Discover Istanbul

The medieval towers that occupy the Old City stand in stark contrast to the modern skyscrapers that shape the skyline on the European side.

The last capital of the Ottoman Empire – formerly one of the world’s most powerful states – the Turkish metropolis, boasts grandiose architecture and a sprawling cityscape, and wonderfully contrasts the old with the new.

History abounds in UNESCO World Heritage Listed site, the Old City, where many of the Istanbul’s biggest drawcards can be found.

Overwhelming in size, majesty and splendour, the Ayasofya (Haghia Sophia) and the Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) sit side-by-side in area’s the main square and dominate the city’s skyline.

A great example of Byzantine architecture, Ayasofya marvels visitors with its cascading dome, colourful mosaics and 2,000-year history. While across the square, the Sultanahmet Camii wows with its serene courtyard, beautiful blue tiles and six imposing minarets.

Sitting atop a hill, peering over the historic precinct and out to the sea, the Topkapi Palace is another of the area’s must-visit attractions. Home to the sultans and governments of the Ottoman Empire for almost 400 years, the palace exudes opulence and magnificent. Now a museum, the building hosts treasures amassed during bygone eras.

The Grand Bazaar is another remarkable historic Old City site not to be missed. One of the world’s largest and oldest covered markets, boasting a collection of restaurants, mosques, tea houses, fountains and more than 3,000 stalls, the Bazaar overwhelms the senses with sights, sounds and aromas.

A great way to experience Istanbul’s stunning history and impressive cityscape is to take a boat cruise along the iconic Bosphorus strait, which bisects the city, creating the boundary between Europe and Asia. A cruise up the Bosphorus exposes significant historical sights outside the Old City, like the grand Rumeli Fortress, colourful 18th century palaces and Ottoman-Victorian villages.

Standing at the crossroads of the West and the East for millenniums, Istanbul is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan metropolises. The medieval towers that occupy the Old City stand in stark contrast to the modern skyscrapers that shape the skyline on the European side.

Neighborhoods like Taksim, Ortaköy, Nişantaşı and Beyoglu elude to glory of 19th century Istanbul, and operate as lively modern centres full of shops, restaurants and nightclubs.

Plan Your Istanbul Holiday 

  • Flights to Istanbul: Together with partner airline, Etihad, Virgin Auutralia operates flights to Istanbul, via Abu Dhabi, from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. 
Words by Alice Nash - Published 15 April 2013
Quick Facts 
Population Approx. 12,782,960
Time Zone UTC +3
Languages Turkish (official), Kurdish, Arabic
Currency Turkish Lira
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