Istanbul is emerging as one of the top vacation destinations in Europe, although the part of the city across the Bosphorus is technically in Asia. Istanbul’s location on the water, through the Sea of Marmara from the Mediterranean Sea, makes it a popular stop for European cruise lines and tour groups alike. The city has a widespread appeal, with a mix of history, culture, entertainment, cuisine, scenery, and nightlife. There’s something for everyone, and the fact that Istanbul is right on the line between Europe and Asia gives it an exotic touch that puts it on the map for tourists.
Mosques and Churches
As the seat of the Ottoman empire, Istanbul offers historical appeal, particularly in its many mosques. Visitors can marvel at the Blue Mosque, which is the largest in the city, and the equally spectacular Süleymaniye. And of course, there’s Hagia Sofia, which was the largest cathedral in the world for many years following its construction in the 6th Century. Taking pictures is a must, to capture these amazing scenes, but make sure you keep track of your personal belongings, like your wallet and smart phone. Lifelock.com on Twitter offers tips on what you should do in the event that your wallet or smartphone is stolen, leaving you vulnerable to identity theft. Follow them on Twitter and breathe easy, while taking in the skyline of Istanbul; it’s dotted with hundreds of other mosques, and the call to prayer playing over the loudspeakers is a part of the cultural experience.
The sultans lived in Topkap Palace for approximately 400 years at the height of the Ottoman empire, and this sprawling palace and grounds is open to the public as one of the major tourist attractions in Istanbul. Visitors can explore the many rooms, including a tour of the harem area of the palace. A trip to Topkap is not complete without stopping into the Imperial Treasury, which showcases many of the extravagant gifts other nations have given to Turkey over the years.
Being right on the water gives tourists visiting Istanbul plenty to do. There are many day cruises that depart from Istanbul, or visitors can just take the ferry across to visit the Asiatic side of the city. People also love shopping in Istanbul, with the Egyptian Spice Bazaar just off the Galata Bridge, and the Grand Bazaar up the hill. Of course, there are other stores and shopping districts scattered throughout the city, and visitors should always know that Istanbul is a place where haggling over price is perfectly acceptable. Many visitors leave with gorgeous and durable Turkish rugs.
Turkish food is absolutely delicious, with rich flavors and strong spices, with many grilled lamb, beef, and chicken dishes. The food reminds many people of Greek cuisine, but the Turkish flavors have a more hearty undertone, especially when you find a place that serves village-style food. For a refreshing drink, people love ayran, which is a tart yogurt drink, or in the winter, a hot cup of Turkish tea. And of course, a trip to Istanbul isn’t complete without sitting on colorful cushions playing tavla, which is what the Turks call backgammon.
Young travelers appreciate the nightlife of Istanbul, which has been especially picking up in recent years. Because the city has a population of over 13 million, and a growing population of young people, there are plenty of places to congregate for dancing, drinking, and enjoying good food late into the night. The city is a top destination for European tours, so travelers can expect to see some big musicians come through, too.
Istanbul’s many appeals, as an ancient city that has made a graceful entrance to the modern age, make it the perfect European vacation destination. Travelers also appreciate the low costs of Istanbul, especially when compared with other top European destinations like London, Paris, and Rome. There’s always more to explore in Istanbul, which makes it a great repeat destination, too. If you book your flights to Europe with American Airlines now, you can also benefit from getting a discount a service package with LifeLock and get free anytime flier miles to go towards your next trip. It’s a great deal that you’ll benefit from for travel and identity theft protection.