5 good reasons to go to Istanbul
To see / do
Culture and history
A basilica and mosque in one
Hagia Sophia embodies the spirit of Istanbul: originally a basilica, and a 6th-century architectural gem. This Orthodox cathedral became a mosque in the 16th century as a result of Ottoman occupation. Now a museum, the basilica is open to the public and visitors are treated to an awe-inspiring tour. Just around the corner is the Blue Mosque, another one of Istanbul's most iconic buildings.
The palace of the first sultans
Rising up in a UNESCO-listed district, Topkapı Palace was the residence of the sultans from the 15th to 19th centuries. The courtyards, the Conquerors' Pavilion and the harem chambers are decorated with mosaic, faïence and gilded embellishments that reflect the power of the monarchs of the times. From the palace, expect breath-taking views of the Golden Horn and the Bosporus.
The palace of the last sultans
After exploring Topkapı, head over to Dolmabahçe Palace, where the sultans moved to in the 19th century. More western in style, the palace was decorated by French and Italian artists. The Throne Room, monumental staircase and other chambers and rooms are all dripping in opulent embellishment. Visitors can also stroll through the gorgeous gardens.
Istanbul's Grand Bazaar
No trip to Istanbul would be complete without wandering through the Grand Bazaar. Located on the city's European Side, this covered market is a maze of narrow streets studded with colourful stalls. There are bargains to be snapped up here in this bustling labyrinth, from pottery and jewellery to carpets and clothing in dazzling shades... A real Ali Baba's cave! If it's spices you're after, head over to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar...
Deep below the surface of the city is a world you'd never expect to find: the Sunken Palace. Plunged into semi-darkness, this shadowy forest of basilica-looking columns is a cistern that once supplied Istanbul with drinking water. In the summer, free concerts take place here in this unique setting.
Börek: a delicious, flaky snack
Börek is a Turkish speciality, a mouth-watering savoury pastry generally served rolled like a cigar or flattened like a pasty. Layers of wafer-thin filo pastry are stuffed with meat, spinach, cheese or potato.
Walk past any oriental bakery here and you'll see the windows overflowing with towering mountains of Turkish delight, the ultimate Turkish sweet treat. Made from a sugary gel flavoured with rose and orange blossom to name but a few, the most unique Turkish delights feature a nutty centre and are topped with chocolate and fruit rather than the ubiquitous icing sugar.
You might also like
* All the information on this page is provided for information purposes only. Changes to the programme, flight offers and schedules may be made at any time and without notice. Check with airlines or travel agencies for more information.