Istanbul city breaks
East meets West
HomeAway travel expert
Often heralded as one of the world’s most majestic cities, the ancient port of Istanbul is a fascinating place to spend a week or so. In addition to its historical significance and colourful past, there are few rivals to the city’s mysterious beauty. Did you know, for example, that Istanbul is one of the few locales on Earth that straddles two continents? The vast majority of the population live in Europe, but cross the Bosphorus Strait and you’ll find yourself amongst the third that reside across the Asian border.
With so much to see and do on your trip, it’s crucial that you’re fully prepared. At HomeAway, we have a dizzying array of holiday properties for rent, allowing you to settle in before you fully capture the Turkish experience. Irrespective of your budget, or what you plan to get up to during your time away, we’re sure to have the perfect rental accommodation for you. And to help you plan ahead further, we’ve tailored a guide to the must-see attractions in the wonderful city of Istanbul.
Top five Istanbul city attractions
This inspiring example of Ottoman architecture is arguably the most recognisable feature of Istanbul; to gaze upon its majesty is to understand why. The actual title of the building is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, but the distinctive shimmering blue tiles on the ceiling gave birth to the nickname now popular to tourists and locals alike. Non-Muslims are welcomed with open arms as long as it’s outwith prayer time, but even if you do only view the exterior, the cascading domes and bejewelled minarets that tower against the backdrop of the ancient city, it’s worth every second of your time.
As with any holiday, a spot of shopping is a must in Istanbul; in fact, you will be considered something of an oddball if you fail to hit the markets. Whether you’re searching for a gift to bring to someone back home, or simply a nifty souvenir, you’re unlikely to have experienced anything quite like the Grand Bazaar. One of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets, playing host to some 4000 shops and stalls, its stock and trade is difficult to define; all manner of weird and wonderful goods are sold. The shop owners are notoriously keen to make a sale, so do brace yourself for some serious haggling!
Walls of Constantinople
One of the best ways to see the city is to walk along the ancient Walls of Constantinople. The walls enclose the old city of the same name, having been built in the 5th century during the Byzantine era. They cascade for four miles around the city, taking you from the Golden Horn to the Sea of Marmara. Admittedly a portion of the walls have been reconstructed in more recent times, but much of the original architecture still endures to this day. This restoration has been the source of much contention from scholars for a number of years, but in truth it’s impossible not to be overawed by the fort-like structures dotted throughout the expanse.
Image by sl4mmy
Cross the Bosphorus
One city, two continents. Not many destinations can make such a brazen claim, but Istanbul is one of a kind. The opportunity to go continent-hopping, to set foot in Asia even for one day - or vice versa - is one not to be missed. There’s only one way to do so. The Bosphorus is one of the planet’s congested waterways, but the ferry ride across is surprisingly tranquil. A journey up the strait is a fantastic way to unwind, while a ride north to the lavish parks and mansions of Beskitas is a particular treat.
Perhaps the most visually striking, and unquestionably the most historically significant building in Istanbul, is Topkapi Palace. One of the oldest structures of its kind, the residence was the seat of the Ottoman Empire for around 400 years before the collapse of the dynasty in 1923. It was officially declared as a museum the following year, and ever since has stood firm as the city’s premier tourist destination. Such is the grandeur of the place, it would be prudent to set aside most of your day to explore its labyrinth of courtyards, kitchens and anterooms.
Istanbul Holiday Rentals