Istanbul in Turkey is a city that’s full of history, life, culture and energy. Istanbul used to be the capital city of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire and has a great artistic and cultural scene. It’s not hard to understand why Istanbul was selected to be one of Europe’s capitals of culture.
Turkey is a pretty good deal for travelers these days, given the strength of the Euro or Pound against the Turkish Lira. 1 Euro is worth about two Turkish liras, and 1 pound is worth 2.34 Turkish Liras, so what you save on touring around, food, transport and other expenses, you can spend on a great hotel .
Luxury hotels in Istanbul
For a luxurious place to stay, we recommend the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul, one of the best hotels in Turkey as well as being conveniently close to all of Istanbul’s historic sites and cultural attractions. Because of its height, the hotel offers some spectacular views of the city including some of the more interesting sites (palaces and mosques as well as the Bosphorus Straits).
Visitors will enjoy the Turkish-style décor, and at the hotel’s spa, you can visit an authentic Turkish hamam, which is all part of the Istanbul experience. You can pick up local soaps at the Grand Bazaar and try them out. When you’re finished at the hamam, you’ll feel relaxed, refreshed, clean (and possibly shiny, depending on the soap you use!).
The best things to do in Istanbul
There are so many interesting things to experience in Istanbul but here are some of the must-sees;
The Blue Mosque in Istanbul
The Blue Mosque has spectacular interior wall-coverings of more than 20,000 blue Iznik tiles, and was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I in the 17th century. The mosque was considered ostentatious in its time because the six minarets were considered to be trying to outdo the minarets in Mecca itself, so the Sultan had to overcome objections by paying for a seventh minaret to be built in Mecca.
The Hippodrome in Istanbul
The Hippodrome was the center of Istanbul during the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires and a stadium holding 100,000 people once stood here with the chariot racing track where now the road runs round. You can still see the beautifully carved stone Egyptian Obelisk, Serpentine column which was shipped from Delphi and the column of Constantine along the length of the Hippodrome.
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
You’ll also need to spend an afternoon at the Grand Bazaar, which is a covered market full of gorgeous clothes, Turkish carpets and all sorts of odds and end. The bazaar is divided into different sections depending on the type of goods being sold with gold and silver at one end, carpets in the heart of the bazaar and leather and clothes at the other side. This is the place to drink a cup of mint tea offered by the vendors while you hone your bargaining skills, always remembering that the skill is mainly on their side.
The Topkapi Palace in Istanbul
Lastly, don’t leave town without touring the Topkapi Palace built in the 15th century by Mehmet II after his conquest of Constantinople. The Palace is a complex of buildings, courtyards and gardens which once housed government offices as well as the Sultan’s private apartments and the Harem where his wives, concubines and family lived.
There are many wonderful collections of gold and silver in the treasury, ornate Imperial costumes as well as beautiful ceramics and manuscripts. Don’t forget to book your separate tour of the Harem apartments as soon as you arrive, as places are limited and get booked up early.
If you’re looking for some other great Istanbul hotels you could try:
The Sofa Hotel and Residences which is perfect if you’re in the mood for a small hotel with a modern look – ideal if you’re traveling for business.
Ciragan Palace Kempinski which works well for a romantic getaway, as this hotel is in an imperial palace and is right on the water.
A’jia Hotel which is a tiny hotel (only 15 rooms in a mansion), great for honeymoons or weddings given how intimate it is and how close it is to the water.
Note from Heather: If I was having a second honeymoon (with my first and only husband of course) I’d pick the A’jia Hotel -the setting looks so romantic. When I was in Istanbul visiting a girlfriend who was teaching out there, we always used to wander through the Ciragan palace, pretending that we were staying there! Even if you’re not staying there you can treat yourself to their wonderful Sunday brunch buffet.
This is a guest post from Karen Thomas of Kiwicollection.com. Kiwi collection features luxury hotels of all sizes and styles around the world for those times when you are looking to spoil yourself with a romantic getaway or special experience.
This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com
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