Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, really is a destination of two halves split down the middle by the mighty Bosphorus River. But the river is more than a symbol.

It divides the city across the two continents where east truly does meet west, the exotic meets the cosmopolitan and Istanbul takes the best of both; seeped in culture, with a history of great civilisations that have called it home and have left their own unique mark, Istanbul is an intoxicating heady mix that will win your heart and leave you wanting more.

If you want location and views then the Ritz-Carlton on Askerocagi Cad has the very best of both, close to lively Taksim square and all the nightlife that it has to offer this hotel has rooms that stretch right up to the 34<sup>th</sup> floor and that give those much coveted Bosphorus views. The rooms all have a traditional Ottoman feel and are beautifully appointed; the hotel also offers an indoor pool, traditional Turkish sauna and an outdoor spa to allow for total relaxation in the midst of the excesses of this vibrant city.

If you want the views but with a more realistic budget then the Hippodrome Hotel in the Old Town is perfect, the rooftop terrace breakfast restaurant has great views of the Blue Mosque and the Marmara sea; the rooms are more than adequate but the location and views make this hotel stand out for all the right reasons.

Turkish food is so much more than people expect, and Istanbul has the best of both east and west, spicing and vibrant colours add a unique appeal to the food and with the Ottoman influences fruits and nuts both sweet and sour are often found nestling in meat dishes. The food is as unique as the city although those less adventurous will also find plenty to keep them happy.

Eating an authentic Turkish kebab is nothing like the imitations you find elsewhere and Kosebasi Reina with its stunning Bosphorus views was one of the first restaurants in Istanbul to combine this staple with designer surroundings – excellent fresh food with just a the right amount of glitz and glamour.

Seafood restaurants are also plentiful with the many rivers and seas surrounding the city, Princes island less than 10 miles from the city is host to many good quality restaurants that specialise in local fish and seafood; the pedestrianised island is popular with wealthy locals and is one of their favoured holiday destinations making it a great place to relax and enjoy a great meal.

Turkish steam baths are an excellent way to spend a few hours, head to one of the many Hamams and have all your tension massaged away; these bath and steam houses are a Turkish institution and none is more highly recommended than Cemberlitas Hamam built back in 1584 this historic building has a charm that relaxes away the stress of modern life.

The Grand Bazaar in the Old Town is the largest covered bazaar in the world, an absolute maze of streets with almost 5000 stalls, this is where you will see all walks of Turkish life as locals haggle with stall holders, be sure to visit the spice stalls for an experience that will intoxicate the senses and no visit is complete without the purchase of a Turkish rug.

As a huge sprawling city Istanbul has a range of climates across its geography, the effect of the Black Sea and the areas of dense plants give high humidity across swathes of the city although the higher populated areas are less affected. Rainfall and early morning fog is common throughout the year with only the height of summer escaping the precipitation. Winters can be cold with heavy snowfall due to its unique geographical position which gives rise to more extremes than cities on an similar latitude.

The summer months are a great time to travel and with the International Music Festival held during the months of June and July are popular with a lively vibrant feel, prices do rise during this period but the extra cost is a small price to pay for this excellent time to see the city.

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