Istanbul offers innumerable attractions but there are some that are undeniable must-sees. To appreciate the city in full, head to the Galata Tower in Beyoğlu. This modern part of Istanbul used to home the city’s foreigners. Built in 1348, the Galata Tower was once part of a Genoese sub-city and its balcony offers panoramic views of Istanbul – particularly at sunset.
Another wonder of Istanbul’s diverse history is the Basilica Cistern. Forgotten for hundreds of years, this 6th-century cistern was once the source of water for the city. Today, it’s a romantic and unusual sight. A total of 336 columns support the ceiling, and fish swim delicately among their water bases. One such column is even propped up by an upside-down statue of Medusa’s head – from the Roman ages.
The Aya Sfya has a fascinating history. This Byzantine monument has transitioned through the ages from a church (in 537) to a mosque (in 1453) to a museum (in 1935). Its architectural innovation and magnificent beauty make it an important stop on your visit. From Christian mosaics and portraits to Ottoman medallions and kiosks, it represents an intriguing mix of historical and religious change.
The Blue Mosque is perhaps Istanbul’s most recognised landmark. Commissioned in the 17th century by Sultan Ahmet I, its curved dome is surrounded, unusually, by six tall minarets. The tiled interior and grand courtyard – the largest of all the Ottoman mosques – are a must-see. No wonder that it’s one of Istanbul’s most popular attractions.
For shoppers, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is a vibrant, pulsating marketplace comprising a labyrinth of alleys, lanes and intriguing doorways. With so much to see, you could easily spend half a day here.
As well as its historic monuments, Istanbul also has an emerging and exciting art scene. Istanbul Modern is one of the best well-known art museums, showcasing contemporary art. For those intrigued by the city’s diverse archaeological history, make sure to visit the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.
There are many luxury 5-Star hotels in Istanbul to choose from. In particular, the exquisite Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, on the shores of the Bosphorus, promises an unforgettable stay. Once a 19th-century Ottoman palace, today this stunning building combines opulence, style and luxury. Guests can enjoy the vast swimming pool, gazing out across Istanbul’s waterway. In the evening, the hotel’s fine dining can be tasted at riverside tables under an open-air colonnade. Another popular choice is Swissotel the Bosphorus Istanbul. On the banks of the Bosphorus, this sleek and modern hotel is surrounded by 65 acres of historical gardens. Its Puroval Spa & Sport was awarded the “Leading Spa of the World” accolade and promises holistic treatments gleaned from around the world to make sure you have a truly luxurious stay.