Lively Istanbul is the jewel in Turkey’s crown. Its location, on the dividing point between east and west, means that it has long been a site of historical significance. Over the centuries, the city has been occupied by the Greeks, the Romans, the Venetians and the Ottomans – all of which have left their mark on the architecture. On one of our Istanbul cruises, make sure to visit the impressive Hagia Sofia Museum, which was once an Ottoman Imperial Mosque. Inside, are the tombs of past sultans and princes, as well as the “wishing column” – believed to be blessed and exhibit a healing effect.
During your strolls around the city, it’s likely you’ll be tempted by some of the mouth-watering aromas coming from cafes and street stalls. Istanbul cuisine is diverse and aromatic, famous for satisfying dishes such as mezze (a selection of appetisers including olives and hummus), kebabs and fish straight from the Bosporus. If you’re feeling brave, wash everything down with a strong glass of raki, the national drink of Turkey. Don’t leave Istanbul before checking out the underground Basilica Cistern. Dating back to 542 A.D., this atmospheric restored site features ancient waterworks, with smooth marble columns rising up from the water.