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Straddling Europe and Asia, the Turkish city of Istanbul is a cultural melting pot famous for its colourful spice bazaars, glittering palaces, ancient ruins and soaring minarets. It was once one of the most important cities in the ancient world, going on to become the capital of many great empires. You'll find that the Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans have since left their mark on the city's varied architecture.
Hostels in Istanbul are just as photo-worthy as its attractions, ranging from elegant rooms nestled in the Old City to modern dorms in nightlife hotspots. Some look out on the ocean, while others have views over the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Many Istanbul hostels have extras such as free walking tours, pub crawls and yoga classes so you can meet other travellers, and you can even find some that are fitted out with orthopaedic mattresses for a good night's sleep. Check out our guide to the best hostels in Istanbul here.
Istanbul's Old City, Sultanahmet, is where you'll find many of the city's historical attractions, with Ottoman palaces next to medieval bazaars. On the other side of the Golden Horn waterway is Beyoğlu, the centre of European Istanbul. This area is home to Neoclassical architecture, contemporary culture (including the excellent Museum of Modern Art), pulsing bars and lively restaurants. Across the strait, cosmopolitan Kadıköy is known for its colourful street art, independent cafés and bars, as well as the sprawling Kadıköy Market, where you can find some of the freshest produce in the city.
With almost 2,000 years of history, Istanbul is packed with things to see and do. Topkapı Palace, home to Ottoman sultans for four centuries, is now a museum that houses numerous treasures within its imposing walls. With its slender minarets, the Blue Mosque is one of the city's most iconic buildings, while majestic Hagia Sophia is known for its vast dome, richly decorated with ornate mosaics of Biblical scenes. Don't miss the medieval Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest covered markets in the world.
From Istanbul Airport to the city, you can board IETT public buses or HAVAIST shuttles; the journey will take one to two hours depending on traffic. You can also grab a taxi, which will cut your journey time down to around an hour. If you're taking the train, Sirkeci Station is in the Old City, around a 10-minute walk away from landmarks such as Hagia Sophia. It's easy to get around within the city, with buses running from around 6am to 10pm, and metro and tram systems operating past midnight.