Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and although not the capital by name, it is certainly capital by nature. Located only four hours from the UK, Istanbul is in a prime position for long weekend trips or quick getaways.
Istanbul has a positive, energetic, lively atmosphere, perfect for those seeking a busy, cultured weekend. The city, as well as its dynamic atmosphere provides an array of both sights and tastes which all add up to an experience leaving you wanting more.
The best times to visit Istanbul are in spring, between late March to May and autumn from September to October, when temperatures remain a moderate 20-27?C. During July and August not only is it extremely hot, but hotel rooms rocket in price for the summer period and many are often overbooked due to the Formula 1 Grand Prix at the start of the season.
Where to stay
For students on a budget, the Metropolis Hostel is located in the perfect location of Sultanahmet, just a few minutes from the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and the historical Turkish baths and only 10 minutes to the Grand Bazaar. It provides the perfect combination of a place to relax, meeting other travellers and opportunities to explore the city.
Istanbul itself is not expensive; an evening meal can cost around 12-16 Turkish Lira, which with an exchange rate of 2.5 Turkish Lira to the pound equates to about £5-6. Getting around is also inexpensive, with trams and buses costing as little as £3 per day. The one thing that will set you back however is the shopping. Visiting the Grand Bazaar is a definite must, however the array of vibrant stalls and small shops combined with the buzzing atmosphere and bartering can leave you having spent far more than intended. The Bazaar not only provides great shopping and local arts and crafts, but it’s also a great place to sample the foreign cuisine and socialise with other travellers.
Things not to miss
The hidden spice markets are definitely worth a visit, tucked away close to the Grand Bazaar it’s a paradise of alluring smells and mouth-watering foods and spices. Many of the vendors allow free taste sampling and the diversity of unusual spices puts it high up on the list for food enthusiasts. If there is one thing to do before you leave however it has to be visiting the Sultanahmet Mosque with its cascading domes and six minarets it is truly unique and unquestionably worth a look around.
– Explore the Bosphorus River by boat, not only is it a great way to see the city, but many river boats offer a hop-on-hop-off service allowing you to stop off whenever takes your fancy. – After a bustling weekend of sightseeing and exploring the city, the best relaxation is to experience a traditional Turkish bath and massage.