Built on top of the ancient cities of Constantinople and Byzantium, Istanbul is today one of the most important cities in Turkey, joining together Europe and Asia. Dating all the way back to roughly 660 BCE, the city’s territory has seen the rise and fall of over 2000 years of empires and leaders. If you are looking for a city break or weekend break in a city that can literally take you by the hand through human history, Istanbul is a great place to visit. Cross the bridge across the Bosphorus, barter in the Grand Bazaar and meander down Istikal Avenue, nibbling on kebabs and drinking Turkish tea. See the full list of things to do in Istanbul.
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How to get around Istanbul
Istanbul is divided by the Bosphorus River, but many of the main attractions are on the European side. If you stay within the Sultanahmet neighbourhood you’ll have the Topkapi Palace, Gulhane Park, Hagia Irene, Basilica Cisterne and Blue Mosque right on your door step. There’s also a tram system for getting around the city on a budget, and Hop On Hop Off tours are a popular way to see both the Asian and European side in a short space of time.
Weather in Istanbul
Visiting Istanbul can offer you a different experience, depending on the time of year you visit. September to November typically sees the smallest crowds and have the best temperatures for sight-seeing, but if you are looking for the hottest season you will want to visit during the summer (June to August).
What’s on in Istanbul
There are a number of public holidays you’ll need to look out for in Istanbul. National Sovereignty Day is celebrated on April 23rd every year, Labour Day is celebrated on May 1st and Eid is usually celebrated in late spring or summer. The date for this varies depending on the Lunar calendar. Many shops and restaurants will have different opening hours during these times. You can fit a number of Istanbul attractions into a city break. The Hagia Sofia, built around 500CE, is one of the major landmarks here. Another similar place to visit is the Topkapi Palace Museum, first built in the fifteenth century, and today is home to various artefacts. The Gulhane Park, Hagia Irene, Basilica Cisterne and Blue Mosque are also within walking distance – plan for an entire day, just marvelling at the mosques and churches.
Where to eat and drink in Istanbul
One of the best places to shop for food in Istanbul is the Grand Bazaar. This market is the best place to shop for souvenirs, spices and sundries in Istanbul. If you’re after a local dish, this is the home of the döner kebab, and lahmacun, the Turkish pide bread, is just as delicious. Tea is also extremely popular here. It’s usually served strong, hot and sweet in a short glass in the morning or after meals.