One of the world’s great cultural crossroads
It’s often said that Istanbul is one of the world’s great cultural crossroads. Simultaneously beautiful, challenging and crazy, it’s the only metropolis in the world that straddles two continents, and cultural differences and similarities are everywhere to be seen. As a 24-year veteran of the World Heritage List, there’s more to see and do than you could possibly fit in to a weekend. Come, and you’ll plan to come back.
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One of the world's great shopping experiences, Istanbul's Grand Bazaar is the original shopping mall. While navigating the warren of alleys chock-a-block with copperware, colourful glasswork and art, check out Derviş (Keseciler Caddesi 33-35) for textiles and Halıtur (Halıcılar Caddesi 97) for antiques. In Sultanahmet, Cocoon (Küçük Aya Sofya Caddesi 13) is worthy of a browse and is a top stop for felt. The nearby Arasta Bazaar, behind the Blue Mosque, has a glut of stores selling ceramics and handicrafts. For a more modern shopping experience, and brand names galore, head to İstiklal Caddesi in Taksim.
Food & Drink
Menus that romp from earthy Anatolian fare to Ottoman-inspired dishes fit for a pasha are what makes Istanbul Turkey's culinary capital. Sultanahmet has plenty of eating options but Paşazade (Cafariye Sokak) is one of the best for modern twists on Ottoman dishes. Near the Grand Bazaar, local favourite Hatay Has Kral Sofrası (Ragıb Bey Sokak 25) serves up hearty kebabs. Worth the ferry ride to Kadıköy, Çiya Sofrası (Güneşlibahçe Sokak 43) has a fine reputation for unique takes on Turkish favourites. Check out Istanbul's vibrant nightlife at the hip taverns and cafés of Taksim and Beyoǧlu. Beer brewing fans should head to Gayrettepe to sample a pint at The Bosphorus Brewing Company (Yıldıs Posta Caddesi 1).
Istanbul Film Festival
Film buffs flock to Istanbul cinemas for exclusive screenings of recent Turkish films as well as the newest worldwide cinematic offerings.
Istanbul Tulip Festival
Istanbul is at its most photogenic when the approximate nine million tulip bulbs, planted across the city, begin to bloom heralding spring's arrival. Get your camera out and start clicking; even the roundabouts are a kaleidoscope of colour during these two months.
Istanbul Music Festival
Istanbul's most famous festival hosts a mammoth program of classical music and opera concerts featuring local musicians as well as international stars. Performances are held at various venues throughout the city.
Istanbul Jazz Festival
From classical jazz performances by some of the genre's most renowned names, to new artists experimenting in electronica, and well-known world music musicians, the Istanbul Jazz Festival hosts a series of concerts which showcase the wealth of talent and ingenuity that jazz has to offer.
Akbank Jazz Festival
Smaller than the Istanbul Jazz Festival, but pulling in an impressive line-up of artists nonetheless, this festival highlights the best of new jazz.
The grand capital of both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires has accommodation choices for everyone, from glamour-puss jetsetters to small-budget backpackers. History aficionados adore the landmark Four Seasons Hotel (Tevkifhane Sokak 1), set in Sultanahmet's infamous old prison, and the history-infused rooms imbued with a sense of nostalgia at the Pera Palace (Meşrutiyet Caddesi 52) in Beyoǧlu. Only steps away from the Aya Sofya, the And Hotel (Yerebatan Caddesi 36) has good-value, comfortable rooms. Those on a tighter budget can bed down at bright and friendly Cheers Midtown (Boǧazkesen Caddesi 68), which has dormitory beds as well as private rooms.