A tale of two cities: There’s more than just the awe-inspiring sights of old Istanbul, this heady metropolis has thrilling food and nightlife scenes too. Here’s our expert guide to Istanbul.
Istanbul is an intoxicating mix to the first-timer. Famously straddling both Europe and Asia, this sprawling, cacophonous city celebrates fusion.
Many come for the classic sights of Ottoman Istanbul: imperial mosques silhouetted dramatically against the skyline. But this is a modern metropolis too. Cross the Golden Horn tributary over the Galata Bridge, past the fishermen, and you find a less touristy Istanbul of rowdy open-air restaurants, stylish bars and bric-a-brac stores crying out to be explored.
One of the top things to do in Istanbul for a gentle introduction to the city is a boat ride on the Bosphorous. Grab a day-return ticket from the Eminönü foreshore and head for the Black Sea, past wedding-cake mansions, traditional yali waterside dwellings, and, as the urban development finally begins to dwindle, peaceful villages where you can stop for lunch. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Istanbul. The weather will be mild and crowds fewer; summer can be sticky and winter shivering cold.