What was once the capital of Turkey is now a truly amazing location for a Istanbul city breaks. Culturally, historically and literally divided between east and west - Asia and Europe, it makes for a fascinating city with plenty to see and do. Most of Turkey's holiday makers will spend a good portion of time here, so here are some of the things you should see and do when visiting this enchanting city:
1. Grand Bazaar
A trip round the markets and bazaars is pretty much a given for any holiday to Turkey, and where better to try your hand at bartering than at one of the largest covered markets in the entire world? Istanbul's Grand Bazaar has such a claim to fame and the sight itself is every bit as impressive as that implies - with over 58 streets and 6,000 stalls, it attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors on a daily basis. Although you can get a huge variety of goods and souvenirs from it, it is especially known for its jewellery, leathers, pottery, spices and carpets.
2. The Old Sea Walls in the Fatih District
The old sea walls are located close to some of Istanbul's oldest monuments, churches and tombs. They helped to shape the old walled city, and are a great place to relax while touring the surrounding historic buildings and museums. Sitting down and staring out over the Golden Horn inlet is soothing and almost soporific; great for relaxing over lunch or watching the ships go by at dusk. Either way, it's a great place to stop while exploring this part of Istanbul while on a city break.
If you want a longer break away from the city for a few days, why not go on a traditional gulet cruise? Gulets are traditional Turkish sailing boats that have usually been converted for luxury tours and tourists on holiday in Turkey. Changing gear from a city break in Istanbul to relaxing on the deck of a ship coasting through the Bosporus strait is a good way to relax for a while. You can then return to enjoy the frantic energy of the city again, refreshed and ready for more exotic sights and experiences.
4. Prince's Islands
Seemingly built around the idea of relaxation, the Prince's Islands are the perfect place to explore as a part of a relaxing few days away from the main city. The islands are in the Sea of Marmara, reachable on a day trip by boat from Istanbul. City breaks can feel crowded and claustrophobic because of the amount of traffic and fumes around in the city, which is another reason to visit the islands; there are no cars, and transport is by horse and cart only. All of the islands have a serene, gentle feel about them, and just taking a stroll about one of them has an incredibly calming effect. They are well worth a visit on any city break to Istanbul, even if it's just to help you appreciate the hustle and bustle of the main city even more.