While modern Istanbul has more than its fair share of gleaming structures, western stores and contemporary buildings, it is still a gloriously exotic and evocative city that deeply resonates with thousands of years of history. As the only city in the world to straddle two continents (Europe and Asia), Istanbul has played host to some of the most powerful and influential empires in history, with everyone from the Romans to the Ottomans making the city their capital at one time or another. Indeed, it could be argued that no other city in the world has as many stories to tell about the past as Turkey's cultural capital.
While holidays to Istanbul can be enjoyed any time of the year, most visitors find spring and autumn to be the most comfortable times to visit. The reason for this is that the city can get seriously hot in the summer months and experience biting winds and snow in the winter. Regardless of the time of year though, Istanbul is a very easy place to get to, as many airlines now offer frequent (and very affordable) flights from Europe's principal cities.
There are a few sights and experiences in Istanbul which are rightfully regarded as being 'unmissable'. For instance, a trip to the sublime Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque ) is a must, as is an afternoon devoted to shopping and haggling in the city's immense Grand Bazaar. Making the short ferry trip across the shimmering Bosporus strait is also not to be missed, as it is not every day you get to travel between two continents by boat! But whatever you do – or don't do – make sure you indulge heartily in the food -- a mix of Balkan, Middle Eastern and Central Asian flavours, but always uniquely Turkish.