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Sailing into Istanbul is like being awake in a really vivid dream. The early morning sun reveals a panorama of soaring minarets, slowly splintering the skyline. Across the still, silent expanse of the Bosphorus, the calls to prayer of the local muezzin reaches out toward the banks of two continents, Europe and Asia. Ferries bumble fussily across the river as the sun tints the water an amazing shade of burnt orange. It’s a thrilling, unforgettable curtain raiser to what remains one of the greatest cities in world history.

Istanbul. Constantinople. Byzantium. Three names, one city; an ageless, elegant melting pot of Ottoman fantasies and Moorish influences. The monuments to its golden age as the capital of the Ottoman Empire still pepper the streets like fantastic exclamation marks. From the imperious, exotic magnificence of the legendary Haghia Sophia to the sultry, bejewelled splendour of age old Topkapi Palace, Istanbul is a series of amazing sights, sounds and venues.

For an incredible view out over the Bosphorous, take one of the many cheap and plentiful local ferries from Karakoy. From there, it’s an uphill stroll to Taksim Square, in many ways the bustling heart of this mesmerising city.

Here you’ll find scores of cafes and restaurants, set around one of the most vibrant parts of this dynamic city. Try the local coffee, which is simply world class, and then maybe wander off into the maze of the amazing local bazaar.

Here you can haggle, barter and try to use your charm to buy just about anything, from a wealth of exotic spices to some of the most beautiful, intricately woven rugs and carpets in the world. The variety of stuff on offer is truly staggering; you should definitely allow a couple of hours at the very least to even begin to take in the entire adventure. As an authentic experience of the ‘real’ Turkey, this is a priceless experience.

If you prefer to gravitate towards more traditional shopping, you’ll find smart, pedestrian avenues, lined with all the famous designer names, and at prices that might pleasantly surprise you.

For a little bit of respite from the city’s heat and pace, head down to the waterfront near Karakoy. Here, a beautiful expanse of greenery stretches for a good part of the waterfront, studded with cafes and intimate restaurants.

Istanbul. A stunning brew of history, elegance and sheer hedonism. Ageless and graceful, it’s a city you need to see at least once.

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