Istanbul city breaks

Turkey's largest city lies at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. In its 2500-year history, Istanbul has been the home of civilizations that flourished for centuries. Their influence is evident in ancient Byzantine churches, Ottoman mosques and palaces. While its cultural origins have been preserved, the city also embraces contemporary art, modern cuisine, and a cosmopolitan lifestyle.

Things to do

Sultanahmet District is one of the best places in Istanbul, showcasing majestic monuments to ancient empires and civilizations. At the Grand Bazaar, shoppers can haggle for souvenirs or absorb the exotic atmosphere. Break from the city with a trip to the beaches of Princes' Islands.

Great draws

A great place to start is with a cruise on the Bosphorus. You can spend anything from a couple of hours to all day enjoying the views of Istanbul from the water and exploring parts of the coastline. Set your feet back on dry land and head to the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul’s iconic market. You could easily spend a whole day browsing the endless array of shops and stalls as you search for that special reminder of your trip.

Fabulous food

After you’ve scoured the Grand Bazaar you’ll probably need to refuel. Try some of the food stalls at the market or dip into Istanbul’s fabulous dining scene that has a myriad of influences. From fine dining at the top of upmarket hotels to the catch of the day at eateries with views of the Bosphorus and delicious street food, Istanbul has it all. If you’re thirsty you can even sip on a cool beer at a brewery with a view of the strait.

Wonderful history

Istanbul was founded thousands of years ago at an important strategic point, which means the city’s packed with rich history. The Topkapi Palace is one of the most famous landmarks, while Hagia Sophia started life as a church back in the 6th century. The Basilica Cistern was built around the same time, and is another intriguing place to visit as you venture deep underground. Whatever you do, don’t forget to take your camera.

Map of Istanbul

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30 ℃

Best time to visit: April-June and September-October.

3.5 hours

Ataturk International Airport (IST) is approximately 20 km west of the city centre on the European side. Sabiha Gokcen International Airport is located on the Asian side, 50 km from the city centre.

Istanbul is best for...

History lovers: Learn about the rich cultures of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires.
 
Shoppers: Bargain for carpets, spices and souvenirs at the Grand Bazaar and Egyptian Spice Bazaar.
 
Culture fans: Discover the influences of both European and Asian cultures in this city of contrasts.

Fast facts for Istanbul

Language: The language spoken in Istanbul is Turkish.

Currency: The currency used in Istanbul is the Turkish Lira (TRY).

Local time: Istanbul is two hours ahead of GMT/UK time.

Fly to: Ataturk International Airport (IST) is approximately 20 km west of the city centre on the European side. Sabiha Gokcen International Airport is located on the Asian side, 50 km from the city centre.

Flight time from UK: Approx 3 hours 30 mins.

Tourist information: Further Istanbul tourist information can be found at www.goturkey.com/en/city/detail/istanbul.

Getting around Istanbul

By metro: Modern, air-conditioned 'light rail' and trams are cheap and efficient.
 
By taxi: The city's official yellow taxis are plentiful and operate 24 hours a day. Make sure the meter is on!
 
By dolmus: Shared dolmus taxis and minibuses are a cheaper option for fixed routes throughout Istanbul.

Events in Istanbul

World-class music: For a month starting mid-June, the world's best in opera, classical music and ballet descend on the city for the International Istanbul Music Festival.
 
Tulip festival: In April, Istanbul parks showcase a variety of tulips, celebrating a flower originally cultivated in Turkey before being exported to Holland.

International contemporary art: The Istanbul Foundation for Culture / Arts presents the International Istanbul Biennial in September and October. Artists from around the world exhibit their works in unusual places, from churches to ferries.

Istanbul weather

Temperature: High 20s / Low 30s (°C) in summer.
 
Best time to visit: April to June and September to October.
 
Istanbul enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot and humid summers, and cold, wet winters of sub-zero temperatures overnight. Late spring and early autumn offer milder heat and sunshine.

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