Holidays Travel

Travel: Visit Istanbul for its unique blend of history and culture – and its authentic kebabs

Istanbul is an intoxicating destination, whether for a short break or fortnight's holiday, writes travel expert Rory King

The Blue Mosque is Istanbul's most striking landmark
The Blue Mosque is Istanbul's most striking landmark

Istanbul is truly a city that will captivate you and leave a lasting impression. Turkey's largest city spans two continents, and is a truly unique destination with a rich history and a dynamic blend of cultures.

Roaming around the streets, you can see the influence of the different cultures and architecture from each side of the Bosphorus. It's definitely one of those cities that you can easily get lost in as there's so much to explore, and the best way to get around is on foot.

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It will be difficult to stop yourself from eating everything around you as the aromas from the cooking spices will draw you to every restaurant and food stall.

The traditional food has been influenced by the neighbours on both the European and Asian continents and has created an incredible culinary fusion that will leave you wanting more – and possibly some water as, fair warning, they do cook with a lot of spices...

Istanbul is a city built on two continents, where east meets west...
Istanbul is a city built on two continents, where east meets west...

You cannot leave the city without trying an authentic kebab, which you can follow with baklava for dessert; it is a traditional Ottoman dish that is made of pastry layers and filled with pistachios and other nuts. Be sure to keep room in your case to bring some home...

Other features of the historic Ottoman Empire can be found throughout the city especially in the building and architecture. The Blue Mosque stands out as one of the most famous Istanbul buildings from the Ottoman era, earning its name from the blue tiles that adorn the ceiling. It's an incredible place to visit and learn about its history and cultural significance.

It continues to be a place of worship and visitors are welcomed outside of prayer times, but you need to be mindful and respect the mosque's rules and dress code.

The Grand Bazaar is a must-visit if you are staying in Istanbul
The Grand Bazaar is a must-visit if you are staying in Istanbul

As you explore the city you will easily begin to recognise Ottoman architecture from the use of arches, domes and decorative tiles. It's truly breathtaking to see it against the modern backdrop of skyscrapers and 21st century buildings.

To transport yourself back to the old world you need to head to the Grand Bazaar and put your haggling skills to the test. The Grand Bazaar is a covered market filled with food, textiles, clothing, jewellery and so much more.

It can be a bit overwhelming as there's no quiet time and there's so much going on with the animated haggling and bargaining. The best way to handle it is be patient, take your time to explore, have fun with the haggling – and make sure you've enough room in your suitcase for all you buy...

Ancient and modern are blended along the Bosphorus
Ancient and modern are blended along the Bosphorus

Istanbul is the perfect destination for either a short city break or for spending two weeks exploring the city and its surroundings. The people are incredibly friendly and the brilliant transport options help you get around with no bother.

Personally, Istanbul's food and nightlife are what keeps me coming back; the food is second to none and the nightlife is similar to our own, with plenty of bars and clubs to choose from. You are guaranteed an incredible holiday with memories to last a lifetime.