Istanbul, Turkey – a city with a soul

Istanbul is a vibrant, exciting cultural city. If it is not on your bucket list it should be.

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Travel consultant Margot Speed has visited Istanbul twice and says she will definitely go back and visit again.

“It is a city with a soul and its residents shop, eat and party with passion. They live life to the fullest and love every minute of it,” said Margot.

Istanbul owes its historic importance and its amazing cultural and architectural heritage to its perfect strategic location, straddling the Bosphorus Straits which separate Europe and Asia Minor.

If you are looking for amazing architecture you have come to the right place.

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Today, many of Istanbul’s historical landmarks were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list and are definitely worth a visit:

The Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) with its cascade of opulent domes and slender, balconied minarets soaring towards the sky, Istanbul’s Blue Mosque is one of the city’s most striking images.

Ayasofya better known as Hagia Sophia, has been a Christian church, a mosque and is now a museum. It was designed to represent the heavens and it is definitely worth a visit.

Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi) visitors can enter the gardens and courtyards, and take a guided tour of the harem to gain an impression of the extravagant lifestyle of the rulers of one of the world’s greatest empires.

Istanbul is a safe city and you can freely walk around. However as it any big city, avoid dark side streets and be aware of your bag and wallets on crowded trams and buses.

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Public transport is fantastic and there are buses, trams, funiculars, taxis and ferries. You do not want to drive in Istanbul.

Istiklal Street is a must. Great for shopping or eating out, or just walking and getting the feel of the city.

Best times to visit İstanbul are around spring and autumn, roughly from April to May and from September to October, when the climate is perfect.

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There is such a variety of places to shop from high end to markets. In the normal retail stores, the price displayed is the price you pay but in the markets or carpet shops you need to bargain like never before.

Let the shop owner give the first price and then you offer 60% of that. You will more than likely settle at around 70%.

Don’t wear your flash watches and jewellery as he will base his price on what you are wearing so dress down for bargaining.

Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s prime tourist area, is awash with shops selling authentic antiques and handicrafts. These, however, are outnumbered by an even vaster number of establishments selling cheap imitations.

The city’s legendary markets are packed to the hilt with souvenirs and are an experience in themselves. Grand Bazaar in Beyazit is one of Istanbul’s greatest tourism attractions, even if you do not intend to buy anything.

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The Spice Bazaar in Eminonu is worth a special trip. It smells marvellous, and looks marvellous too, with stalls piled high with olives, dried fruits and nuts, herbs, and mounds of bright-coloured spices and gorgeous sweetmeats.

Foreign visitors may be eligible for a refund of value added tax on purchases at some specially designated tourist shops. A special invoice is issued, which must be presented for a refund at your airport or port of departure.

You have not eaten Turkish delight till you eat the real thing in Turkey. More flavours and varieties than you can imagine!

Be sure to buy it fresh, you don’t want to buy boxes and find that they are old when you get home. The best place to purchase Turkish delight is the airport as they have a good turn around and therefore lessens the risk of stale delights.

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Another reason is there are always tasters so you can sample till you find your personal favourite.

A Bosphorus river cruise is a must while in Istanbul, you get to see the city from another angle and see some of the most beautiful homes and palaces along the edges.

It is quiet relaxing way to spend 90 minutes after the hustle and bustle of the city.

To book a trip to Istanbul, contact Margot Speed