As one of the largest cities in the world, making the most out of a trip to Istanbul can be tricky. However, there are some sights that any visitor simply can’t miss. Once you’ve ticked those off your list you should feel free to explore this unique city, which straddles east and west, Asia and Europe, so effortlessly.
Let’s get the big one out of the way – the Hagia Sophia. The oldest parts of this building date back to the 4th century, so it should come as no surprise that in its 1600-year-old history a lot has happened. Indeed, before becoming a museum it has served as a mosque and cathedral, making it fairly unique. At one point this was the largest building in the world, and it was the largest cathedral in the world for almost a thousand years until 1520: any trip to Istanbul without visiting the Hagia Sophia shouldn’t be contemplated.
The other must-see sight is the Blue Mosque – or Sultan Ahmed Mosque. This 17th century Islamic building is beautiful inside and out thanks to stunning interior tiles and intricate minarets. As well as seeing the Blue Mosque up close, you should take a trip over the Bosphorus to the east side of the city. Here you can appreciate a stunning skyline: the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia side by side.
Of course there is so much more to see in Istanbul: a wander around the Grand Bazaar is a must, while you won’t want to miss the opportunity to cruises along the Bosphorus or catch sight of the more European-looking Dolmabahce Palace.
Istanbul has some fantastic hotels, and two of the best areas to find a hotel room are Taksim Square, where there is great nightlife, and Sultanahmet, which is close to some of the major sights. Thankfully, public transport is quite good, if a little crowded, and taxis are reasonable priced, so wherever you stay you should have no excuse for seeing as much of this city as possible.