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Lisa Mackinnon, Senior Short Break Specialist

"A city oozing antiquity, Istanbul is a euphoric treat for the senses. Domes and minarets dot the skyline of the Old City where you can visit the royal palace of the sultans or take in the striking design of the 17th century Blue Mosque. After a day of sightseeing enjoy a relaxing massage at a historic Turkish bath then indulge in lavish fayre at a terrace restaurant with a fantastic night time view of the city."

Istanbul at a glance

Turkey’s biggest city and its cultural and financial centre, Istanbul stretches out over both sides of the Bosphorus, the narrow gap between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. A city full of juxtaposition, where innovation and new trends rub elbows with rich tradition and history. A fantastic city break destination, Istanbul is quickly becoming the world’s favourite place to visit thanks to its fascinating sites and the unique cultural atmosphere it provides.

An epic sense of history is brought to life in Istanbul’s old town, where bustling streets, well preserved 16th century architecture and Ottoman monuments combine with the muezzin’s call to prayer echoing over grand mosques and ornamental palaces. But there is much more to this city than historic sites.

Istanbul has a thriving café culture, boasts one of the largest, most impressive indoor shopping markets in the world and if you’ve still got energy after a day of haggling in the markets, the nightlife in Istanbul will take you all the way into the early morning hours. 

No trip is complete without a visit to one of the many Turkish Baths and be sure to take a cruise along the Bosphorus, to see this wonderful city from a different angle. 

Perfect if you’re looking for:

  • Historic attractions
  • Art and culture
  • A bustling city break

Getting around

Istanbul is a large city with a number of public transportation options. They have a public bus, tram, metro and boat services. 

The Istanbulkart card is a great option if you plan to use public transportation for a couple of days. The card, which can be topped up, works for most transportation services and is a cheaper option for single fares. 


Markets, bazaars, boutiques, malls – the shopping choices are endless in Istanbul! From upscale fashion and Turkish textiles to back alley trinkets and open air produce stalls, there is something to suit every taste in Istanbul.

The Grand Bazaar, known to be one of the world’s oldest and most popular shopping destinations, encompasses 60 streets and attracts up to 400,000 shoppers a day. With a history dating back to its opening in 1455 as a textile trading centre, the Grand Bazaar today lives up to its name, with over 3,000 shops selling everything from jewellery, leather goods and furniture to spices, ceramics and antiques.

Dining in Istanbul

Much like the city itself, Turkish cuisine is an eclectic mix of traditional, international and innovative cuisine. Whether your food experience is an on-the-go meal from a street vendor or a relaxed four course dinner from a rooftop restaurant, Istanbul has something to suit every taste and budget.

Not to be missed, Turkish coffee has not only become a popular part of Istanbul culture, it has also found a place on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. A special preparation method involving roasted and finely ground coffee beans that are boiled with sugar and sometimes cardamom creates a rich, unique flavour. Coffee is then poured into cups where the grounds are allowed to settle. Turkish coffee is often accompanied by the popular sweet, Turkish Delight.

Must-try local dishes:

  • Hunkar begendi – chunks of lamb in tomato sauce served over a bed or creamy, pureed eggplant
  • Simit – a round, baked bread often topped with sesame seeds that is similar to a bagel, but with a crispier texture
  • Tavuk gogsu – a sweet, milk pudding with a gooey texture that is thickened by a process of boiling finely shredded chicken

Get your tailor-made city break itinerary

Osprey Holidays can create a fabulous city break to Istanbul designed completely around your needs. We can arrange whatever you need, including:

  • All travel and transfers on days of your choice 
  • Accommodation from our handpicked range of Istanbul hotels, to suit your budget and requirements

Our award-winning team can provide expert advice and recommendations, from general questions to tiny details. 

Important information
Population 15,636,000
Languages Turkish
Currency Turkish Lira
Visa Information Not required for UK visitors
Average temperatures

(monthly highs °C)

Interesting facts

The best way to see the variety of architectural influences on this unique city is to take a cruise along the Bosphorus.

Distance from airports
Istanbul Ataturk 24 km
Sabiha Gokcen 34 km
Railway stations
Istanbul Sirkeci Terminal

Things to do in Istanbul

  • Turkish Baths: Have you ever been to a Turkish bath? You should experience this well established tradition. No trip is complete without it.
  • Blue Mosque: One of the most famous religious buildings in the world, well worth a visit.
  • Imperial Topkapi Palace: Residence of the Ottoman Sultans for hundreds of years, it is now a spectacular museum. (Closed on Tuesdays)
  • Cukurcuma/Tahtakales: Shopping districts of Istanbul, lined with antique, clothes and food stores - be prepared to bargain with the locals.
  • The Bosphorus: The Bosphorus is the magnificent waterway separating Europe from Asia. Take a guided cruise or perhaps even a dinner cruise onboard a yacht.
  • Hippodrome: Old sporting and political stadium, now a public garden containing the remains of the old structure.
  • The Grand Bazaar: One of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops.


Tours and Excursions

Sightseeing Walking Tour

This fascinating city combines both the modern and traditional. On this small group guided tour you will learn about its Ottoman and Byzantine history as you pass by such famous landmarks as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. The tour ends at the famous Spice Bazaar where you can wander the stalls taking in the colourfull array of sights and scents.

Bosphorous Sunset Cruise

The Bosphorous joins the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea and separates the continents of Europe and Asia. As you cruise along this magnificent waterway you can admire the many landmarks along the way such as Dolmabahce Palace with its amazing waterfront gardens, Ortakoy Mosque and Rumeli Fortress.  Your guide will reveal to you the history of Istanbul as you sit back and enjoy the complimentary soft drinks and snacks onboard.     

Asian Side of Istanbul           

Discover authentic local neighbourhoods on this small group guided tour. After a short train ride you will arrive in Üsküdar where you can admire the Ottoman architecture of mosques such as Yeni Valide and Semsi Pasha before enjoying lunch at a local restaurant. Then it's on to the cosmopolitan neighbourhood of Kadikoy with its lively markets and scenic shoreline, home to stylish cafes and shops selling local art. Finally, sail back across the Bosphorous and transfer back to your hotel. 

Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia     

On this small-group guided tour you will enjoy a leisurely stroll through the historic Sultanahmet district before visiting the Blue Mosque. This imperial Ottoman mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet and you will have the opportunity to admire the stunning architecture. Once the centre of Orthodox Christianity, the Hagia Sophia was then converted to a mosque and became the grand mosque of the sultans. You can see examples of each in the beautiful mosaics, paintings and columns.