A UNIQUE CITY CAUGHT IN BETWEEN TWO CONTINENTS
Istanbul gives you an opportunity to see things that you will never see anywhere else. The city’s particularity is its geographic location, with one part of the city in Europe, and the other side in Asia.
The city boasts several millennia of history, which goes all the way back to ancient Greece. The city later fell under Christian influence, and was taken over by Muslims in the 15th century. This wouldn’t be so important if the city didn’t have such a particular heritage, shaped by its successive religious influences. Come discover a unique blend of Christian and Islamic culture!
Whether you want to enjoy a quality vacation in a heavenly setting or looking to try and blend in with the locals, Istanbul will hit your spot.
TIPS FOR A LUXURY STAY
First of all, you need a good hotel. Somewhere where you will feel at ease. For a place that will match your standards no matter how high they are, get a room at the Shangri-La Bosphorus hotel. This amazing luxury place is located right by the Bosphorus, and you will even have the opportunity to book a room with a wonderful view.
During the day, after waking up in your 5-star room, you will be right next to Dolmabahçe Palace. This beautiful building was erected in the 19th century, when the Ottoman Empire was declining. Marvel at its rich decoration! Also, Atatürk, who is considered the “father of Turkey", died in that palace. Therefore, all of its clocks are adjusted to the date and time of his death, as a tribute to his contribution to Turkish history.
If you’re there mostly to relax, you couldn’t have chosen your destination better. Go on and experience a Turkish tradition, hamams. Some of these buildings date back several hundred years. In this zen atmosphere, take a dip in waters with various temperatures, relax in a sauna or order massages and other treatments. It’s up to you!
In terms of activities at night, you can explore the city for secrets of Turkish cuisine. This typically Mediterranean gastronomy will please your taste buds. To relax from your plentiful meal, opt for one of Istanbul’s many rooftop bars to enjoy a scenic view to the city. Or if you are up for it, take part in an evening cruise on the Bosphorus and marvel at the beauty of the Turkish capital… by night!
A GOLD MINE FOR HISTORY AND RELIGION
Take a trip to the old Fatih neighborhood, where several interesting sights are located. To avoid yourself a daily metro fare, why not book a hotel in that area?
If there had to be one monument which sums up the history of Istanbul perfectly, it would have to be Hagia Sophia. This incredible building, which once was an Orthodox church, was later turned into a mosque when the Ottomans invaded Turkey. As a consequence, you will see a one-of-a-kind blend of decorations which belong to several different religious worlds.
For over 500 years, Turkey has been ruled by forces of Islamic influence. To find out more about its history, visit one of Istanbul’s best places, Topkapi Palace. For a long time, it was the residence of Turkish sultans. There, you will see their jewels, their room of weapons which shows impressive craftsmanship skills, and also the harem, a cage where all of the sultan’s women were held. To top if off, enjoy great views to the Marmara Sea and the Bosphorus and take splendid pictures!
For an insight on what Turkey used to be like in the Antiquity, take a trip to the Archeology Museum. With over a million artifacts, this place will teach you about pretty much any civilization that has ever lived in this world.
Still in this part of town, if you’re hungry for more, go down in the Basilica Cistern, which was built at the Byzantine time to store drinking water. You will be in awe when you see its complex architecture. Some visitors find it romantic, others spooky… So just go there and form your own opinion!
For some nice pictures of the old town, cross the river and climb up to the top of Galata Tower, an impressive monument which offers you breathtaking 360-degree views!
LIVING LIKE THE LOCALS
Everybody has their own way of travelling, and though tourist itineraries often are a blast, you might want to experience your destination in a different way.
Istanbul is a city with some very interesting authentic traditions. Its lifestyle itself is a landmark. So who would blame you if you wanted to experience it? Here are a few suggestions.
First of all, you should experience the savory, varied Turkish cuisine. To do so, you can find some restaurants away from tourist areas and their unauthentic traps. Or you could seize the opportunity to cook yourself your own meal. To do so, why not visit a local market? Luckily, if you can’t speak Turkish or don’t feel confident to go by yourself, there are many offers to have a local go with you. This could also go with a Turkish cooking class, so you could learn a local recipe to later impress the people you know back home. Fresh market products usually are cheap and incredibly tasty!
If you are a Muslim, of course, you should experience service at one of Istanbul’s most famous mosques, which include the Blue Mosque or Süleymaniye Mosque. But even if you aren’t, there are some possibilities to visit them, to further discover the Islamic side of Istanbul’s culture.
In terms of shopping, if souvenirs aren’t your thing, take a deep breath and go to the Grand Bazaar! With 60 streets and 12 mosques, this bazaar is one of the largest in the world. You will find just about anything, and you are welcome to initiate yourself to the art of haggling, which is a cultural habit of the Turks. Achieve some good deals and negotiate your own prices!
Soccer fans are also advised not to miss Istanbul’s experience in the matter. With many rival clubs in one city, there is a soccer vibe which you can only experience in few places other in the world. Go see a game of the Super League at Fenerbahçe or Galatasaray’s stadium, and see by yourself! Good to know, those clubs’ fans hold the world record for the highest volume in decibels ever recorded in a stadium… Thrills guaranteed!
And finally, in terms of lodging, opt out international hotel chains! Instead, go for an Instanbul tradition: boutique hotels! The Niles is one of the oldest ones in the city, a true landmark. You will love its authentic feeling, so you can stay at a place that locals wouldn’t frown upon.