A tranquil sanctuary in the middle of Istanbul's Old City
Literally straddling two continents – Europe and Asia – the contrasts and encounters that Istanbul offers can make a visit here feel like two vacations for the price of one. From imposing mosques and elegant minarets piercing the clouds on the city’s Asian side, to gleaming shopping malls, Michelin-standard restaurants and pulsating nightlife on the other side of the Bosphorus, this is a city that rewards a willingness to get lost and immerse oneself in the tapestry of local life.
The former capital of three illustrious empires – Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman – Istanbul is full of culture and history. Narrow alleyways echo of bygone times in the Old City around Sultanahmet, while Beyoglu and its surrounds provide the pulse of modern, metropolitan Istanbul. Sticking to these key neighbourhoods would be a mistake, however, when areas such as Karakoy, Nisantasi and Moda have risen in recent years to become destinations in their own right.
When to go
With steaming summers and chilly winters, the ideal times to visit are spring (April–May) and autumn (September–November), when the weather is fair and many lively outdoor events are taking place.
How to get around
Try to eschew the metro and tram systems where possible in favour of random wanderings on foot or – even better – by ferry, which offers the most tranquil and picturesque way to see the city.
Seaside setting with traditional Bophorous fish dishes and mezzes
Refined Turkish food in a welcoming setting
Traditional dining in the trendy Karakoy neighbourhood
Contemporary mediterranean cuisine with magnificent views
A daily-changing menu from Turkish-Scandinavian chef Mehmet Gürs
Live music from renowned local and international acts
Home to some of the city’s most creative cocktails
A hole-in-the-wall in the Nisantasi district
Eclectic selection of local and international wines
Great cocktails in hipster quarter Karakoy
Home stadium of one of Istanbul’s most storied clubs
Turkey’s first museum of modern and contemporary art
Home to more than one million ancient artefacts
The iconic Byzantine-era structure built nearly 1,500 years ago
Istanbul's famed Ottoman-era historical imperial mosque
A Wednesday market in the city’s Fatih district
Stylish men's clothing and accessories by local and international designers
Trendy and unique pieces for the modern woman
One-of-a-kind premier shopping mall
One of the world's largest and oldest markets, dating as far back as the 15th century