Culture and History
Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city and one of the largest in Europe; it is the only city in the world to straddle two continents – Asia and Europe. Owing to its strategically important location on the Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul down through the ages has been fought over by a succession of great powers; the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders (who plundered the city in the early 1200s) and more recently the Ottomans. All of them have left their mark, from ruins of pagan temples and impressive centuries-old churches to ornately decorated mosques.
Two Distinct Districts
The ancient districts of Sultanahmet, Beyazit and Eminou hold the most interest for tourists. It is easy to get round on foot as most of the historical sites are found in Sultanahmet, home to the famous Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya and Topkapi Palace. Many of the old Ottaman houses in this area have been renovated and converted into shops, cafes, souvenir shops and offices. A short walk west is Beyazit Meydani, the large square which acts as a focal point for the Bazaar district including the Kapali Carsi (Grand Bazaar).
Across the estuary, known as the Golden Horn, from the old town lies the Beyoglu district, where 18th century European aristocrats once lived. Next to this is Taksim, Istanbul’s downtown area where many of the city’s hotels and conference centres are located. The huge cruise port docking area is also across from the old town – over the Galata Bridge. An efficient tram system operates from this area across the bridge to the old town.
Places to Visit
Topkapi Sarayi (Topkapi Palace) – this vast palace set on Seraglio Point was the residence of Sultans as well as the seat of Ottoman rule – the palace consists of several courtyards including the Harem set in beautiful gardens.
Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Cami) – inside are 20,000 shimmering blue-green Iznik tiles interspersed with 260 stain glassed windows.
Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia, Church of the Holy Wisdom), one of the greatest works of Byzantine architecture – only surpassed by St Peter’s in Rome.
Ibrahim Pasa Sarayi (Ibrahim Pasa Palace) – described as the most grandiose residence in Istanbul now the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts – Atmeydani 46, Sultanahmet.
Take a pleasure boat cruise on the Bosphorus.
Stylish shops selling carpets, jewellery and antiques can be found on Nurosmaniye Caddesi, one of the major streets leading to the Grand Bazaar.
Carsisi (Grand Bazaar) – a maze of 65 winding covered streets crammed with 4000 tiny shops, cafes, restaurants. mosques and courtyards – the early version of your shopping mall.
Egyptian Bazaar (Spice Market at Eminonu) – Stall upon stall filled with mounds of exotic spices.
The Arasta Bazaar (E Sultanabmet) – a quiet version of the Grand Bazaar – normally opens Sundays when others are not.
Cruise and Stay
Many cruise line itineraries start or finish at Istanbul, so it is a wonderful destination to spend a few extra days; to allow you to get to know this vibrant city like no other.
Two Centre Holidays
Combine your visit to Istanbul with a relaxing seaside break in North Cyprus – or for something completely different spend some time on the unspoilt traffic free Princes’ Islands off the coast of Istanbul.
Contact Simon at Designer Travel Tailor-made Holidays & Cruises
Photo: Topkapi Palalce (RG) 12