It's the jewel in the crown of what was once the magnificent Ottoman Empire...
Turkey has played host to twenty unique civilisations over 10,000 years, many of which have left their mark on the capital with such creations as the breath-taking Topkapi Palace, the magnificent Blue Mosque and majestic Sulleymaniye Mosque.
Other highlights include the incredible Hagia Sophia. A Greek Orthodox basilica for over 1,000 years, for a while a Roman Catholic cathedral, a mosque and now a museum, the building is one of the best remaining examples of Byzantine architecture. Also among the city's most impressive landmarks is the Galata Tower, which dates from medieval times and affords a marvellous panoramic view of the city.
Souvenir hunters will find themselves in shopping heaven at the Grand Bazaar, one of the world's oldest and largest covered markets, incorporating 3,000 shops spanning 61 sheltered streets. This and the Egyptian Bazaar, also known as the Spice Bazaar, attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every day.
The diversity of museums in Istanbul matches the diversity of its turbulent history. From contemporary art museums to archaeology museums and the Zoology Museum to the UFO Museum, you will not be left wanting.
Take to the water on the Bosphorus or relax on nearby beaches. For the adventurous there are coves to explore or quiet villages that time forgot. Either south to the Mediterranean or to the Black Sea in the north, Istanbul is a great base for wider sightseeing opportunities so why not hire a car and get exploring?