East Meets West: 6 Reasons to Visit Istanbul
Located between Asia and Europe, Istanbul is one of the world’s most eclectic cities.
Formerly known as Byzantium, and then Constantinople, Istanbul is a diverse melting pot of history and culture. It’s Turkey’s most inhabited city, as well as its financial and cultural hub, and millions of tourists pass through every year. If you plan to be one of them, add these activities to your to-do list.
1. Cruise the Bosphorus
Take in the city from the water while enjoying Turkish meze and floating past some of the country’s most important sights, like the Galata Tower and the Bosphorus Bridge. Cool down with a dip in the Black Sea when you stop off at the charming seaside town of Anadolu Kavagi. An afternoon well spent.
2. Indulge in a Traditional Turkish Bath
It would be sacrilege to visit Turkey and not enjoy a traditional Turkish bath, or hammam. It starts with a tea ritual followed by you undressing and wrapping yourself in a towel before entering the hararet (hot room). Here, you’ll lie down on a marble ‘bed’, have water poured over you and be scrubbed vigorously by an attendant. Depending on the hammam you’ve chosen, the final part of the treatment is usually a rose-scented massage.
3. Eat (all) the Food, the Glorious Food
From balik ekmek (a popular and delicious fresh fish sandwich) to simit (molasses-dipped, sesame-crusted pastry) and handmade Turkish delight, you may want to wear elasticated trousers in Istanbul. Street food vendors can be found all over the city, but to get an authentic fix, a food market is the place to head. The famed Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Spice Market are good starting points, or visit the Sunday market in the Beyoğlu district.
4. Get your Caffeine Fix
The ritual of drinking Turkish coffee is practised by almost everyone in the city daily, which means that most cafés get it spot on. Traditional coffee is served hot and black, with a glass of water and Turkish delight on the side. For a modern take, try Fes Café or keep it classic at Mandabatmaz.
5. Browse Antique Treasures
Bomonti Antiques Bazaar is a local flea market where sellers flog everything from old doorknobs and leather jackets to vintage jewellery and artefacts. There are some real treasures to be found here, which is why people have been returning to its stalls for years. Find it at Lala Şahin Sk, Feriköy.
6. Wander through Istanbul Modern
Opened in 2004, Istanbul Modern was Turkey’s first museum of modern and contemporary art honouring cultural identity and local creativity. For the next three years, it’s situated in a temporary location in Beyoğlu while a new building is being constructed.
Turkish Airlines flies between Istanbul and both Cape Town and Johannesburg frequently.
Book at turkishairlines.com.
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