A bustling megalopolis, former city of the sultans and the most European city in Turkey, Istanbul is a concentration of East and West. Straddling two continents, between Asia and Europe, crossed by the majestic Bosporus, Istanbul is a mosaic of peoples, histories and architecture. Going to Istanbul is both a step back in time and a glimpse of Turkish modernity

The treasures of the old city

Centuries of history, three great names and key monuments: Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul... The old city of Istanbul, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, bears witness to this rich past. Here are concentrated the most impressive and famous monuments of Istanbul. On Sultanahmet Square, in the historic heart of old Istanbul, stand on either side of the gardens the Blue Mosque and the Basilica of Saint Sophia, considered the 8th wonder of the world. The place attracts crowds with its magic. On one side, the famous 14-century basilica of Saint Sophia, an explosive architectural mix. Built by Emperor Justinian in 537, in Byzantine times, Hagia Sophia was later converted into a mosque by the Ottomans. The result is an original architecture that will surely dazzle you. On the other side of Sultanahmet Square, the Blue Mosque, with its six minarets and predominantly blue Iznik earthenware, is another highlight

After visiting these two symbolic monuments of Istanbul, turn off towards the Basilica Cistern, a veritable sunken palace of the Byzantine era. Inside, footbridges overlooking the water and a forest of columns are highlighted by soft lighting

Then head for the tip of the Seraglio, just behind Hagia Sophia, to visit the former residence of the sultans for more than 400 years, the Topkapi Palace. It is a maze of successive courtyards, kiosks and pavilions surrounded by gardens. Built on the Acropolis of ancient Byzantium, the palace dominates the city, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. This makes it an ideal place to contemplate the majesty of Istanbul

When you leave the palace, head towards the Bazaar district, the most lively part of the old town. With its narrow streets, itinerant vendors and numerous shops, the entertainment reminds us that Istanbul has all the charm of the East. A veritable maze of alleys and shops covered with painted vaults, the Bazaar is a little like Ali Baba's cave, the Istanbul version

Further on, the mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent, the largest in the city, stands in all its beauty. Completed in 1557, it is a masterpiece of Islamic art

Finally, the discovery of Istanbul's heritage cannot be achieved without a detour to the former Saint-Sauveur-in-Chora church. It is a jewel of Byzantine art, a little far from the great sites in Edirnekapi. An unforgettable visit!

From Tünel to Nisantasi, in the European quarter

The westernmost part of Istanbul lies on the other side of the Golden Horn, on the European side, crossed by the Galata Bridge, which still lives to the rhythm of the eastern city. It is a good way to reach the old Genoese district of Galata, dominated by the Tower of the same name. It is the most famous silhouette of Istanbul's sky, more than 60 metres high, with a breathtaking view from the Beyoglu hill

This is where the Istiklal Caddesi, the main pedestrian artery, starts. With its beautiful facades at the end of the 19th century, its European-style architecture, its modern shops, its elegant restaurants and trendy bars, it is a bit like Istanbul's " Champs-Élysées ", minus the cars. At all hours of the day, a cosmopolitan crowd flocked to this wide pedestrian street. In the adjacent alleys, do not miss the old Pera Palas, the mythical hotel of the Orient-Express travellers which has kept its original decoration or the "French street" with its charming cafés, behind the French high school in Galatasaray. Going up the Istiklal Caddesi, you will reach Taksim Square, where an imposing monument to the glory of Atatürk stands. It is the centre of the modern city of Istanbul. Before continuing your visit to the modern city, you can quench your thirst in Taksim's gardens, where an outdoor terrace offers a beautiful view of Istanbul and the Bosporus. Higher up, you will find yourself in the heart of the Nisantasi district, the fashion showcase. This is where the trendy Stambouliotes come to shop.

Other possible visits include the Dolmabahçe Palace on the banks of the Bosporus or the Istanbul Modern, the city's museum of modern art

Want to go further? From the Eminönü or Besiktas wharves, take the boat to discover the charms of Üsküdar, on the Asian side of Istanbul. A change of scenery is guaranteed. Still on the water, but not to be missed, a short cruise on the Bosporus is essential to discover the suspension bridges, the white marble palace Beylerbeyi Sarayi on the Asian shore, the Rumeli Hisari citadel on the European shore, or the famous "Yalis", these beautiful wooden houses built at water level

Sleepless nights in Istanbul

A cosmopolitan and energetic city, a laboratory of the "Turkish movida", Istanbul is also the Mecca of trendy nights in Turkey. At nightfall, the main artery, Istiklal Caddesi, fills up with an overflowing crowd. Istanbul's nightlife is revealed in the alleys between Tünel and Taksim. The narrow streets overflow with trendy cafés, jazz clubs, restaurants and small bars. There is something for every taste and every budget

Another trendy place in summer is the banks of the Bosporus. The golden youth spend their nights on the Bosporus, near Ortaköy, Arnavutköy and Kuruçesme. At the foot of the Bosphorus Bridge, Ortaköy is ideal for a first part of the evening. The landing place, with its fish restaurants, and the alleys in the surroundings have kept a village atmosphere and are always very busy in the early evening. Further on, in Kuruçesme, outdoor nightclubs rival each other in imagination to attract partygoers. Cosmopolitan and open to the world, Istanbul is a city where everything is possible.

Smart info

When? When? The high tourist season in Istanbul extends from mid-March to November. The busiest months are July, August, May and September respectively, followed by almost October. Christmas and New Year's Eve weeks are also very popular. The maximum hotel occupancy rate is reached in September.

Getting there. Count between 150 and 400 € for a round trip ticket between Paris and Istanbul and about 3h30 flight.

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