5 Reasons To Go To Istanbul
Istanbul is a city of wonder - a fast-paced, sprawling metropolis, an exotic cultural melting-pot, and a harbour city of phenomenal beauty. Where the Asian and European continents meet across the Bosphorous River, discover a city that offers everything from a seriously hedonistic "modern Muslim" lifestyle to the deeply religious and conservative. No matter how much time you spend here it will never be enough, so prepare yourself for an exhilarating experience.
Sharing the highlights of our Istanbul City Guide, here is our hotly debated list of our Top 5 Reasons why you should be heading to Istanbul right now:
1. Breathtaking Landmarks - Having been named as the European Capital of Culture in 2010, Istanbul is a cultural mecca that offers a dizzying array of breathtaking landmarks throughout the city. The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)) is one of the world’s most famous religious mosques, with six towering minarets that point dramatically to the sky and over 20,000 intricately detailed blue Iznik tiles in the mosques interior. The neighbouring Haghia Sophia and the nearby Suleymaniye Mosque are also must-see religious landmarks. Other essential sights include a peak inside the ancient royal home of the city’s sultans for over 3 centuries, Topkapi Palace, which dates back to the 14th century and boasts intricately carved stone courtyards, lusciously green leafy gardens, and labyrinth-like harem rooms which were a closed world occupied by the sultan’s wives. Finally, the eerie underground cisterns of the Sunken Palace (Yerebatan Sarayi) is an impressive 9,700 sqm underground cavern with over 360 illuminated marble columns.
2. Serious Shopping - Istanbul is one of the most impressive shopping capitals in the world, offering everything from the height in luxury shopping to the most authentic locally made traditional handcrafts. For a truly memorable local experience, don’t miss a shopping trip to the frenetic Grand Bazaar, where you’ll find local stall owners selling their wares amidst a vibrant, chaotic and exciting scene. Expect beautifully made rugs, cloth, jewelry and exotic home wares, and make sure that you negotiate vehemently with the shop owners (who indulge in bargaining like its a national sport) over a glass of fresh mint tea. Another essential shopping trip is to the Spice Markets, which offers endless rows of fragrant spices and delectable sweets piled high in handmade wooden baskets. Make sure you sample the sumptuous sweet flavoured marshmallows and heavenly turkish delight sweets.
3. Global Restaurant Scene - Istanbul’s cutting-edge restaurant scene offers a sophisticated mix of global cuisines and restaurant styles. On one end of the spectrum, take a step back in time to experience Istanbul’s traditional local restaurants with to-die-for authentic Turkish cuisine. Hamdi is renowned for its perfectly grilled marinated meat skewers and its panoramic rooftop terrace overlooking the city. Ciya Sofrasia is another fantastic casual dining spot located in a charming pedestrian terrace in Kadikoy with extraordinarily tasty and affordable Turkish cuisine. Another quintessential Istanbul dining experience is to dine on Istanbul’s picturesque waterfront at a classic seafood restaurant such as Kordon - make sure you take the restaurant’s private shuttle boat from the European side to arrive in jet-set style. At the more modern end of the dining spectrum, cutting-edge cool Mikla offers one of the most glamourous fine dining experiences in town, perched high above the city on the rooftop terrace of the Marmara Pera Hotel with 360º views overlooking Istanbul. For a cool-yet-casual weekend brunch, Mangerie is a fashionable local cafe in Bebek.
4. Cutting-edge Nightlife - Istanbul’s nightlife scene capitalises upon its dramatic city and harbour views, where many of the city’s best bars are positioned on soaring rooftops or on the Bosphorous waterfront for maximum X-factor. Angelique is one of the city’s most glamourous night spots and the venue where Istanbul’s cool crowd can be found enjoying a chic pre-dinner cocktail or playing late into the night. On the rooftop of the chic Marmara Pera Hotel is the Ian Schraeger-designed Mikla cocktail bar, which is a dark and sultry sanctuary where you can sip a well crafted cocktail while the sun goes down. For the late-night party crowd, the fashionable Otto nightclub and the trendy Nu’Terrace are two of the hottest late night spots in town.
5. Extraordinary Harbour Views - The Bosphorous River is the heart of Istanbul and crosses the divide between the Asian and the European continents. A quintessential Istanbul experience is to take a boat trip along the Bosphorous River to experience the scenic city views by water. For the ultimate indulgence, hire your own boat with a local driver to take you on your own private tour of the city’s harbour - Plan Tours is a reliable local company. Otherwise, an equally enjoyable experience is to take a local public ferry ride, as Istanbul is connected by an efficient and affordable network of public ferries that will take you to the furtherest corners of the city.