Istanbul is at a geographical crossroads and to say it is a place where East meets West would be far too simple a description for one of the most extraordinary cities in the world. It is a city where European chic is spiced by the exoticism of the Middle East – where smart rooftop bars stand beside extravagant Mosques – where disco music from late night bars coexists effortlessly with the regular call to prayer echoing around the city from countless minarets.
One of the great historical cities of the world, it was a center of Roman civilization and the Christian Byzantine era that following until invaded by the Turks in 1453. The remains of the past are present everywhere. Roman walls which encapsulated the original urban area and further out the Byzantine walls which marked the medieval boundary.
Nowhere more does the fusion of the Roman and Byzantine, Christian and Muslim become apparent than the magnificent structure of Hagia Sophia, built as a church in 537, it was the biggest cathedral in the world for 1000 years. Either side of Hagia Sophia stands the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace – both monuments to the opulence of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire.
Istanbul, however, is far more than just history. Either side of the ‘Golden Horn’ and the Bosphorus, the city has grown into a vibrant, bustling, modern metropolis. From Taksim Square, a center of the new town, the pedestrianized thoroughfare of Istiklal leads down through the upmarket area of Pera and the vibrant bars and restaurants of Galata. By day, Istiklal is thronged with people shopping in the fashionable shops and at night becomes the center of Istanbul’s evening entertainment. Nightlife is frenetic and at weekends, the streets are still busy at 4.00 am.
With all its history and extraordinarily unique atmosphere, Istanbul is quite simply an unforgettable experience and we invite you to see for yourself by giving us a call and booking your perfect Istanbul City Break, using our expertise to guide you all the way.
Millington Travel’s Top Ten sights of Istanbul
- Hagia Sophia – one of the most historically important buildings in the World
- Galata Tower – built in 1348, remains an Istanbul landmark. Wonderful views of the old city from the top.
- Topkapi Palace – elaborate home to the old sultans, now a museum containing the exotic treasures of the Ottoman Empire.
- Blue Mosque – architecturally one of the world`s most iconic buildings.
- Yerebatan Cistern – An extraordinary experience. an underground cistern built in the sixth century to supply water to the great palaces of Constantinople. An area of 9800 sq/m it is supported by 336 Corinthian marble columns.
- Istiklal Caddesi – One of the city`s main boulevards. Pedestrianised and 1.4 kilometers long, it is visited by 3 million people a day at weekends.
- The Grand Bazaar – One of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. It contains 61 covered streets, 3000 shops and is visited by between 250,000 and 400,000 people daily.
- Cruise The Bosphorus – Hundreds of vessels… ferries, boats all ply the routes between the old town and modern city on the European side to the Asian side. No trip to Istanbul would be complete without a trip up this iconic waterway to Rumeli fortress built by the ottomans in the 15th century.
- A Rooftop Bar – Some of the most amazing views in the world can be seen from some of the upscale restaurant/ bars like the very trendy 360 bar.
- Kadikoy. The Asian side – For a different aspect of Istanbul, the Asian side has markets, shops and again a center of nightspots and is only 15 minutes away by ferry. Visit even if just to say you`ve visited 2 continents at once!
When to go?
Spring and autumn are probably the best times. Istanbul can be quite cold in the winter and extremely hot and sticky in the summer months. A lot of time will be spent walking and the time is perfect whilst the sun is bright but temperatures are cooler.