The Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn with Istanbul resplendent in the background
ISTANBUL throbs with a history as colourful as a traditional carpet but for those in the know it is quickly becoming one of Europe’s hippest city break destinations. Spanning two continents, this 2010 European Capital of Culture is pulling out the stops to show the world just how both contemporary and historical it can be. OLD CULTURE
SULTANAHMET, a Unesco World Heritage site, is the heart of Old Istanbul where the most spectacular monuments and museums are found and is perfect for a potted history of
the city. HAGIA SOPHIA
THIS is Istanbul’s most photographed and famous monument. Completed in 537, it was once the greatest church in Christendom, built by Emperor Justinian with the hope of restoring the status of the Roman Empire.
It remained a church until 1453 when Sultan Mehmet conquered the city and converted it into his imperial mosque.
Evidence of both religions remains today.
Under the beautiful massive dome, supported by 40 ribs, giant Islamic calligraphic roundels are suspended from the ceiling, while the upstairs gallery holds the most important mosaics
depicting the Virgin Mary, Christ and John the Baptist. Click here now for incredible deals to Istanbul, Turkey!BLUE MOSQUE
SULTAN Ahmet I wanted to build something much greater than Hagia Sophia, so set about constructing the Blue Mosque in 1606.
Thousands of Iznik blue tiles line the walls and the 260 stained glass windows bring light into the enormous prayer hall. Four “elephant’s feet” support the dome. BASILICA CISTERN
HEAD down into the deep, damp caverns which stored water for the Great Palace. At 65m wide and 143m long, it once held 80,000 cubic metres of water.
Walk along the platforms to admire the columns, capitals and plinths used in its construction; just mind the drips. TOPKAPI PALACE
AS Mehmet the Conqueror’s home, buildings of this elegant palace are dotted across sprawling well-kept grounds. There’s the harem, where slave girls were trained in the art of
make-up, music and dancing, and the treasury, with its fantastic collection including jewel-encrusted swords, thrones and diamond candlesticks. Courts used for business and public audiences break up the many buildings, such as the Revan Kiosk, which is covered in Iznik tiles, mother-of-pearl and ornate woodwork. NEW CULTURE
THE Pera Museum (Mesrutiyet Caddesi 141) houses an impressive collection of Oriental paintings, Kutahya tiles and ceramics.
Istanbul Modern Art Museum, on the shores of the Bosphorus, shows art house movies and has an extensive collection of 20th-century art. It also has a cool café with breathtaking
The Misir Apartments are home to funky art galleries. Both the Galerist (Istiklal Caddesi) and Galeri Nev showcase the work of artists conveying their controversial and innovative takes on life in Istanbul today. Want incredible deals to Istanbul, Turkey? Click here now...EATING AND DRINKING
ISTANBUL is well-known for its lively nightlife but its foodie scene is quietly making a name for itself too.
CAFE (Asmalimescit 9) lies down an old passage spread over two floors. Dine at shared blondewood tables, flanked by walls adorned with rows of bottles. Perfect to stop and flop
to nibble on its fabulous cakes.
CIRAGAN PALACE (Ciragan Cadessi) Throw on the glad rags and head to the glorious Ciragan Palace. Pull up a white chair under a white umbrella and order a martini to watch the sunset. There’s nowhere quite so romantic.
FOUR SEASONS AT THE BOSPHORUS (Ciragan Caddesi ) The Ciragan now has some smart new competition. Right next door is the new Four Seasons hotel. The waterfront marble terrace is perfect to watch guests arrive by private boat and enjoy your morning coffee.
HOTEL NOMADE (Ticarethane Sokak 15) It may be 25 years old but it still has one of the best views in town. Cool off on the roof terrace taking in the views of Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
LEB-I-DERYA (Kumbaraci Yokusu 115) Dine by candle and moonlight at this modern open-air restaurant. On the top floor the views across the old city are to die for. The menu includes traditional Turkish food, such as shish kebabs, as well as offering a wide choice of European dishes.
ADA CAFE & BISTRO (Istikal Caddesi 158A) has a Scandinavian feel; wooden tables and chairs and clean, wholesome food. It also has a bookshop. A perfect spot for people-watching Istanbul residents.
REINA (Muallim Maci Caddesi 44) Don’t be put off by the word nightclub. Reina is an institution in Istanbul and open to all ages. Young luvvies congregate along the outdoor bar while the “older” ones, dine and take in the awesome views across the Bosphorus. The banks are lined with these mega bars but Reina is the best.
And... for a taste of the real Turkey, you must try a fried fish sandwich on the banks on the Bosphorus at the mouth of the Golden Horn. It’s either grilled or fried before being stuffed into a piece of bread. Both simple and delicious. THE OTHER SIDE
ONCE, caiques, the traditional rowboats, plied the waters of the Bosphorus and Golden Horn travelling from Europe to Asia.
Today the waters see luxury cruise boats and ferries taking people from one world to another.
The views from the water are awesome. Head to Eminonu quay for the journey across to mystical Asia where you’ll see the small island and tower of Kiz Kulesi.
The crossing takes 20 minutes and offers magnificent views of the breathtaking skyline of palaces littering the shores, minarets, the Galata Tower and Topkapi Palace.
Landing at Uskudar, you’ve entered traditional Islamic Asia. Essentially a residential suburb of Istanbul, the main focus here is on the large square and the Iskele Camii Mosque.
To sample a taste of the east, dine at Kanaat Lokantasi (Selmanipak) for no-nonsense, no
frills dining. Giant pots hold imam bayildi; aubergine, tomato, onions and olive oil.
GETTING THERE: Ramblers Worldwide Holidays (01707 331 133/ www.ramblersholidays.co.uk) Journey Anatolia (020 8761 5605/www.journeyanatolia.com) Inntravel (01653 617 000/www.inntravel.co.uk) Anatolian Sky (0845 365 1011/www.anatoliansky.co.uk) Thomson (0871 231 4691/www.thomson.co.uk) Headwater (01606 720 199/www.headwater.com) Saga (0800 096 0074/www.sagaholidays.co.uk) Sunsail (0844 463 6578/www.sunsail.co.uk) Metak (020 8290 9292/www.metakholidays.co.uk) Voyages Jules Verne (0845 166 7035/www.vjv.com) Blue Cruise (0208 968 7770/www.bluecruise.co.uk) Explore (0844 499 0901/www.explore.co.uk) Neilson (0844 879 8158/www.neilson.co.uk) Direct Traveller (0845 123 5383/www.directtraveller.com) Page and Moy (0870 833 4012/www.pageandmoy.com) Archers Direct (0871 423 8638/www.archersdirect.co.uk) Pegasus (0845 0848 980/www.flypgs.com) Wings Abroad (08445 768086/www.wingsabroad.co.uk) Holiday Click (0800 408 4612/www.holidayclick.co.uk) The Discovery Collection (01371 859 733/ www.discovery-collection.com) FURTHER INFORMATION: Turkish Culture and Tourism Office (020 7839 7778/ www.gototurkey.co.uk) Istanbul European Capital of Culture (www.istanbul2010.org) • Bodrum - Sami Beach 3* BB 1wk from £189 • Marmaris - Sesin Hotel 4* All incl 1wk from £253 • Kusadasi - Adakule Hotel 5* All incl 1wk from £255 • Altinkum - Didim Beach 5*AI 1wk from £275