Quick Guide to Istanbul
Istanbul is often described as the beguiling meeting point between the exotic mysticism of the eastern world and the forward-thinking innovation of the west. Well, we don't know about that - all we know is this city is cut from a pretty extraordinary cloth - and here's why.
For one, a cheap Istanbul holiday is more than possible, thanks to its affordable prices. Despite it being a cheaper holiday than most, there really is a little something for everyone within the ancient streets of this Turkish metropolis. Whether you fancy wandering the great halls of the palatial Blue Mosque and soaking up the city's ancient heritage, slurping cocktails and escaping the heat in a sleekly glamorous bar or wandering the maze-like streets that form the beating heart of the city, Istanbul has a little something magical up its sleeve for everyone. Plus, they do a pretty sweet line in kebabs, as you'd expect. In general, holidays in Turkey for 2018 and 2019 really need to include Istanbul. You won't miss the beach as much as you think! On that note...
We're also happy to report that the city's cuisine is as diverse as its fascinating heritage, and pretty appetising to boot. Locals take their eating and drinking very seriously - the restaurants here are without doubt the finest in the country. You can munch on edgy fusion creations, Asian dishes or Italian classics if you must, but really, you should really make it your life's work to feast on the full-to-bursting, aromatic kebabs, flavoursome mezes and freshly caught fish that are the city's signature dishes - washed down with raki, beer or a glass or two of locally produced and very delicious wine, naturally.
Fab holidays for:
Clubbing, Cultural sights, Shopping
Istanbul Ataturk and Sabiha gokcen airport
Did you know?
Tulips, the symbol of Holland, originated in Istanbul and were sent from Istanbul to Netherlands.
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Why Visit Istanbul
This melting pot of a city, straddling the east and the west, Europe and Asia and the old and the new offers a truly unique experience. Here you can wander through the remains of empires on your way to an art museum, or grab a kebab and meander through tight market alleyways selling everything from pickled vegetables to copper jewellery. Istanbul is a dynamic metropolis with something for everyone and you can't afford to miss it!
Top 5 Things to Do in Istanbul
Istanbul is the bustling epicentre of Turkey and it ticks all the boxes - culture, food, architecture, clubs - you name it, it has it in spades.
- Experience a hammam
- Be scrubbed and polished to perfection in a Turkish hammam, a spa day that will make you feel like new.
- Haggle in the Grand Bazaar
- There's something about haggling that makes a purchase all the more satisfying. The bustling Grand Bazaar is one of the greaatest places in the world to try your hand at buying carpets, spices and oh so much more.
- Take in the sight of the stunning architecture
- Admire the likes of the Topkapi Palace and the Haghia Sofia - just know that's only the beginning.
- Head down to the heart of modern Istanbul, Beyoglu, which is home to a buzzing art scene and some of the city's best bars and restaurants.
- Head out for a night on the town
- Don't overlook Istanbul on the going out front! It has so many amazing clubs, many of which are lining the Bosphorus. Clubbing with a view? Count us in.
How to get to Istanbul
Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and sits on the Bosphorus Strait. With a European side (Thrace) and an Asian side (Anatolia), it technically sits on two continents and provides travellers with a unique mix of influences. For Istanbul holidays, there are regular flights directly from most major airports in the UK to Istanbul, and usually a good selection of last minute flights if your travel dates are flexible. Cheap Istanbul flights are available through the major low cost airlines and the flight time is about three and a half hours from the UK. If you want to explore outside the city it is best to get around by road. Car hire from Istanbul Airport is competitively priced.
When to go
Istanbul is a year round destination but the times to go for the best Istanbul deals are April to June and September to October when the weather makes wandering around its sprawling streets more comfortable. The weather heats up in July and August and the visitors flock in making it difficult to get a cheap city break in Istanbul. Winter is colder and quieter so hotels are at their cheapest.
Where to Stay in Istanbul
Istanbul is a huge city - trying to decide where to stay can be like looking for a needle in a haystack! Throw in the fact that it's spread across two continents, and it can be a challenging choice to make. Sultanahmet and Beyoglu are the two most popular areas to stay for tourists. Both areas offer a selection of hotels for all budgets. Stay in Sultanahmet if your priority is visiting main attractions like Hagia Sofia and the Grand Bazaar. There's also plenty of restaurants on this side of the Golden Horn, but you might struggle to find nightlife. For somewhere a bit more lively (and slightly less touristy), head to Beyoglu for good deals on Istanbul hotels, an easy tram ride from this area takes you to Istanbul's major sites, and is packed with cool shops, great bars, and a spicy nightlife.
Food and Drink in Istanbul
With thousands of years of history behind its cuisine, you can bet you'll find a great meal in Istanbul! Breakfast in Turkey consists of a selection of cheeses, bread, olives, boiled eggs, honey and jam, served with a cup of Turkey's super-strong coffee. Head down to the boats moored next to Galata Bridge, where you'll find fish-sellers grilling their catch of the day, stuffing it in sandwiches with onion and salad and calling it 'Balik Ekmek'. It's the best street food in Istanbul that money can buy! Enjoy meze (a selection of dips and bread, occasionally served with olives) over a few drinks of an afternoon, or go the whole hog and order manti - Turkey's tiny take on dumplings, served with yoghurt sauce. Top off a day's successful eating with a piece of baklava, or even a rice pudding.
Popular drinks in Turkey include its strong coffee, and the yoghurt drink ayran. If you're hoping for something a tad stiffer, raki is the nation's drink - an aniseed-flavoured digestif that will get your stomach grumbling! You'll also find wine made in Turkey's rural areas, as well as its main beer, Efes.