Kempinski Blog Article
The meeting point of diverse continents, empires and people for countless millennia, Istanbul is an atmospheric melting pot that rewards those who love to wander. Whether you are taking a stroll down the pretty, terraced alleys; negotiating a bargain in one of the many souks; or taking in the long list of sights and landmarks across the capital, it makes a fantastic city break destination.
From Byzantium, to Constantinople, then Istanbul, the city has an unparalleled history. Founded in 660 BCE, the metropolis was the seat of the Roman Byzantine, then the Ottoman Empire, and today is the capital of modern Turkey. Through the years it was a key stop on the Silk Road and has been fought over many times, and all this history has transformed it into something of a living museum.
Throughout these changing times, traders have sold their wares in the same places as they have done for centuries, worship in the same stunning mosques and churches; and sip tea and coffee in the same manner as their ancestors would have done. That’s just the historic centre. Modern Istanbul is also an economic powerhouse with a flourishing home-grown culture to enjoy too.
Istanbul Atatürk Airport is the main destination for travellers, being serviced by all major international and regional carriers. The airport is 20 km west of the city, and can be reached by taxi, bus, metro (signposted as ‘light rail’), or if you are heading to the eastern side of the Bosphorus River, a taxi to Bakirkoy IDO Iskelesi ferry pier, which can take you to Karaköy or Bostanci Ports.
There is also Sabiha Gökçen International Airport on the Anatolian side of the straight, which is serviced by buses and taxis. Istanbul is also served by bus services calling at Esenler Otogar, boats via Karaköy Port, or car – just beware that Istanbul’s road network is often congested.
Getting around in the city is easy via tram, taxi or, if you are staying close to Sultanahmet, the city’s respected Old City, by foot. There really is no better way to get a feel for Istanbul than simply walking around.
While Istanbul has a range of great places to stay, a stay at Çırağan Palace Kempinski allows visitors to get a taste of the history and opulence of this most imperial of cities. Located a in a quiet but central location near the centre of the city, it is a special place, backed by the picturesque Yıldız Park on the western bank of the Bosphorus. Steeped in history and offering a choice of fine restaurants and bars, alongside luxury accommodation, all provided by professional staff.
For those who enjoy trying the local cuisine on their trip away, there are many special dishes and fantastic restaurants to choose from in the meeting place of east and west.
Start your days with a Turkish breakfast of tomatoes, cucumbers, unleavened bread, white cheese, olives, eggs and the star of the show sucuk, a meaty and flavourful Turkish sausage made from beef, garlic and a range of spices. For lunch, make sure to try some traditional meze – a cold starter including grilled aubergine, artichoke, falafel and more – then for dinner, a large serving of grilled lüfer or sarıkanat, the young and old varieties of a delicious fish that is often marinated in citrus juices, white wine and olive oil.
At the time of writing, some of the best places to eat in the city include the classic Old Istanbul Cuisine, Roof Mezze 360 and N Terrace - the latter two also offer fantastic views out over the city.
Istanbul has unforgettable sights hidden around practically every corner. Here are some of our favourites.
Built between 1609 and 1616, the Blue Mosque is the largest in the city. Enormous and gleaming, it combines various Arabic and Byzantine architectural styles and has an interior lined with 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles.
The Hagia Sophia is one of the most important Byzantine structures. Built by Emperor Justinian I, it was first a cathedral, then a mosque, and today visitors can wander through its gigantic interior and admire the many intricate mosaics that adorn its walls.
One of the largest and oldest covered market anywhere on Earth, the Grand Bazaar is made up of 61 covered streets and 4,000 shops. The perfect place to do a little shopping sheltered from the sun, just make sure to perfect your haggling skills before you arrive.
Built in 532, by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, the Basilica Cistern was designed to hold some 80,000 cu m of water for the city. While it was forgotten for hundreds of years, it was rediscovered in 1545, and was finally renovated in 1985. With its beautiful columns, colourfully lit and reflected in the pool, it is an interesting place to escape the heat outside.
For more information on the exciting location that is Istanbul, contact the staff at Çırağan Palace Kempinski. They will be happy to help with any queries you might have.