Istanbul retains a romantic allure for millions of tourists each year, ranking fifth in the most popular tourist cities in the entire world. Its evocative Byzantine-influenced skyline, filled with mosques, domes and spires makes for an enchanting scene when viewed from the Bosphorus or the Sea of Marmara.
Istanbul bridges two continents, providing a wonderful dual aspect both culturally and architecturally; the city is thoroughly cosmopolitan, whilst at the same time drawing from its rich Byzantine and Roman heritage.
The majestic Bosphorus Bridge is a potent symbol of east meets west, and the Bosphorus Strait has some highly recommended boat trips, giving you a real sense of how Istanbul stands at an important cultural confluence.
The surrounding waters of the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara, mean that the city has regular fogs, mists, and a fairly moist climate - temperatures are generally quite high in the summer reaching a peak of 30 °C in July and August, before cooling off quite considerably in the winter to an average daily maximum of 9 °C in January and February.
The Hagia Sophia Museum sums up the city's shifting cultural influences and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world. The city's skyline is packed with basilicas and spires, jutting up from famous names such as the Chora Church, the Suleymaniye Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, the Topkapi Palace and the incredible Blue Mosque. These beautiful and historic sites are recommended for those hot days when roaming the streets is less pleasurable.
On clear days the Galata Tower provides incredible views around the city. For a taste of traditional Istanbul, take a walk to the Sultanahmet District where there are plenty of bazaars, shops and charming restaurants.
Anyone familiar with football will know that Istanbul also has a keen sporting heritage. Visitors will often come to see European matches featuring teams such as Besiktas who play at the modern Vodafone Arena, Galatasaray (Türk Telekom Arena), and Fenerbahce (Sükrü Saracoglu Stadium). All of these teams tend to feature regularly in Champions League competition.
Istanbul is one of the most inhabited cities in the world and claimed the prestigious title of 2010 European Capital of Culture. If you are after a cultural city break with rather more exotic overtures, Istanbul is perfect.
Last updated: 14 March 2014