Istanbul travel guide

Istanbul is a city of millenia-old culture and electric nightlife

On the one hand it seems a world away from Britain: a film set of minarets and markets, split across the steaming Bosphorous and cracked beneath a baking sun. Yet on the other it is a mere four hour flight from Heathrow with British Airways, boasting streets lined with major shopping chains and luxury restaurants.

It is a place that combines the biggest population of any city in Europe with neighbourhoods as intimate and relaxed as that of a small Mediterranean town. It pits the temptation to stay up late making the most of its electric nightlife clashes against a desire to get up early to sample its culture. And it is a city whose friendly population, drawn from across the globe, has refused to cower in the face of terrorism.

The city truly is a web of contradictions where only one thing is clear: visiting Istanbul is an opportunity to good to turn down.

With only 48 hours to spend in Istanbul a good base was required. This is where Istanbul Place Apartments come in. The fully-furnished, ultra-cool flats are scattered across the bustling and tourist-friendly neighbourhood of Galata, perfectly located within easy walking distance of the nightclubs, bars and restaurants to the north and the bazaars, mosques and cultural sights to the south.

Istanbul travel guideISTANBUL PLACE APARTMENT

The view from the roof terrace above Istanbul Place Apartment’s Petraki Place IV flat

Prices are also refreshingly reasonable, especially from a UK perspective. Depending on room requirements, a night’s stay begins at just £52 – not a price to be sniffed at considering the size and location of these apartments.

Run by a Turkish-British couple, Istanbul Place Apartments are a perfect way to make the most of the city – and an ecological one at that, with Julia and Tarkan promising to plant a tree for every booking receives. I stayed at Petraki Place IV, located mere feet from the famous Galata Tower and boasting a view to match from a stunning roof terrace overlooking the Bosphorous Strait.

Istanbul travel guide

Istanbul’s famous Spice Bazaar – a place to pick up souvenirs and practice haggling

While it’s tempting to spend the day on the roof terrace sipping an Efes beer and watching boats criss-cross from Europe to Asia, Istanbul has too much to offer to wile away the hours, as easy as that could be.

Located just a 15 minute walk across the Galata Bridge, the famously colourful Spice Market is one of Istanbul’s must-see attractions. Boasting hundreds of stalls, it is a perfect place to pick up classic Turkish gifts for friends and family back home, from soaps and sponges to sweets and spices. Be prepared to stand your ground and haggle for a good price – it’s all part of the dance and vendors expect it.

Istanbul travel guideISTANBUL PLACE APARTMENT

The interior at Petraki Place IV, our Istanbul Place Apartment base for the weekend

The Grand Bazaar is also worth a visit, selling everything from paintings to rugs to football shirts. It is a bit of a maze, especially given the sprawling mini markets that clog the surrounding neighbourhood, so the best thing for it is to just lose yourself in the madness.

Istanbul travel guide

Market stalls outside the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul

Istanbul still has much to offer when the sun goes down and the attractions close. The Galata neighbourhood is packed with restaurants, bars and clubs of every description, from live music venues and rock’n’roll bars to glitzy cocktail venues and shisha bars.Like everything else in Istanbul, the best tactic is to head out without any plan and see where the city takes you.

Istanbul travel guideJOEY MILLAR

The Istanbul Place Apartment rooftop is the perfect place to enjoy a drink

Located a short walk away is Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, a towering building boasting six minarets. It is conveniently located by Hagia Sofia, a converted cathedral, which was once the largest enclosed space in the world.

Istanbul travel guideJOEY MILLAR

The Istanbul Place Apartment roof terrace in the late afternoon sun

  • Heathrow-Istanbul flights with British Airways start at just £47 one-way this autumn. Upgrading to Flight Europe comes with lounges at both airport, a complimentary food and drink service, more space onboard to relax, dedicated check-in desks and a larger luggage allowance. 
  • Prices start at just £52 per night at Istanbul Place Apartments. Check their website for more information. 

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