Istanbul is Turkey's largest city and was the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, the city has a rich history with its centre designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its many historic buildings and mosques. The Bosphorus divides the city into two parts, an Asian side and a European side.
Car hire in Istanbul is easily arranged at both Istanbul Ataturk Airport (IST), which is situated 15 miles west of the city, or at the low-cost airport at Sabiha Gocken (SAW) 22 miles south-east of Istanbul.
The famous Topkapi Palace was built in the 15th century and is one of the oldest palaces in the world with a long history as the seat of government of the Ottoman Empire. Now a museum, the palace is a must-see for every visitor to Istanbul. The city is rich in museums and mosques, offering some rich and diverse architecture spanning many eras of history.
The Hagia Sophia was conceived as a Greek basilica and then became a Roman Catholic cathedral before becoming a mosque in the 15th century. In 1931 it was secularised and it is now a museum. The beautiful and imposing Sultan Ahmed Mosque is also known as the Blue Mosque due to its blue-tiled interior. Another beautiful building, the Suleymaniye Mosque, is one of the best-known sights in Istanbul and it stands on a hill with views across the city. Another outstanding landmark is the Galata Tower, which dates back to medieval times and now houses a restaurant, cafe and nightclub on its upper floors, offering spectacular views across the Bosphorus.
The Grand Bazaar is the oldest covered market in the world, closely followed by the neighbouring Egyptian or Spice Bazaar and both offer amazing opportunities for shopping. Keep to the European side of the city for the best modern shopping malls offering western names and brands, or cross the Bosphorus to visit Asia for a completely different experience.
Most of the city is easily accessible on foot or on public transport, but if travelling outside Istanbul car hire gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace. Take a cruise on the Bosphorus or use your hire car to explore the nearby beaches, coves and small villages located outside the city. Head north to the Black Sea or perhaps take a drive south to the Mediterranean. Istanbul offers you the chance to explore the culture of two continents, making it a fantastic holiday destination.
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