Bridging Europe and Asia, Istanbul has a rich and complicated history and is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan capitals. Turkey’s capital is an intoxicating mix of ancient and modern as historic landmarks and modern art museum, bazaars and malls sit side by side.
Istanbul’s summers are hot and humid and November to April sees a lot of rain. The best time to visit Istanbul is between May and September as this is when the weather is at its best. In addition, during these months the city hosts a number of events and festivals such as the Istanbul Music Festival in June and the Istanbul Jazz Festival in July.
Istanbul has a broad range of accommodation which ranges from luxury hotels with every creature comfort to small inns and hotels with plenty of Turkish charm. With more and more accommodations appearing every year, holidaymakers in Istanbul are spoiled for choice! If you’re keen to go sightseeing you are best off staying in Sultanahmet as it is in walking distance to major attractions like Topkapi Palace and the bazaars.
What to Do in Istanbul
No trip to Istanbul is complete without visiting Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofia). The building dates back to 537 and is a stunning piece of architecture. The Hagia Sofia has served as both a church and mosque in the past. Today, it houses a museum full of ancient relics.
Built to rival Hagia Sofia is the Blue Mosque. This landmark mosque has an impressive exterior and an extravagant interior adorned with sapphire tiles. During the summer months there are light and sound shows in the courtyard.
Previously functioning as a summer retreat and the government seat, the Topkapi Palace is another landmark not to be missed. The palace has a number of interesting buildings and courtyards to visit. One of the most popular features of the palace complex is the Harem which offers an unparalleled insight into the private lives of the sultans.
If you love shopping, you will be spoiled for choice in Istanbul. In the center of the city you will find the Grand Bazaar which is certainly attraction in its own right! Open since the 15th Century, the Grand Bazaar is one of the largest covered marketplaces in the world and has more than 6,000 shops. Istanbul also had the best selection of shopping centers and modern malls in the whole country. Indeed, there are more than 40 complexes and the Cevahir Shopping Centre is Europe’s largest mall.
There are plenty of museums and galleries to visit while on holiday in Istanbul. One of the best museums is the Arkeoloji Muzesi which is a complex of three museums inside one of the former buildings of the Topkapi Palace. The Modern Arts Museum was the first art museum in Turkey and has a fantastic collection of contemporary art.