Istanbul has a rich and varied history which has seen it being involved in major political, cultural and religious events for well over 2,000 years.
And while this makes the city a particularly fascinating one to visit, it can pose something of a problem to visitors, as cramming two millenniums’ worth of art, architecture, artefacts and general sightseeing into a few days, or even a fortnight, is a tall order.
So here are our suggestions of what to see and eat and how to try to get the most out of Istanbul, however long your trip is.
What to do
Top of anyone’s to-do list in Istanbul should be the Topkapi Palace, which served as the hub of the Ottoman Empire for over three centuries. It’s recommended you put aside at least half a day to truly appreciate the lavish buildings which include the stunning Imperial gate, the church of Haghia Irene and the dramatic Imperial Treasury.
For culture vultures
As a former European Capital of Culture, Istanbul has plenty to offer those seeking some high-end entertainment, including galleries, museums and concerts. If you’ve only got limited time then the Istanbul Archaeology Museums offers three in one.
With over one million objects spread between the three buildings, spanning almost all eras of history there’s certainly something to suit everyone.
What to eat
With so much to see and do in Istanbul it’s a good job that some of the best food can be purchased on the go from street stalls. To combine your dining experience with some sightseeing head to the Grand Bazaar where you’ll find a wide range of eateries serving kebabs and an array of delicious salads against the busy backdrop of the market.
If you fancy a break mid afternoon then why not stop for dessert? Kunefe, a delicious blend of pastry and soft cheese flavoured with rose water or orange blossom, is one of the most popular sweet treats and will certainly give you an energy boost for more exploring.
What to drink
Turkey is famous for its strong, dark coffee which is meant to be drunk in a few short sips, meaning you’ll have no difficulty fitting in a few over the course of your trip.
In the evening why not try a Raki, or Lion’s Milk as it is sometimes known. This strong, anise-flavoured spirit is traditionally served with cold water and ice. We recommend enjoying one at a rooftop bar overlooking the Bosphorus.
Moment you’ll never forget
One of the best things about Istanbul has got to be enjoying some pampering in the traditional hamams. There are around 20 located around the city including the oldest and largest, Tahtakale Hamami which dates back to the 15th century.
After a visit to the hamam you’ll be bathed, scrubbed and massaged and feeling like a new person. Ready to enjoy the rest of your holiday!
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