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Istanbul literally straddles two continents. Split by the Bosphorus – the waterway linking the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara – this exciting city has a foot in both Europe and Asia. Relics of the Ottoman, Byzantine and Roman eras are everywhere, matched by the colourful chaos of today – noisy traffic, street vendors, shoe shine boys and entertainers.  

Istanbul’s big city sights are concentrated in Sultanahmet – the old city – on the European side of the strait.

Hagia Sophia Museum
Possibly the city’s top sight, with its Byzantine mosaics and gilded interiors. 

Blue Mosque
Dating back to the 17th century, this awe inspiring place with its six slender minarets is one of the city’s iconic sights, and beautifully lit at night.

Topkapi Palace
Seat of the Ottoman Empire for 400 years, Topkapi Palace was home to a succession of sultans and – most famously – their harem, home to hundreds of concubines. 

Grand Bazaar
It’s easy to get lost in this melting pot of market trade, where everything from Turkish carpets and tea sets to stylish leather goods can be bargained for. 

Try a real Turkish steam bath during your stay – ideally one of the traditional baths dotting the city where you will be steamed, soaped and pummelled by an experienced masseur. Cemberlitas Hamami is a good place to start.

After dark
Enjoy killer views of the city from the vantage point of a hotel rooftop terrace or hilltop.

Belly dancing
Watch it at the Galata tower, or learn to do it yourself at a dance class. You can also take in a Whirling Dervish performance at selected venues.

Boat trips
Do take a Bosphorus boat trip or ride across the strait on one of the many public ferries. The views are exhilarating.


Cross the Galata Bridge into busy Beyoglu, whose backstreets are crammed with restaurants, late-night bars and and clubs.

Princes’ Islands
Take a daytrip to the Princes’ Islands, where cars are banned and transport is by horse and buggy. Interesting old houses, good restaurants.

Istanbul International Film Festival. Not as famous as its counterparts in Venice and Cannes, this nonetheless showcases Turkey’s movie industry and up-and-coming stars to watch.

Istanbul International Jazz Festival. Top names in jazz, rock and electronica converge on the city for gigs in parks, cafes and concert halls.

Watch the city's twinkling lights from your hotel terrace, with a glass of fizz. Dine out at one of Istanbul's excellent fish restaurants, or by candlelight at 360 Restaurant for awesome views.

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