Istanbul (Turkey)

Layers of history, tradition merging with modernity, and awe-inspiring architecture – Istanbul is like no other city in the world.

Where Europe meets Asia – one of the world’s great cities.

Split between two continents, Europe and Asia, Istanbul is truly unique. It boasts lavish Byzantine architecture and imperial mosques with sky-high minarets that make up the city’s skyline; your first sight from the Bosphorus Strait on your Istanbul cruise. There’s an endless list of must-see sights to tick off, all conveniently packed into the Sultanahmet district.

The grand Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque are among the most photographed landmarks in Istanbul, and the perfect places to delve into the city’s vivid history. As the end point of the Silk Road, lots of cultures have made their mark on the city’s tapestry. The modern-day Sultan Ahmet Square is the location of the old Hippodrome of Constantinople – an ancient meeting ground for chariot racing – the neoclassical St George’s Cathedral, subterranean Basilica Cistern and Chora Church all make up the incredible variety of sights in Istanbul.

Best of all are the many tea gardens and coffeehouses where you can rub shoulders with the locals as you unwind between sightseeing sprees. Then there’s the Grand Bazaar, a sprawling labyrinth of lanes filled with 4,000 shops and counting. Wander off the main thoroughfares and you might just catch a glimpse of talented artisans at work.

A short boat trip along the Bosphorus will see you on the car-free Princes’ Islands, a little-known archipelago of nine islands in the Sea of Marmara. Once a refuge for exiled emperors and empresses, their leafy lanes, timber mansions and sandy coves are havens for escaping the summer heat. Enjoy meandering around the historical pier on the largest island, Buyukada, where the fish restaurants are also renowned.

Two of Istanbul’s most iconic landmarks are also the city’s most impressive. Strolling around Topkapi Palace, you’ll be transported back to the days of the Ottoman Empire through its sumptuously decorated pavilions, courtyards and Treasury. Once you’re in the Hagia Sophia, you can’t help but be spellbound by its immense beauty, colorful mosaics and distinctive architecture.

Amazing excursions carefully curated by Celestyal Cruises’s experts