You'll be drawn to Sultanahmet's Ottoman treasures with the opulent Harem at Topkapi Palace and the hallowed Hagia Sophia on your first visit to Istanbul. But there's plenty more in Turkey's cultural capital: gaze at centuries-old mosaics at Chora Church (Kariye Camii) or whizz right to the present at Istanbul's finest bars, clubs and stylish restaurants in Beyoglu.
A modern metropolis living alongside its Ottoman history, Istanbul easily embraces two identities and continents. In the European side, discover Sultanahmet's ancient treasures like the serene Blue Mosque or the Archaeological Museum's centuries of history. Cross the Golden Horn inlet via the Galata Bridge into modern Istanbul, with busy Beyoglu centred on shopping hub Istiklal Caddesi. A sailing trip up the Bosphorus will take you onto the Asian side, alongside peaceful waterfront villages.
Arrive early at huge Topkapi Palace to see Ottoman opulence of the Harem, home of the Sultan's many concubines. From the top of the Galata Tower, gaze at the boat-filled Bosphorus and red rooftops below. Try your haggling skills at the labyrinthine Grand Bazaar for that perfect carpet or painted ceramics. Or shop along busy Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu for funky fashions and music. For a relaxing trip, sit on the deck during a Bosphorus boat trip and spot fishermen and graceful waterfront houses.
In the western district Fener, gaze at immaculate Byzantine mosaics in Chora Church and visit the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, centre of Greek Orthodoxy. From the sacred Eyup Mosque, a steep walk up through the centuries-old cemetery rewards you with breathtaking views of the Golden Horn. The verdant Yildiz Park was once strolling grounds from the nearby Ottoman palace, and is still perfect for a walk and cup of tea by the duck pond. Visit the photography exhibition at Istanbul Modern, the city's best contemporary art collection.
This modern airport is situated in Yesilkoy, on the European side of Istanbul, 28 km from the city centre. The Metro will whisk you into the city centre within 30 minutes.