Istanbul, the city where Europe meets Asia, has been the hub of several empires.
Minarets, Ottoman palaces and Byzantine churches jostle for space in the skyline with modern buildings. Modern life sits comfortably alongside the city's heritage.
Imagine paddling a boat almost silently past inverted stone heads of Medusa that act as column supports, through a forest of columns that support a vaulted ceiling. Chances are you will not be able to create the same sense of magic that you get just from walking through the Basilica Cistern. A truly magical place.
The Basilica Cistern can be found in the Sultanhmet district of Istanbul, Yerebatan Caddesi 13. Opening hours are 09.00 to 17.30 (18.30 Apr - Sept). Entrance fee 10TL. yerebatan.com
Topkapi Palace Museum
Home to the ruling Ottoman Empire for nearly 400 years this is an intriguing palace. Look into the world of the harem and walk the pleasure pavilions overlooking the Bosporus. This is a lavish and beautiful place to visit.
Cankurtaran Mh. 34122 Fatih/Istanbul Province Turkey Opening hours are 09:00 to 17:00 (Apr - Sept 19:00) Entrance Fee 25TL topkapisarayi.gov.tr
The Spice bazaar still holds a certain charm but it is a tourist trap. By all means look at the colourful mounds of spices but if you want to purchase any then go to the street just outside where the locals buy theirs. Hasırcılar Cd
Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque)
Possibly the most famous domes and minarets in Istanbul are those that compose the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, or Blue Mosque as it commonly known. Built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I, the mosque incorporates traditional Islamic architecture with some Byzantine elements that can be seen in the neighbouring Hagia Sophia.
At Meydanı No:7 34122 Fatih, İstanbul Turkey. The mosque is closed during prayer times; 30 minutes, five times a day. Shoes must be removed and women need to wear a head covering.
For over a thousand years this church was the crowning glory of Christendom. Commissioned in 532AD by the Emperor Justinian it has a vast dome and stained glass windows that give the inside of the building an etheral quality. Converted to a mosque it is now a museum.
Ayasofya Meydanı, Sultanahmet Fatih. Opening Hours (closed on Mondays)
A 16th century mosque commissioned by the powerful sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, it lives up to the sultan's name.
Prof Siddique Sami Onar Caddesi. Opening Hours - daily from 09.00 till 17:30. During prayer time visitors are often not allowed in for a short while. Shoes must be removed and women need to wear a head covering.
Süleymaniye Hamam (Bath)
Designed by the same architect who built the mosque the outside of the baths may seem unprepossessing but the massages and exfoliation are very good. This is a mixed bath so expect to be sharing space with the opposite sex.
Mimar Sinan Cad. No 20, Suleymaniye/fatih. Open everyday from 10:00 to 24:00 (the last entry is 22:00)
An elegant courtyard restaurant offering a taste of Ottoman imperial cuisine. Historic recipes have been finely honed to provide a wonderful dining experience.
Kariye Cami Sokak No:6, asitanerestaurant.com
Jazz, indie and electronica music in a bar with stripped back-to-brick interior. This is a cool place to go.
Asmalı Mescit Mh. Şehbender Sokak No:3, Beyoğlu, babylon.com.tr
Devman HotelModern, cheap and cheerful this hotel is based in the most happening street in Istanbul.
Asmalı Mescit Mah. Asmalı Mescit Sok. No:22 Tel: 0212 245 6212
Hotel Ibrahim Pasha
Binbirdirek Mh. ,Terzihane Sokak No:7, 34122 Tel: 0212 518 0394
Four Seasons Hotel, Sultanahmet
For luxury and an ideal situation from which to go sight-seeing this hotel hits the mark. International first class service can be expected here.
Tevkifhane Sokak No. 1, 34110 Sultanahmet-Eminönü Tel: 0212 402 30 00
There are many ways to get around Istanbul - trams, trains, taxis, funiculars, boats and of course by foot.
Sirkeci Train Station
An Orientalist train station built in 1889. It was the destination for the Orient Express and is still the terminus for the little less salubrious Bosporus Express.
The funicular runs along the second oldest underground track in the world (after the London Underground). The basic fare is equivalent to around 50 pence (£sterling).
Getting There - Istanbul Airport is provided by BA, Turkish Airlines and Easyjet amongst others.