A Mini-Break for the Culture Vultures: Istanbul

There’s nothing quite like escaping the toil of work and the less-than-satisfying English summer, in preference for hotter climates. Even if it’s just for a long weekend or city break, a European retreat can recharge the batteries, giving us a well-deserved rest before continuing the long slog that is work.

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This summer, rather than heading for sunnier climes such as the touristy beach resorts, how about opting instead for a bustling city such as Istanbul. Helmed as the largest city in Turkey, Istanbul is a treasure trove for culture enthusiasts with a vast array of things to see and do. Before you go, check in to one of the Gatwick hotels so that travel before your departure is minimal, relieving any unnecessary hassle and keeping your outward journey as stress-free as possible.

Once landed at Istanbul airport, you can begin your exploration of this exciting and vibrant city. Located in the north-westerly part of Turkey, the Bosphorus splits the city into two separate areas – a European and an Asian side, hence its bi-continental status. Two years ago saw the city named a European Capital of Culture and it’s easy to see why it was credited with such a prominent accolade. Its historic centre is partially listed as a heritage site and has been historically referred to as a cultural hub.

Check out the Pera Museum – a private art museum and gallery which was established in 2005. Exhibiting three permanent collections of priceless pieces, including over 300 pieces of Orientalist art, the Pera Museum is well worth a visit to appreciate the fine art housed here.

Be sure to visit the Grand Bazaar at least once during your stay. One of the largest covered markets in the world, the Grand Bazaar provides a perfect afternoon of browsing the huge number of shops and stalls offering all manner of goods, including top quality jewellery, spices, leather goods and trinkets.

Meander down Nevizade Street, well known for its wine houses and pubs before sampling some fine cuisine in the Beyoglu district. The Kumkapi neighbourhood has a pedestrian zone housing over 50 fish restaurants if you’ve a hankering for seafood.

Treat yourself to a Turkish bath – a speciality which will leave you feeling rejuvenated and invigorated. Relax in the warm room before being lathered with a full body wash and being massaged and left to relax in the tranquil settings. Hamams can be found all over Turkey and Istanbul is no different.

Take in the sights of the majestic Ottoman mosques that can be seen blanketing the Istanbul skyline. Be sure to find the infamous Blue Mosque that Sultan Ahmet I built to rival nearby Aya Sofya (now a museum). With its’ voluptuous curves and beautiful minarets, it’s hard pressed to find a prettier and more impressive site.

Its Mediterranean climate provides excellent weather during the summer months, giving foreign tourists ample reason to flock to the city for holidays. With amazing culture and history and an up and coming nightlife, with bars and clubs opening left right and centre, Istanbul has understandably found its way onto the map of must-see destinations.