Insider’s Guide to Istanbul

14 December 2023
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Straddling eastern Europe and western Asia with cultural roots in ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, Turkey is a vibrant, enigmatic destination. Add excellent value for money, a wealth of unique experiences and a touch of exoticism, and Turkey is fast becoming a popular option for South African travellers. 

Having recently returned from “Anatolia” (the place of sunrise), Pentravel expert Angela Blackstock gives us the inside guide to all things Turkish. 

First impressions of Istanbul

Angela promptly fell in love with the old part of the city is; its history, the vibe of the people on the street – all religions living and working in harmonyA bustling city that never sleeps, Taksim Square is where all the actions is, from pubs to nightclubs. 

Things to do

Angela’s mustsee highlights in Istanbul include the Hagia Sophia Museum – an ancient Greek church, built in the 6th century and one of the architectural marvels of the world; the Grand Bazaar – shop until you drop and barter when buying silk scarves, clothing, fake bags, shoes and gifts for family and friends; and the Topkapi Palace – the great residence of the Ottoman Sultans from the 15th-19th century which overlooks the Bosporus and the Golden Horn. Here, the opulence is mind blowing: exquisite glass and diamond decanters, huge cooking pots, beautiful porcelain dinner sets... Sadly, photographs are not permitted. 

Eating and drinking

Typical Turkish food includes tomatoes, plenty of meat, vegetables and hummus. Nuts are also a huge export for the country. Angela spent every night at a 5* hotel being wined and dined by the managers and attentive staff. Jealous much? Her highlight was dinner at the Shangri-La Bosphorus, overlooking the water.  

Getting around

With Istanbul’s notoriously horrendous traffic, Angela spent most of her 4 nights in the city walking to the sights and attractions. 

Top Turkey travel tips

Angela suggests taking a boat cruise to see the city from the water, strolling across the Ataturk Bridge (with a stop for seafood lunch at a restaurant situated below the bridge), and lastly, eating with the locals on the streets. A good old doner kebab washed down with fresh orange juice is reasonably priced and a local institution. 

Inspired to visit Istanbul? Get in touch with a Pentravel expert today. 

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