Istanbul-an intriguing tourist destination where East meets West (both figuratively and physically) in the confines of a mesmerizing metropolis, is surely worthy of your visit. Straddling the edges of the mighty Bosphorus Strait, this thriving city has one foot in Europe and another in Asia. With an intoxicating cocktail of culture, delectable cuisines, history , sports and architectural wonders to its credit, Istanbul lures tourists to some of the most enthralling destinations on the planet. Read on for a peep into the offerings of this city that boasts of a 3,000-year history, a labyrinth of markets, stereotypically exotic street food………the list goes on.
Right time to Visit Istanbul
Istanbul is best visited in spring, for two reasons mainly. You get to avoid bitter temperatures and the gloomy skies that characterize the region’s winters and also the seething tourist crowds that start descending in summers. Secondly, the city is at its picturesque best at this time and heralds the onset of annual Tulip Festival, gardens and parks bursting into a riot of colors and trees giving birth to new leaves -truly amazing!(image by Sue Povey)
Arriving in Istanbul
This thriving metropolis can be reached via two international train stations/ airports. Unless you find yourself in Turkey already, the cheapest, most efficient and easiest way to arrive is by plane. With over 100 airlines connecting Istanbul to the rest of the world, this attractive sightseeing destination is serviced by carriers like Emirates, Delta, Turkish Airlines and British Airways.
Large and dissected into several districts that spread out on either of the Bosphorus, Istanbul is best known for its food markets, traditional neighborhoods and locally charged atmosphere. However, the must-see attractions of the city are concentrated on the European side– Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s Old City. As you travel across to the opposite side of the Golden Horn (an estuary that divides the older/ newer areas ), you will find yourself in Beyoglu-a locality famed and oft visited for its music scene and buzzing nightlife.
Here, you can spend weeks exploring the many sights of Istanbul, but the most important lie within easy distances of one another in Sultanahmet-which in entirety has been designated as a must-visit World Heritage Site. Sultanahmet Square was formerly a gladiatorial arena. Still boasting of a couple of original obelisks and established way back in 200 AD by the Romans, this fascinating treasure house of historical significance attracts visitors from near and far. The Blue Mosque, arguably the most majestic lies towards the east while Hagia Sofia is situated in the north of the square. The latter is a gargantuan display of stunning architecture and rests on its laurels of being the largest building in the world for over 1,000 years. Here, you will also get to feast your eyes on the Basilica Cistern-a dingy underground reservoir that was completed in 532AD.
Take an exciting nighttime cruise for some ultimate Istanbul experiences; savor its floodlit mansions as well as palaces alongside the western bank or simply indulge in traditional entertainment of Turkish dunkings, belly dancing and dervish recitals-you will end up having some lifetime experiences!(image by rsetia)
Feature image Sue Povey