Rich history, incredible architecture and delicious food; it’s easy to understand why Istanbul is becoming one of the most visited cities in the world. Every inch of this magnificent destination has a story to tell. Whether you would prefer to spend the day exploring ancient ruins or experiencing the vibrant nightlife, Istanbul will tick all your boxes. With direct flights from an array of cities, Istanbul welcomes millions of travellers from all over the globe every year. This progressive destination is constantly evolving and continues to surprise its visitors. Known for its Byzantine and Ottoman architecture, Istanbul is a wonderful blend of history and modernity. Home to some of the most impressive structures known to man, it encompasses all elements of a big city and yet still manages to maintain its cultural diversity. A cruise down Bosphorus, a waterway separating Asia and Europe, is one of the best ways to behold a breathtaking view of the city. Some would even argue these views to be the best in the world. They say a picture is worth a thousand words; however Istanbul really needs to be seen to be believed.

From the moment I set foot in Istanbul, I felt the magic of what would soon become one of my favourite destinations. The city doesn’t give you time to absorb everything around you and I like it that way. The streets bustle with excitement, full of vibrant colours and delectable aromas. Cats roam the streets, some circling your feet for attention. It really is like no other place in the world.

I wouldn’t really brand myself as a ‘Shopaholic’ but all that changed when I was introduced to the markets of Istanbul. With more than 3000 stalls to browse, The Grand Bazaar has been a favourite for shopping among locals and tourists since the mid fifteenth century. Textiles, spices, jewellery and furniture are just some of the many treasures found here. You can also sample many Turkish delicacies such as Baklava, Turkish Apple Tea and Gozleme. I meandered around the markets searching for items that I didn’t really need and stumbled upon the most beautiful, hand painted bowls. The rich colours and intricate designs were mesmerising. I ended up leaving with 10 of them. With thousands of unique stalls to keep you amused for hours, it’s no wonder Grand Bazaar was listed as the world’s most visited attraction in 2014.

A visit to Hagia Sofia was one of the highlights of my stay in Istanbul. I was overwhelmed by the sheer size and beauty of this building. In a way, I felt somewhat insignificant, as if I was a small puzzle piece of a very large picture. It is times like that you realise just how impressive the world really is. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as The Blue Mosque is also an experience not to be missed.

A Hammam, also known as Turkish Bath, was recommended to me by a girl I had spoken to on the tram. She told me that it would be a life changing experience and she wasn’t wrong. Once inside, I was able to let go of the outside world for a moment. I left any anxieties, insecurities and deadlines at the door and was able to let myself relax. I felt refreshed and renewed upon leaving and ended up going back a second time during my trip.

I have only really shared a small part of what this region has to offer as the magic cannot really be described, only felt. Istanbul shines brighter than most and cannot be rivalled. The unparalleled beauty has to be experienced for one’s self. After immersing myself in this city and all that encompasses it, I would recommend everyone experience Istanbul. For it is not a destination, but a journey.

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