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City Breaks Istanbul

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 and Ottoman mosques and palaces. Whilst its cultural origins have been preserved, the city also embraces contemporary art, modern cuisine, and a cosmopolitan lifestyle.

30 °C

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.

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.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, the Old City (formerly Constantinople) is a must among the many things to do in Istanbul. Step back in time at the massive Topkapi Palace, the home of Ottoman emperors for four centuries, or Hagia Sophia, with its Byzantine mosaics. The Blue Mosque has a stunning interior not to be missed.

Activities in Istanbul include taking a ferry from the European side of the city to the Asian side; you'll have travelled from one continent to the other in 90 minutes! A river cruise can take you up the Bosphorus, along the ancient trade route between East and West. Make it a dinner cruise for romantic, sunset views.

A city break in Istanbul would not be complete without a visit to the famous Grand Bazaar. Today more than 4,000 stalls spread over 60 streets sell tourist-friendly souvenirs such as Turkish carpets and Ottoman calligraphy. Pick up Turkish Delight and baklava at the Egyptian Spice Bazaar.

For more leisurely activities in Istanbul, take a half-hour ferry ride to the Princes' Islands, a car-free break from the sultry city centre. Lounge on the beach or take a horse-drawn carriage past the monastery and other relics from the Byzantine Empire.

An authentic city break in Istanbul must include a hamam (Turkish bath). Follow it up with tea and kuru fasulye, an Anatolian delicacy of haricot beans in tomato gravy. Don't forget to order lokum for dessert - what the locals call Turkish Delight.


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.


Language: The language spoken in Istanbul is Turkish

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

Local time: Istanbul is 2 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

Visa & Health: Before your holiday to Istanbul, visit for recommendations and advice on visas and health.


Temperature: High 20s / Low 30s (°C) in summer.
Best time to visit: April-June and September-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.


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.


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.

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