Istanbul is one of the most multifaceted cities in the world. Situated at the convergence of continents, this city has long been at the heart of both the Muslim and Christian worlds. A frenetic clash of culture and style, this ancient city was once Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine-Christian empire and one of the most powerful trade hubs in history.
Today the city's architecture is more Ottoman in style, with the minarets of the city's mosques dominating the skyline. Home to some of Turkey's most famous religious buildings, Istanbul prides itself as a place where east meets west; with old Christian buildings converted with a decidedly Ottoman twist.
Bisected down the centre by a stretch of the Bosporus known as the Golden Horn, this is a city of two personalities. On the European side of the strait the ancient Sultanahmet district rubs shoulders with 19th century Beyoğlu, now popular for its nightclubs and rooftop cocktail bars.
Most historic cities have an old town, but few can rival the diversity and energy of Istanbul's Sultanahmet district. Once at the heart of the Ottoman and Byzantine empires, this is the Istanbul most visitors come to see.
Spend a morning exploring the chaotic labyrinth of the Grand Bazaar, where you will have to shout to be heard over the noise of the haggling crowds; or head off early to beat the queues to the spectacular Tokapi Palace, with its lavishly decorated harem court and stunning citywide views.
One of the most visited sites in Sultanahmet is the world famous Blue Mosque, the largest and most impressive of the city's religious sites named for the vivid blue tiles that gild its interior. Nearby you will find Hagia Sophia. Initially a 6th century basilica, it is now one of Istanbul's most visited mosques.
Top itineraries in Istanbul
Each year, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express takes an exclusive few on its original route, sweeping though France, Hungary and Romania to end in Istanbul. You’ll travel in the utmost opulence throughout, enjoying fine dining, champagne-bar delights and curated stops for expert-led tours.
This fascinating city has long been the bridge between Europe and Asia. This short break will see you explore the city in the company of an expert private guide. Highlights include the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, the food-lovers' district of Beyoglu, and the Grand Bazaar.
Turkey, where east meets west, is renowned for its vibrant culture and as the home of some of Mediterranean Europe's most impressive historical sites. It's also blessed with stunning scenery, over 5,000 miles of spectacular coastline and delicious cuisine.
Top places to stay in Istanbul
A genuine slice of old-world luxury in bustling Istanbul, this grand old icon has played host to everyone from Hemingway and Hitchcock to Agatha Christie. Today, guests can enjoy its timeless elegance alongside a luxury spa and some of the city's best dining.
Location is the key to this modern property, just a five-minute stroll from the walls of Istanbul's old town as well as being well positioned for the nearby Sicecki Railway Station.
Don't know your twin cabins from your grand suites? Product manager Andy Austen takes a closer look at the different cabin types on board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express to make sure you select the one that’s right for you.
Meet our Istanbul experts
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