Istanbul acts as a gateway to Asia, creating a fascinating blend of east and west. It's a real gem of a tourist destination, offering an exotic flavour and a magical mix of old and new. Anyone with a penchant for history will enjoy exploring this city, with its rich culture and abundance of sights and sounds - a veritable treat for the senses.
Turkey's largest city is in fact the third largest in the world by population, with only Shanghai in China and the Pakistani city of Karachi being more populous. Istanbul is located in the north-west of Turkey and actually lies in both Europe and Asia, with approximately a third of its population living in the latter. This makes it a really fascinating tourist destination and, unsurprisingly, the city now welcomes around 11.5 million foreign tourists each year. The title of European Capital of Culture a couple of years ago has also helped to make Istanbul the fifth most popular tourist destination in the world.
Istanbul is a truly cosmopolitan city, with an interesting blend of architectural styles. Most of the buildings feature Byzantine or Ottoman architecture, but there are also examples of several other styles. Here are some landmarks that are worth seeing during a visit to Istanbul:
Topkapi Palace - This large palace provided the main residence of the Ottoman Sultans for almost 400 years. Nowadays, it is recognised by UNESCO and is one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions. Important features include fine examples of Ottoman architecture and collections of Ottoman treasures and Islamic manuscripts.
Rumelihisari - This large fortress is located on a hill overlooking the Bosphorus. Built in the middle of the 15th century, it features three large towers and a further 13 smaller watchtowers. The fortress was extensively restored in the 1950s, before being turned into a museum and open-air theatre.
Hagia Sophia - Now a museum, this started life in the 6th century as an Eastern Orthodox church, before being converted into an Imperial mosque after the city was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century. It is one of the most visited museums in the world.
Hippodrome of Constantinople - This was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Little of the original structure remains today, but surviving features include the Serpentine Column, the Obelisk of Thutmose III and the stone core of the Walled Obelisk.
The main international airport is Istanbul Ataturk Airport, which handles over 45 million passengers a year. Located 15 miles west of the city centre, it is slightly closer than Istanbul's second airport, Sabiha Gökçen International, which is 28 miles to the south-east. This airport tends to be popular with budget travellers, as it is mainly served by low-cost carriers.
The climate in Istanbul is most comfortable in the spring (April and May) and autumn (September and October). Summer is hot and humid, prompting many of the locals to go elsewhere on their holidays. Winter in Istanbul is cool, although it rarely drops below 0 degrees Celsius. However, it should be noted that the weather can be unpredictable at all times of the year.
If you're planning a trip to Turkey, why not take a look at our holiday apartments in Istanbul? We offer high quality accommodation in key central locations that is often much more affordable than staying in a hotel.
All Istanbul apartments are available for online booking for the convenience of the travelers and direct reservation.