It’s easy to lose yourself In Istanbul’s grandiose history, but modern Istanbul is a simmering metropolis, well worth a visit in its own right. The shopping is world class and the nightlife pulsates around Taksim Square. Even though Istanbul is no longer the capital, it’s still the country’s business and cultural centre, still the city where new trends are created.

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Turkish Baths

It’s said that if you’ve never tried a Turkish bath then you’ve never been really clean. The visitor moves through several hot rooms and finally arrives at the massage table for a real going over. Men and women bathe separately, exceptions are made at certain times for tourists. Here is one recommended bathhouse: Çemberlitas Hamam. Situated near the Bazaar, this is the oldest hamam in town and was reputedly built by the master architect Sinan.

Vezirhan Cad. 8, Çemberlitaş, Istanbul
Topkapi Palace

The palace of the sultans with its many courtyards and gates brings on a nostalgia for times forgone. There are several special museums in the area; highlights include the Treasure Chamber, where the famous dagger and Spoonmaker's diamond are true stars of the collection, and the harem, where the sultan’s wives and children lived (the two are not included in the ticket price to the palace).

Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet, Istanbul

This is a lunch restaurant on the first floor of the Spice Bazaar, decorated with blue Iznik tiles. Serves traditional Turkish food with some Greek dishes.

Misir Carsisi 1, Eminönü, Istanbul
Yakup 2

Yakup 2 is situated on a side street to Istiklâl Cad. The owner, Yakup Arslan, serves traditional meze to bohemian regulars and cultural celebrities.

Asmalimescit Sk. 35/37, Istanbul
Galleria Ataköy

On the way to the airport next to the Sea of Marmara lies Galleria, a large shopping centre - one of the first of its kind at the time of construction in 1988. The shopping center is hugely popular with visitors, and contains about 140 shops (most of which Turkish), 5 cinemas and a bowling alley.

Sahilyolu, Istanbul
Bagdat Caddesi

A good shopping district is the long Bagdat Caddesi on the Asiatic side. There are many trendy brand name shops here and prices are sometimes lower than in town because few tourists find this area.

Bagdat Cad., Istanbul

Atatürk Hava Limani - Airport

The international airport, Atatürk Hava Limani, lies near the Sea of Marmara, around 25 km from the city centre. Buses run to Taksim Square every 30 minutes, journey time 45 min. The simplest and quickest journey is by Metro to Aksaray and takes around 35 minutes. +90 212 465 55 55 Istanbul’s other airport, Sabiha Gökçen, is on the Asiatic side and is used mostly by domestic flights and some smaller airlines. There is no direct transport between the airports - change at Taksim. +90 216 585 50 00

Public Transport

There is one public and one private bus network, IETT and Halk Otobus, respectively. The underground, Tünel, runs from Karaköy till Istiklâl Cad in Beyoglu and takes a few minutes. There is also a museum tram up toward Taksim Square. Another tram route goes from Kabatas via Galata bridge and the Spice Bazaar to the south-western suburbs. The Metro goes from Taksim north to Levent and from Aksaray to Otogar in Esenler, where buses depart for other parts of Turkey and Europe and to the airport. Dolmuses are minibuses or large taxis that depart when they are full, and stop where you want them to. They are the cheapest form of transport. Ferries between Europe and Asia leave from Eminönü, Karaköy and Besiktas to Üsküdar, Kadiköy and Harem. Akbil is a type of payment card that can be loaded with various sums and used on buses, boats and trams. Can be bought at major junctions.

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