Little can compare with arrival at Istanbul by sea. The fabled city straddling two continents has drawn voyagers for centuries, luring them to its minaret-studded coast on the Golden Horn. With the port on the European side near Sultanahmet, explorers can quickly plunge into swirling markets and take in some of the grandest architecture on earth.
What We Love
Topkapı Palace: Long the residence of Ottoman sultans, the palace grounds are now home to the legendary gem-encrusted Topkapı Dagger, among other prized relics. To see sultans’ living quarters and the most fascinating rooms of the palace, book a tour that includes the harem.
Beyoğlu: Explore cosmopolitan Beyoğlu, a neighborhood packed with shops, cafés, and galleries fanning out from the main thoroughfare İstiklâl Caddesi, and don’t miss cocktails at NuTeras rooftop bar as the sun sinks over the Bosphorus.
Best Known For
The Grand Bazaar: Lose yourself in the thousands of shops lining the cobblestone alleys of this ancient Aladdin’s cave, and choose a treasure to remind you of your Istanbul adventure.
The Blue Mosque: The fiercely beautiful six-minaret Sultan Ahmed Cami Mosque dazzles visitors with its floating domes, intricate Arabic calligraphy, and 20,000 luminous blue tiles.
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Who It's Best For
History buffs: Istanbul, Constantinople, Byzantium — there’s too much history to be contained by one name in the one-time capital of the Roman Empire. Centuries pile up in this city straddling Europe and Asia, past and present — irresistible for anyone drawn to the past.
Shoppers: The Grand Bazaar is just the tip of the iceberg; you can see signs of the days this empire served the Silk Road and Spice Route on every corner.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Crowds Are Relentless: Everyone wants to see the blockbuster sights, so bring a bottle of water and be prepared to wait.
Come Ready to Bargain: Shopping isn’t a straightforward transaction, so you’re overpaying if you give vendors the first asking price.
Dana McMahan is a Detroit-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post.