We know it today as Istanbul. Throughout the ages, the largest city in Turkey has also been called Byzantium and Constantinople. Istanbul, capital city of three successful empires and over 2,000 years of history makes Istanbul a great destination. This bustling city – with a population of more than eight million people – sits on both the European and Asian sides of the Bosphorus, making it the only metropolis in the world that is situated on two continents. Istanbul is divided into two parts, the old and the new city. The atmosphere, culture, heart and pulse of Istanbul lie in the old city. Its historic and cultural treasures include Topkapi Palace, the Underground Cistern, the Hippodrome, St. Sophia (Hagia Sophia) and the Blue Mosque. Additionally, you’ll find the Grand Bazaar – imagine 58 streets and 1,200 shops under one covered area – and of course, the Spice Market, a true Turkish delight!
Istanbul is a unique and unforgettable sight with its towers, palaces and numerous domes and minarets of 35 large and hundreds of smaller mosques rising above the waters of the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara. And don’t forget about nature: in the city you will find Black Kites (medium-sized bird of prey) and on the Bosphorus you’ll encounter Cormorants (sea birds). Dolphins are a frequent sight on the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara. Take a ride on the Bosphorus and enjoy nature as well as the view of Istanbul from the water.
As there is so much to experience, Cruise Holidays highly recommends staying an extra day or two prior to (or after) a cruise that embarks or disembarks in Turkey. Many of the sights are a short walk from well-placed old city hotels. If you cannot hear the mosque bells ring five times a day you are in the wrong hotel! Step out your door – a mosque, palace or historic building or site is on almost every corner – in the old city that is!
If you stay for extra time you can also treat your taste buds to savory local cuisine. Just what is Turkish cuisine anyway? Find out by heading to the Kumkapi pedestrian restaurant zone, which comes alive at night. It’s an area filled with restaurants – some with table cloths, some without, some with English-speaking waiters, some without – this is all part of the excitement of travel. Why get caught up in traffic in a taxi traveling from the sprawling new metropolis to the center of the action? With Cruise Holidays, we have been there and our hotels are personally chosen to suit the wishes of the client to ensure they make the most of their vacation time.
And who knows, with a few extra days, Athens is a short flight (1.5 hours) – but we will leave that for another article.