Vibrant markets, striking architecture and pink skies are just a few of the delights of the Turkish capital, Istanbul.
Istanbul has its fair share of designer boutiques but its vibrant markets are the real draw for keen shoppers. The Grand Bazaar in the old city centre will give you a chance to practise haggling and bag yourself a bargain.
Wander through this covered market with over 3,000 shops to explore. This is one mega shopping experience. You’ll find lamps, fashion and jewellery, ceramics, carpets and textiles here at this sprawling souk – so you’re sure to find suitable gifts for your loved ones back home. Take the short walk from here to the Spice Bazaar, a foodie paradise. Expect to see colourful heaps of spices, a myriad of Turkish Delight, oils, fresh fish and more.
Choosing hotels near Istiklal Caddesi (another shopping hub of the city) will keep you close to the boulevard packed with shops, restaurants, bars, clubs, art galleries, cafes, churches and mosques. From here, you can hop on the traditional 19th-Century tram which trundles along from Taksim Square to Tünel Square.
Discover the fascinating history of Istanbul by visiting the beautiful 17th Century Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque), its interiors adorned by blue tiles. The mosque manages to maintain its sacred atmosphere despite tourism and boasts 6 minarets and an impressive courtyard.
If your cheap Istanbul hotel is near the Hagia Sophia you’re in the best part of town for visiting the city’s architectural delights. Once a church and later a mosque, the Hagia Sophia is now a museum displaying the breathtaking beauty of both Byzantine and Ottoman Empire architecture. You can also explore the hundreds of room of nearby Topkapı Palace which was the home of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years. While there, drop into the Treasury to see impressive gems, gold and works of art. Get there early to beat the queues (opens at 9am). Just around the corner, you can finish your Istanbul history trail with a visit to the Basilica Cistern, the huge underground Roman water source.
If you like the attractions recommended above and would like to stay in one of our hotels in Istanbul’s old city, here are our top hotels:
Explore Turkish tea culture by hanging out in Istanbul’s fantastic outdoor cafes, or tea gardens. This is your chance to slow down and do some people watching. You can hop on the tram to Beyazit and pop into the 18th Century tea garden Çorlulu Ali Paşa for a traditional Turkish brew, a cup of Cay. Follow the 300-year-old alleyway down to the atrium where colourful lamps hang from the ceiling and fruity smoke fills the air.