Istanbul offers the best of old and new, of both East and West. Shoppers will be kept occupied by the best department stores and luxury boutiques, while the city also displays its rich heritage with the many bazaars, mosques, and palaces. The warm climate of the eastern Mediterranean makes this a very easy place to enjoy and to fall in love with.
Historically, Istanbul is identified as the point where Europe meets Asia, at the crossing of the Bosphurus Strait, and has a population of over 13 million people. It was also the centre of power for the Byzantine Empire. More recently the Ottoman Empire, whose rule stretched at one point from Persia to the gates of Vienna, made it its capital. Ottoman rule was in turn succeeded by the establishment of modern-day Turkey in 1923.
All of this rich history is reflected in the complex and fascinating development of the city's diverse built heritage. First on many itineraries is a visit to the Old City where you'll trace the repeated rises and falls of Istanbul and its empires among the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), Topkapi Palace (Topkapı Sarayı), the Hippodrome (Hipodrom) and the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque). The Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi) – a survivor from the 14th century – offers views over these and much of the other architecture of interest throughout the city. The Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Carsı) is the beating heart of life here, and is also a wonderful place to pick up souvenirs. Miniaturk allows you to see the city in miniature, while you can enjoy some well-earned cool chillout time at the underground Basilica Cistern.
Crossing the straits into the New City, you are met by a very different experience – modern-day Turkey. Contemporary Western design is to be found in the many skyscrapers, the shopping areas and the vibrant nightclubs. Taksim Square is the centre of this part of the city, with business executives rubbing shoulders with the cool young people of Istanbul.
Public transport is very easily accessible – an Istanbulkart allows you access to it all. Make good use of it, and see the Beylerbeyi Palace from the ferry across the Bosphurus Strait.
Istanbul offers centuries of history and change, alongside all of the conveniences and attractions of a modern city. The past and the present are linked in this fascinating melting pot of cultures.