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ISTANBUL

Istanbul is unquestionably one of the world’s great metropolises, the city formerly known as a Byzantium and Constantinople has served as a capital of great civilizations including the Roman and Ottoman Empire.

Ankara usurped it as the seat of government when the Republic of Turkey was formed in 1923, but it is Istanbul that remains Turkey’s biggest draw by far. The city straddles Europe and Asia on both sides of the Bosphorus and is an endlessly compelling blend of East and West.

Historic sites such as the Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque) and the Topkapi Palace are vivid reminders of the city‘s long run of glory, while teeming bazaars and ancient hamams (Turkish Baths) also offer a window into the past.

Its history is not the only lure. The international press have been talking up Istanbul for many years. There are numerous innovative boutiques, bars, galleries, clubs, and restaurants as there are Ottoman mosques.

In a city of so many beguiling sights, it can be difficult to know where to start. Most tourists head straight to old city of Sultanahmet , where reminders of Constantinople are found.

Other options for daytime exploration include a cruise on the Bosphorus or a trip to the Princes’ Island archipelago; a car free heaven away from the heavy buzz of the city. After dark, Istanbul’s restaurants and selection of eating options is heroic, while the bars, cafes, and clubs of areas such as Beyoglu offer further evidence of Istanbul’s irresistible life force.

Must see monuments

We offer guided tours of Istanbul and all must seen monuments listed below.

Things to do

The Hagia Sophia
Originally built as a Christian church between 532 and 537 AD by the emperor Justinian, Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia – which means Divine Wisdom – is a symbol of the city’s history, becoming a mosque in 1453 when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople. It remained as a mosque until 1935, when it became a museum. For 1,000 years, its dome was the world’s largest – 98ft in diameter, surpassed only in the 16th century with the construction of St. Peter’s in Rome. It’s mosaics are among the finest examples of Christian iconography in the world.

If you would like to visit Hagia Sophia, read about Istanbul tour guided tours

Topkapi Palace and the Spoon makers Diamond
Allegedly found by a poor angler on a rubbish heap in Istanbul in 1669 and bartered to a spoon maker who, in turn, sold it on to a jeweller, the 86-carat, pear-shaped Spoon maker’s diamond is the world’s seventh largest, and holds pride of place in the Topkapi Palace museum.Completed during the 15th century, the building was home to all Ottoman sultans for four centuries. It also featured in the glamorous 1964 Oscar – winning caper film Topkapi, about a plot to steal a jewelled dagger.

For guided tours of Topkapi Palace, check our Istanbul city tours.

Haggle for Bargains in the Grand Bazaar
Shopping in Istanbul just has to be done. However, whether it is the highlight of your stay or an endurance test, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar will provide a memorable experience. Created during the 14th century, Grand Bazaar is located in the heart of the old city and is one of the world’s largest covered markets, with thousands of shops lining 65 streets and alleys.

Istanbul Cuisine on the Banks of the Bosphorus
With its thriving cafe culture and position at the foot of the Bosphorus Bridge, which links Europe and Asia, Ortaköy has a distinctly cosmopolitan feel. The district boasts a fantastic choice of fish restaurants positioned directly on the waterfront, as well as a bustling Sunday market. You can either enjoy it with a Bosphorus Cruise Tour or dine in one of Istanbul restaurants recommended by our Turkey Tour specialists.

Watch the Whirling Dervishes in Hodja Pasha Culture Center
Every year in Konya, celebration of the birth of Turkish poet and philosopher Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi, an ambassador for tolerance, unity and peace occurs.  However, you do not have to go to Konya to watch the ceremony. In Hodja Pasha Culture Center watch the mystical whirling dance of the dervishes as they perform their religious ceremony, known as the sema.

Tour the Idyllic Princes Islands
A 90-minute ferry ride from Istanbul brings visitors to Buyukada, largest of nine small islands collectively known as the Princes’ Islands. For centuries, these were places of exile (Trotsky fled to Büyük Ada and wrote his history of the Russian Revolution in a wooden mansion, Izzet Pasa Kosku).Now, tourists come here to enjoy the serenity of the leafy, traffic-free lanes. The Princes’ islands are the perfect contrast to the busy city and come alive in the summer with local families, enjoying the verdant scenery and attractive beaches.

You can also join our Istanbul tour package that includes a tour of Princes’ Islands.

Follow James Bond through the Yerebatan Underground Cistern
Yerebatan Sarayi (‘sunken palace’) appears in the 1963 James Bond film called “From Russia with Love”. Do you remember the scene where 007 rowed a small boat through the marble columns? That was filmed at this sixth-century underground Byzantine cistern. Walkways enable visitors to explore its secret corners. The upside-down head of Medusa supports one of columns; scholars are baffled as to why it should be upside down- perhaps it was to protect people from the Gorgon’s stony stare. See our Istanbul Daily Tours including visit to Underground Cistern (Yerebatan).

Restaurants

Hamdi’s southeastern kebab Restaurant is a good alternative to the overpriced mediocrity of Pandeli Lokantasi only steps from the entrance to the Egyptian Spice Market. The popular terrace views of Galata Tower and the Golden Horn add to the convenience of the location.
Address : Kalçin Sok. 17,Eminonu Istanbul
Phone: 0212 528 0390)

Ciya Sofrasi is a humble eatery, whose kitchen is headed by Musa Dagdeviren, formerly of the California branch of the Culinary Institute of America. It is located up a busy market street near the Kadiköy ferry stop (on the Asian side; take the ferry to Kadiköy from Eminönü) and serves delectable and rare regional creations.
Address : Günesli Bahçesi Sok. 43-44,Kadiköy/Istanbul
Phone: 0216 330 3190

Balikci Sebahattin is one of the few consistently good, high-quality restaurants in a neighbourhood of amateurs. 
Address: Seyit Hasan Koyu Sok. 1, Cankurtaran, Sultanahmet (behind Armada Hotel) 
Phone: 0212 458 1824)

Banyan Sea Side is a top floor hot spot taking full advantage of its position overlooking Ortaköy and the Bosphorus. It has an amazing outdoor terrace that in the crisper months is heated by an open fire pit and heat lamps. 
Address: Salhane Sok 3, Muallim Naci Cad Ortaköy 
Phone: 0 212 259 9060

Degustasyon Lokantasi is in the midst of the confusion of Galatasaray Fish Market in Beyoglu and it serves a huge selection of mezes. It is just as full of life as the other nearby meyhanes, but slightly classier. 
Address: Sahne Sok. 41, Balikpazari, Beyoglu
Phone : 0 212 292 0667


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