop deck! When the weather warms up, the festivals kick into high gear. Spring and summer are heaven for foodie and film freaks who like it with some worldly flavour. The International Gastronomy Festival, International Film Festival and International Theatre Festival all take place from March to June.
If you’ve got holiday leave sneaking up, don’t just get out of the office. Get onto a whole new continent (or two!). And if you forgot, don’t freak. “Otto-man” up and book one of the hotels in Istanbul on lastminute.com.au. You’ll soon be touring mosques by day and poppin’ bottles like a pro by night.
While many of the most visited sightseeing attractions reside on the European side of Istanbul, including the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya, and Topkapi Palace, the more residential Asian (or Anatolian) side also has its own unique charms. Be sure to explore the beauty of both sides to make your trip to Istanbul complete.
From the Blue Mosque to the Grand Bazaar
One of Istanbul's nicknames is the 'the city on seven hills.' Like Rome, the Istanbul of antiquity was built on seven hills, each with religious monuments, in both the Byzantine and Ottoman periods.
Today you will still find many stunning sights on these hills. Topkapi Palace was the former royal residence of the Ottoman sultans. Set by the sea and overlooking the Golden Horn, today's Topkapi Palace is open to the public as a museum, with four primary courtyards and a wealth of treasures. Wander through leafy gardens and airy libraries, an imperial harem, and impressive gilded pavilions.
Head for another hill and the Grand Bazaar awaits you. One of the largest covered markets in the world, featuring more than 6,000 stalls, the Grand Bazaar is a mecca for shoppers. Jewellery, spices, carpets, and pottery combine to create a seemingly endless range of tempting items. Test your bargaining skills or just enjoy a stroll around the structure itself, which seems almost like a palace.
Side by side are two other must-see Istanbul sights. The beautiful mosaics and massive dome of the 1400-year old Aya Sofya leave visitors mesmerized. Equally extravagant is the working Blue Mosque whose six slender minarets are one of the most famous components of Istanbul's skyline.
Istanbul is one of the oldest cities in the world and with such a long and rich legacy it would be easy to tour only the city's historical wonders. However, present-day Istanbul is one of the most vibrant, sophisticated, and cosmopolitan places on earth and no visit would be complete without experiencing what the modern city has to offer. An evening out could include cuisine from all corners of the world (though be sure to try the sumptuous mezzes and kebabs), cocktails at an elegant bar on the Bosphorus, and clubbing until dawn. Istanbul at night is a beautiful sight.
Take some time for leisure, too, like a traditional Turkish bath or a cruise down the Bosphorus Strait. One visit to Istanbul could never suffice and how could it? There are two continents to explore! So slow down and sip some fragrant mint tea, while you plan your return visit. Hide