Introduction to Istanbul

There are more than a few reasons to fall in love with Istanbul. For starters, the friendly locals with their vivacious personalities, wicked sense of humour and welcoming nature. Then there’s the history – every step you take in the largest city in Turkey is like turning the page of a historic record. Don’t get us started on the food - the meze plates, Turkish delight and the best kebab you’ll ever eat. It’s a city of culture and spirit with magical experiences at every turn.

While many cities are known for their landmarks, Istanbul’s most famous attraction is its locals. You should definitely make friends with them. The best way to meet the Turks is to head to çay bahcesis (tea gardens), meyhannes (taverns), neighbourhood coffee houses and kebapçıs (kebab restaurants). And not only will you meet the vibrant locals; you’ll also get to taste the unmistakable signature dishes of Istanbul, many of which contain freshly caught fish.

Bound by the European and Middle Eastern countries of Bulgaria, Greece, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Armenia and Georgia, Turkey is where East meets West. Istanbul lies in the northwest of the country, straddling the two continents of Asia and Europe and making it a quite culturally diverse city. It’s also an artistic city. You’ll find magnificently decorated imperial mosques, churches with mosaics and frescoes and a wonderful array of art galleries, festivals and museums in Istanbul.

There's a few quintessentially Turkish traditions you should experience on your Istanbul holiday. Visiting a hamam is a must for any visitor. Who would have thought bath time could be such an experience? You can strip down and wander through a 16th-century Ottoman monument and soap up and scrub down with friends and strangers. Make sure you get a massage after too – it's all part of the experience!

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