Spread your wings across a couple of continents with a city break to Istanbul.

City breaks to Istanbul

A city break to Istanbul feels a bit like a handful of holidays in one, without all the packing and repacking. It’s such a huge city that stepping from one neighbourhood to the next can feel like visiting a completely different place. Take Sultanahmet – you’ll probably feel like you’ve just stepped out of a time machine when you arrive in this area. It counts a selection of Istanbul’s icons among its residents, including a mosaic-filled mosque and a years-old Byzantine Hippodrome. You can switch things up with a visit to Bakirkoy, it’s the place to head for huge shopping malls and on-trend wine bars.

Strait to Asia

Istanbul must make for a popular pub-quiz answer – it’s the only city in the world that doesn’t just belong to one continent. It’s spread between both Europe and Asia, and a strait of water known as the Bosphorus splits the city’s two parts. The European side of the city has the longest list of must-see sights, making it the city’s most popular plot for visitors. It’s super easy to do some continental-crossing though – a ferry hops between the city’s two parts on a regular basis and only takes around 20 minutes. The ticket prices are pocket-friendly, too.

A once-upon-a-time capital

The story of the city’s history can be pieced together by its line-up of landmarks. It might not be Turkey’s capital right now, but this place is no stranger to the spotlight. It stepped up to the plate throughout Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman rule, and each era has a mark on the map. A fourth-century aqueduct serves as a lasting reminder of Roman times, a Byzantine church delivers one of the best examples of the architecture of its time, and the last piece of the puzzle can be seen in Ottoman buildings right across the city.

A city of contrast

In sync with its location, culture in Istanbul bridges a gap between Middle Eastern and Western influences. It also blends old and new, and flicking between the two is just as easy as turning a page in a book. Many of its neighbourhoods take the headlines for their history. But places like Beyoglu match the spec of a fresh-off-the-block city. It’s got a huge trendy square with bar-lined streets snaking off it. And it’s also the place you’ll find the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, which lines up a local and international collection of work.

At a Glance

  • Step inside the city’s mosaic-filled mosque
  • Take a ferry ride across the Bosphorus
  • Check out a collection of local art