The ancient city Saray Burnu now known as Istanbul is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul is a transcontinental city, sprawling on the both side of Bosphorus which divides the city into a European (Thracian) side and an Asian (Anatolian) side, making it the largest among the four cities which is built on two continents.
Like Rome Istanbul is the paradise for history lovers, the city with its enchanting history has served as the capital of four empires, The Roman Empire, The Byzantine Empire, The Latin Empire, and The Ottoman Empire, thus the modern Istanbul reflects the beauty and essence of all these four empire culturally and architecturally.
Istanbul is the most developed Islamic City where culture embraces the modernism hence making it one of the 10th most desirable destinations of the world.
How To Reach
Though there are lots of flights flying daily to Istanbul from Mumbai but unless you don’t want a stopover than you should prefer the Turkish airlines, it’s a 6 hrs. 50 min. nonstop flight, with a courteous staffs, comfortable seats, modern equipment’s, and delicious food on board and don’t forget to carry your Jet Privilege card, as the Turkish airline has a tie up with Jet Airways.
Fun and Festival filled spring and autumn are the best times to visit Istanbul. I will personally prefer April-May over September-November when poppies and Tulips are in full bloom, thus the gardens all over the city are a beautiful sight. Highlights are the gardens of Dolmabahce Palace and gardens between Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
Where To Stay
Where to stay in Istanbul is purely depends on the purpose of your visit, if you are there to enjoy the historical side than you must stay in Sultanahmet (the historical center) and if you are there to shop, eat, dance and to enjoy the vibrant and enigmatic night life than u must stay in Taksim (the modern center). In Istanbul one can easily find the hotel which suits their budget. On the streets near Hagia Sophia you will find these nice botique hotels like Peninsula, Historia, and Marmara Guest House. For speciality lodging best are Marti Apartments, Sultan Ahmet Suites, Baylosuites, for B&B and Inns Elanaz Hotel, Peradays, Dila Suites, and for the luxurious stay there are many international chains from swissotel to intercontinental, Hyatt to Ritz Carlton, and the best local luxury hotels are The White House Hotel, The Osmanhan Hotel, The Muyan Suites. But In Istanbul my Favourite is the Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bosphorus, the hotel redefines the luxury and serenity overlooking the beautiful Bosphorus bridge and the Asian Side on the other side of Bosphorus.
What To Eat
The food in Istanbul is an absolute gastronomically delight. It caters to all palate; some of the very famous local dishes are Cig kofte, Hamsi, Kokorec, Lahmacun, Salgam, Mezes, Sarma, Manti, and Baklava. Sultanahmet is filled with quaint little restaurants serving delicious sea food and my favourite is Sultanahmet Fish House. While in Taksim you will find all upscale pubs and restaurants. For my fellow Indians the best Indian restaurant is Swaad, and for pure vegetarians Govinda Istanbul at Istiklal, the owner of this cute little restaurant is a devotee of Krishna. While you are in Istanbul don’t forget to try the dark and aromatic Turkish coffee.
Beside Metros, Trams, Busses tourist mostly use taxi to travel locally as it reasonably affordable, but for the closer encounter with its people and culture one must walk everywhere through the city. Most of the taxi drivers speak English but it’s always advisable to carry Maps and address written in local language of where you want to go and where you staying, keep the phone numbers handy.
The local currency is Turkish Lira but most of the hotels take either USD or Euros, so as the shop keepers.
Where To Shop
Istanbul is not to shop for high brands as I found it more costly than USA and some countries of Europe. Though there are many award winning Malls and shopping centre but I personally loved the Grand Bazar and Egyptian Market. Egyptian market also known as Spice Bazar famous for its Spices and In Grand Bazar you will get everything from jewellery to pottery of various kinds, Persian Rugs, Egyptian cotton bed sheets, Ornaments, Souvenirs, imitation of all high brand like Rolex, Louis Vuitton, etc. The market bustles with beautiful and exotic things.
“To see and not to see” is my liner suits perfectly when it comes to sightseeing in Istanbul. The city is exceptionally historically and architecturally rich having more than 585 things to see, including 62 museums and 30 land marks. Take a historical tour first of all starting from Hippodrome to Hagia Sophia to Blue Mosque and to Topkapi palace, take a break at topkapi palace have your lunch and then u can go to see Dolmabahce Palace.
A day to visit Grand Bazar and Egyptian Maket and the same night u can go for The Bosphorus night cruise, Istanbul by night means floodlit mosques, a marvellous dinner and a spectacular floorshow with bejewelled belly dancers.
Out of 62 museums you can easily pick your choice. You can take a day tours to Ancient city Troy, Gallipoli and Cappadocia, and fly to Izmir and explore the ruins of Ephesus and the houses of Virgin Marry.
A day tour to Princesses Island where people use horse carriage for commuting as no vehicle is allowed there.
In short when it comes to Istanbul the word Incredible sums it all. Istanbul is a mystical and a magical place like me you would love to go there again and again.
Photo credit: Megha Shrivastava Khare