Amazing Istanbul

Now known as Istanbul, the city once had other names like Byzantium and Constantinople. These very names conjure mystery and romance. Being the crossroads of Eastern & Western civilisation, the city is an eclectic mix of cultures and has always had a welcome for foreigners, which is still very evident today.
Istanbul offers so much to do and see wherever you go you will encounter the history, the culture, the panoramas, shops, restaurants, art, music, and food of this amazing city.
For a first-time visitor, certain essential sites have to be seen, but there are also things we want to share that make your trip that little more amazing by allowing you to experience the real heart of Istanbul.
amazing istanbul

Shopping For Kilims

Istanbul - A Whistlestop Tour

Palaces

Istanbul has many palaces, small ones, big ones, summer and winter ones, all with their own particular character and stories, but the main two are a must. While both are Ottoman palaces, you will notice a difference, one that reflects the age when they were built and used.
Istanbul has many palaces, small ones, big ones, summer and winter ones, all with their own particular character and stories, but the main two are a must. While both are Ottoman palaces, you will notice a difference, one that reflects the age when they were built and used.
  • Topkapi - Topkapi is the largest royal residence, the home for Ottoman Sultans and their families for over 400 years. The jewellery alone makes the visit worthwhile. The Harem has to be high on any list to visit. Allow plenty of time so you can absorb all that Topkapi has to offer and then plan to visit again, and again to see it all
  • Dolmabahçe Palaces (or Saray) - Dolmabahçe, is within walking distance of Taksim Square. Built towards the end of the Ottoman era the palace is opulent and atmospheric, and the chandelier from Queen Victoria is magnificent
  • Beylerbeyi Palace - a ferry trip across the Bosphorus to the Anatolian side of Istanbul will be needed to visit this lovely summer palace of the Ottomans. This palace has a relatively modern design, neo-baroque, but retaining the division of quarters between men (the selamlık) and women & family, (the harem)
Dolmabahçe Palaces

Mosques

There are many celebrated mosques in Istanbul, and most are worth a visit. Remember, it is best not to visit a mosque on a Friday, the Muslim holy day, a very busy day!
  • The iconic Blue Mosque or Sultanahmet Camii can be very busy anytime. So allow yourself time for the visit to take in all the splendour and architecture.
  • Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya in Turkish dominates the skyline of Istanbul. A church in Roman Time Constantinople, it has also been a place of worship for Muslims.

Breakfast - Turkish Style

Of course, your hotel will serve scrumptious breakfasts. But you may like to try out something a little outside the usual, a Turkish Breakfast.

Turkish Breakfast
Breakfast is an important meal of the day for many cultures, but it is an art form in Turkey. Certain areas of Turkey offer an exceptional experience. Breakfast should awaken all your taste buds, so do not be surprised at the mix of chilli, sweet and sour you will find on your breakfast table.
The simplest breakfast is fresh bread served with cheese, add in olives, honey, a selection of jams, and not forgetting kaymak, a thick clotted cream that just melts in your mouth. Tomatoes and cucumbers are a certainty, but you can also find red peppers filled with meat and pine nuts.
You will be served side dishes of walnuts, fresh fruit, candied fruits, figs, dates, a veritable feast for the senses, and taste. Hot dishes can include the Turkish scrambled egg, menemen, which is cooked with onion and tomatoes, herbs, and a bit of spice. Delicious!
Of course, it would not be a Turkish breakfast without the ubiquitous Turkish çay or tea. Drunk from small glasses, this typically strong brew made from tea leaves is often heavily sweetened, and no Turk would start the day without one – although a coffee might follow, tea is the standard fare to start your day.

Shopping For Kilims

Turkish carpets are masterpieces of colour, design, and workmanship. But kilims are often seen as the poor man’s carpet by those not aware of their special charm. Kilims have a beauty and functionality of their own. Plus, they are easy to fold and pop in a suitcase!
Turkish Kilimi
They were originally woven by nomads throughout Anatolia and Thrace, as well as North Africa, The Balkans, Central Asia, Iran, and Iraq. Flat-woven they are often lumped together as an oriental rug. But the Kilim should be in a class of its own.
Flatweave rugs are woven on a loom, not knotted, and do not have a tufted pile. They make hardwearing, colourful floor coverings, but you can also consider them for wall hangings. Due to the style of weaving, a slit weave, geometric shapes are the favoured pattern. But you will find the occasional floral designs.

Shopping In The Grand Bazaar

The ‘Kapali Carsi’ is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world, and possibly the first. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar has been around since 1455/56 when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople. Still considered the largest indoor bazaar, it covers 61 streets and 4,000 shops. It is lively, engaging, and fun to visit. The architecture and the stores maintain the sense of stepping back in time, but the sellers and the prices remind you its the 21st century. Stop awhile and enjoy a Turkish coffee with its piece of Lokum, or Turkish delight, to be enjoyed afterward.
Grand Bazaar

Modern Day Shopping Malls (Tax Free)

You are never too far away from a modern shopping mall with all its entertainment, shops, cinemas, and restaurants. If any of these appeals to you, let us know and we can arrange a visit for you. Visits to the malls – the journey and the malls themselves can take up most of your day. So please bear that in mind when considering a visit.
  • Istinye Park - Sariyer Istanbul
  • Zorlu Center -Besiktas Istanbul
  • Aqua Florya Alisveris Merkezi - Bakirkoy Istanbul - with fantastic sea views.
  • Mall of Istanbul - Başakşehir Istanbul
  • Kanyon Shopping Centre - Levent Istanbul
  • Palladium Alisveris Merkezi - Atasehir Instanbul Asian side
  • Akasya Acibadem - Uskudar Istanbul Asian side
Istyinye Park

Boat Trip

The Bosphorus, the straits between the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, is a significant shipping area connecting the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea. It is a hub of activity, not only for the commercial side of the straits but with all manner of sailing activities. Admire the coastline filled with historical mansions, view the parks and wharves where you can get an excellent fresh fish meal, and try a drink of Raki to eat fish the Turkish way.
  • Take the ferries going back and forth to the Asian side.
  • Take a trip to the idyllic Prince Islands.
  • There are plenty of day cruises and night cruises available from 30min upwards.
  • Take a cruise to the historical Rumeli Fortress or the extravagance of the Kücüksu Palace.

Turkish Food

For every food style, cuisine, and taste, there will be a restaurant in Istanbul serving it. Fine dining to street food, it is a food lover’s paradise. All the hotels we select offer several restaurants, and the Istanbul food adventure is an enormous one. But we cannot let even a Whistlestop tour of Amazing Istanbul be without us introducing a few favourites.

Baklava – did you know baklava goes back to the Ottoman times, where the rivalry over the best baklava chef was fierce? Also, to keep his Janissary happy, the Sultan private army, he had baklava sent to them with a great deal of ceremony on the 15th day of Ramadan. This delicious sweet pastry is many layers of an extremely fine pastry, similar to filo. Layered with nuts and honey, and drenched in honey or sugared syrup. Mouthwatering!

Turkish Delight or Lokum – Its origins are unknown, but the Turkish name Lokum is derived from the Arabic, ‘luqma’ meaning morsel or mouthful. In Ottoman Turkish, they called the sweet, Rahat-ul hulküm, another derivative from Arabic meaning comfort of the throat. A very apt description for this smooth, silky delicate sweet, that just seems to slide down the throat. This soft, light, marshmallow textured sweet was the delight of the wealthy and elite, often being given as a gift wrapped up in a silk handkerchief.
The original Ottoman sweet was sweetened with honey or molasses using water and flour to bind it. Rosewater, lemon, or orange peel was used as a flavouring.
Salep – unfortunately this is only a winter drink. But if you are here in the cold months, then drinking Salep is a must. Now for the uninitiated, salep is a drink that is thick, creamy, and flows down your throat like silk. Topped with cinnamon, the aroma alone is comfort. Historically used for its medicinal properties, it is now a popular winter warmer.
Salep sellers abound in Istanbul. As soon as the weather changes, the bronze urns come out, and the steam lets us know that the drink that warms us from top to toe is available.
This fabulous drink is made from the tuber of certain types of wild orchid. It takes 1,000- 4,000 tubers or bulbs to produce a kilogram of salep powder. Using so many for this very popular drink, alongside special ice cream and desserts, threatens the survival of these beautiful flowers. The Turkish government now protects them, and exporting them has been banned.
Fortunately, due to science, Salep is still available. As an extra special treat, try salep with a dollop of ice cream – a little taste of heaven!