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One city, two continents and more culture than you can shake a stick at, a holiday in Istanbul promises the extraordinary. Straddling the mighty Bosphorus River, Istanbul has one foot in Europe and another in Asia, rendering it a heady mix of the familiar and the exotic.
The Istanbul most visited by tourists tends to be on the European side of the Bosphorus. The city’s old quarter, Sultanahmet, is home to almost all its most famous historic sites, including the opulent Topkapi Palace, the huge dome of the Hagia Sophia, the gorgeous silhouette of the Blue Mosque and the grand Basilica Cistern.
Over the Golden Horn from Sultanahmet, Beyoğlu is the city centre’s modern hub. It’s home to the best restaurants, a thriving café culture, lively nightlife options and a rich arts scene, with galleries, theatres and live music venues.
Many visitors return home raving about Istanbul’s cuisine, too. From street food – think proper kebabs, grilled fish sandwiches and freshly squeezed pomegranate juice on every corner – to chic, high-end rooftop restaurants with views as memorable as the food, the choice is wide and delicious.
Elsewhere, shoppers will find plenty to fill their suitcases, from antiques, carpets and jewellery haggled over in the Grand Bazaar to the latest fashion found in the small boutiques that proliferate in the shadow of the Galata Tower. If you’re looking for luxury labels, make a beeline for the Nişantaşı district.
No visitor to Istanbul should miss a boat trip on the Bosphorus, where you can take in the gorgeous palaces and historic houses that line the banks. Take a ferry to the Asian side of the city and experience a more local scene in newly hipster neighbourhoods, Kadıköy and Moda.
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