It turns out March in Istanbul is the perfect time to visit. Actually, scratch that, I would say anytime is the perfect time to go. No wonder it’s been named the best destination to visit in 2014. Living in Athens, it was an easy trip for me and my friend across the Aegean for three days of exploring in the vast (trust me, it’s huge) sprawling Turkish City.
Ok, i’ll throw my hands up and say it was kind of a surprise to realise just how huge the city is. It’s spread across both sides of the Bosphorus. Since we had such a short time, we fancied seeing the obvious ones, this was a taster really, but here’s our highlights:
Next time you’re away on holidays and decide to whip out your camera to snap some pics of the area’s most famous attractions like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, or the Empire State Building in New York, remember you’re not alone. Sightsmap is a heatmap that charts the most photographed tourist attractions around the world. The images are collated by how ‘hot’ they are, based on the number of people sharing them via Google’s Panoramio. Here’s the top 10 of the world’s most photographed places in the world, with a few that might surprise you. Which one is your favourite?
It’s official, Trip Advisor the world renowned travel site has awarded a host of awards for best destinations 2014. The annual Traveller’s Choice Awards includes the vast city of Istanbul in Turkey which tops the poll, with Rome, London and Beijing following close behind. Each city or place earned its review through the reviews and opinions of visitors the site. “If you’re looking for trip inspiration, look no further than the Travelers’ Choice Destinations,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. “Our global travelers are the tastemakers for uncovering the best places to visit around the world.” The awards in its 6th year picks out 500 of the absolute best places to visit in the world.
But what are these places really like? I’ve asked some of the Purple Travel family to share their thoughts on the top destinations 2014. Some they loved and some… well, you’ll see for yourself. We’d love to hear what you think, good or bad about the official list!
1. Istanbul, TurkeyFantastic city full of sights and culture. The people are so friendly and eager to help. This place has it all. – Gary I think the best of the best way to taste the Turkish food, and experience the Turkish mentality, is to eat this giant hot dog with fish and cabbage at the Bosphorus coast on the Asian part of Istanbul. There are cooks on floating boats, preparing the grilled fish, that are then placed on these huge bagel and stuffed that with cabbage, fried potatoes and mustard. You cannot imagine! Also don’t miss the old guy outside the Blue Mosque who sells bagels and gives you for free La vache qui rit portion! – Soso
2. Rome, ItalyWhat can someone say about Rome, about the Italians, their food and their language? I think my best moments in Rome were when we were walking around from the Piazza di Spagna, to the Colosseum, and the Fontana di Trevi. Suggested hotels-the newly built Caravel hotel (just two stops by bus from Piazza di Spagna) with nice big rooms and a lovely receptionist and Hotel Trevi, with its traditional style in the very centre of the city!!! loved them both, love Rome! – Soso
3. London, EnglandMassive dump, ok for day trips but get out before it chews you up. – Gary
This lavish, 173-room resort makes its focal point an expansive terrace with an infinity-edged pool. The Six Senses Spa is another major attraction, offering traditional-style hammam, as well as an array of top-standard treatments. The rooms at Barbaros Bay follow the motto ‘living spaces are an expression of our souls’, each one designed to channel space, colour and form to enhance the beauty of the view from your floor-to-ceiling windows. On your walk-out balcony or terrace, you can drink a glass of champagne, while the turquoise blue Aegean embraces you peacefully. In the restaurant, garden-fresh ingredients are cooked with pure inspiration, from Barbaros Bay’s top chefs, whose innovation and mastery is clear in the gourmet breakfast cooked for you each morning. Understated elegance is key in this hotel, and you can’t fault them there. Certainly one of the top Purple Travel choices for hotels in Turkey.
Palace is surely the correct word here. The Delphin Palace Hotel, situated on Lara beach has its own 230 metre private sandy beach with clear blue waters. Its 390 rooms, including one special Pink Moon Honeymoon Suite, one King Suite and one Presidential Suite, each have a mini bar refilled daily, a direct telephone, satellite TV, balcony and parquet floor. Though the food is all-inclusive, choices are not limited choices and the highly-rated food ranges from sushi to barbecue and champagne breakfasts. In addition to the a la carte dining and main restaurant options, there is a 24-hour lobby bar and juice bar at no additional cost. Even the mini-bar can be accessed for free. You only have to read a few reviews to get a grasp of the level of this hotel – the only complaint you will find is that A couple of plans for sightseeing were ruined because there was almost no reason to leave the hotel. There are computer games, free Internet, tennis, water slides, a movie theatre, discos and more on site.
Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul was once the residence of the last Ottoman Sultans. Now, restored to its former glory, the luxury hotel prides itself on a marriage of traditional Turkish hospitality with up-to-the-minute five-star standards. The architectural grandeur of the palace is enhanced with all the modern comforts a deluxe hotel should possess, dramatically situated on the shores of the Bosphorus. A peaceful resort ambience in the centre of the city, this 315 room ‘palace’ is also within close walking distance of the harbourside district of Ortakoy, a fascinating area full of seafood restaurants, specialty antique, ceramic, jewellery shops and a colourful street market at weekends. And if you can drag yourself out of the lavish surroundings of the hotel for long enough, there are some of Istanbul’s most famous open-air restaurants and nightclubs close by too.
Sumahan on the Water was once the industrial factory that distilled the high proof ingredient for “Raki” – the famous Ottoman drink. This restored nineteenth century construction is an uncommon example of what really is a solicitous transformation of an historical building, particularly for Istanbul. The hotel combines exceptional design with a respect for the sites’ historical context; Suma is the word for unadulterated spirit, whilst han was the word for inn in Ottoman times. Situated on the waterfront of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, the Sumahan has just 20 rooms. However, each accommodation is accredited with its own, individual design, sensitively done to showcase the architectural style of the building itself. Along with its own special character, each room has a spectacular view of the river Bosphorus, the divide between Asian and European Istanbul.
The Istanbul EDITION is an exclusive hotel, which boasts a fifteen-story tower with 78 guest rooms and an outstanding, full-floor penthouse. Its multiple venues include a three-story spa by ESPA, the Cipriani restaurant, the Lobby Bar, a drawing room and even a screening room and in-built nightclub. Constructed in the form of a intricate jewel-box, each room includes an entrance vestibule, bedroom area, work station and seating area with wall-to-wall windows overlooking the city. The guest rooms feature Bang & Olufsen state-of-the-art oversized flat screen LCD televisions with integrated stereo; custom imported linens; complimentary high-speed wireless internet; fully stocked mini-bars and 24-hour room service. At Istanbul EDITION, you will find serious luxury.
Arnavutköy (meaning Albanian village) has to be one of the most beautiful suburbs in Bosphoros. Its shore is lined with pretty, wooden art-nouveau style houses and a row of excellent eateries gaze onto the waterfront. Tucked shortly behind these is the bijou Villa Denise, a hotel that charms its guests with luxurious, colourful, Topkapi Palace-inspired fabrics. Small kitchens and microwave ovens inside the rooms mean you can still make yourself at home and feel comfortable, even amid the grandeur. Although you probably won’t be cooking much once you discover the unexpected Spanish restaurant on the ground floor, an amazing, hidden treasure, well away from the tourist rush.
A supreme escape in a pin-drop peaceful countryside location, the Letoonia Golf Hotel overlooks the Acisu River and the glistening Belek Sea. Boasting top-notch facilities that extend the hotel’s own private golfing range, guests will find it hard to leave the fabulous pool complex that’s set inside the hotel’s lush lawns and swishing palm trees. That’s fine though, as there are five impressive pools to choose from, including the tropical lagoon-style pool along the hotel’s front, the rectangular pool that’s perfect for swimming laps and if you want to escape the heat, there’s even a peaceful indoor pool. The service is unbeatable; guests can even take free lessons from golf pros on the hotel’s own driving range or putting green. Or if golf’s not your thing, try your hand at watersports, tennis, and basketball or drop in at the fitness centre where you can work out, take a yoga lesson or join in an aerobics class. After burning all those calories, you can then lavish in one of the three atmospheric restaurants, serving seafood, Turkish and Asian dishes.
You won’t find bigger luxury than here, literally. Kusadasi Aqua Resort Hotel is set in seriously extensive grounds, equipped with numerous swimming pools, slides, loungers, parasols and pool bars to enjoy. As if this wasn’t enough, there is also a full programme of day and evening entertainment, including beach activities and a large theatre to enjoy shows in; there is a games room with snooker, bowling, playstation, kids club, toy room, indoor and outdoor playgrounds; and there are numerous sports facilities including tennis courts, table tennis, mini football, basketball, beach volleyball and a pony club. A pony club! This place is huge. For when you need to chill out from the constant bombardment of entertainment, there is a spa offering Turkish baths, massages, various other treatments and a gymnasium.
Guests can enjoy a bite to eat in one of the two main restaurants or one of the five a la carte restaurants serving Turkish, Exotic Asian tastes, Italian specialties, steaks and fresh seafood. Think Disneyland in Turkey.
A mini Amsterdam in Turkey, the Orange County Resort Hotel mimics the unique Dutch architecture of the sixteenth century. Set on the coasts of Kemer, between the magnificent natural view of the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean, Orange County takes its theme from the fishing village of Volendam located near Amsterdam. Inside charming Volendam houses designed for families with children, are 513 luxury rooms, including some specially decorated Van Gogh rooms. The grounds also boast a pool area of 5000 m2,a magnificent private beach and wharf, exceptional international cuisines, nightly entertainment and daily activities, including poolside aerobics.
If you’re looking for one of the most unforgettable hotels in Turkey, meet the Kremlin Palace. Built on a sandy beach, the hotel boasts some magnificent architecture, modelled on the original Kremlin Palace in Moscow, which was intended to emphasize the greatness of the Russian autocracy. The entrance, named the ‘Gate of Resurrection’, is a near copy of its original which is situated at the entrance of Kremlin Square in Moscow. Likewise, the main building which comprises a stylish lobby, main restaurant, reception and conference centre, is almost a perfect copy of the ‘Museum of History’. All rooms are situated in 4-6 storey building blocks equipped with 10 elevators, a la carte restaurants, a spa and a fitness centre, pools, beach and unique convention saloons. You’re certain to feel like royalty in the ‘wow factor’ hotel.
For more on hotels in Turkey, call Purple Travel now on 0207 993 9228.
Heating up in Spain It is starting to heat up in Spain, how about the Costa de la Luz? It’s a slightly quieter alternative to the hustle and bustle of the Costa del Sol. With temperatures usually rising to the mid 20s towards the end of the month, the city of Cadiz is a charming holiday experience and claims to be one of the oldest cities in Western Europe. There’s lots of archaeological and historical sites to discover, while the beaches nearby are perfect if you prefer chilling out.
Go diving in Egypt The coast of the Red Sea is fast becoming one of the best places for underwater fun, with diving, surfing, windsurfing or kiteboarding all on offer. Add that to sunshine, great beaches and the best in all inclusive hotels and holidays in Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt during May are worth watching out for.
Godfather Holidays Sicily An Island drenched in culture and history, Sicily is packed with delicious food, scorching sunshine, azure blue skies and of course Godfather legacy. In May Sicily is at the perfect temperature, it’s not *too* hot, with temperatures around the mid 20s. Head for Savoca, a hillside village, a winding drive from Taormina where you’ll find Bar Vitelli, where Michael spoke with Apollonia’s father about their proposed marriage. Next, stop at Sant Agostino, the scene of Vito’s escape from the Don Ciccio’s men and finish in Palermo, and the Teatro Massimo which featured in the Godfather Part III. If you love movies, you’ll love it.
Cape Verde Calling If you haven’t heard about this smattering of islands just off the coast of Senegal then get ready, because you will soon. Travellers have started to visit just for the weather (all around sunshine) but often end up returning for the rhythms, the food, the friendly locals, perfect beaches, the excellent hotels, stunning scenery or sublime natural amenities. Take your pick! Sal and Boa Vista are the bigger of the islands and well represented with hotels, bars, restaurants and resorts. Needless to say Cape Verde is in our top tips for 2013.
Get Crete without the crowds A smart idea is to book early for Greece so you can avoid the worst of the crowds. Crete is our top choice. Most resorts should have fully reopened by the end of the month, but it won’t be too busy so you can enjoy near empty beaches, chilled out coffee shops and an unfussy holiday in warm sunshine.
City break in Istanbul So, you may have heard Istanbul is one hot ticket. Having been crowned Best European Destination for 2013, the glittering mosques, and simmering melting pot of culture, cheap hotels and great nightlife make Istanbul a great choice for a cheap city break.
Go a little further If Europe isn’t quite hot enough for you, then there are always a couple of long haul options, such as Mexico or the Dominican Republic. There are some great deals for package holidays so you don’t even have to lift a finger once you arrive. The beaches stretch for miles, the waters are warm and crystal clear and 4 and 5* hotels right on the sand mean you can get from bed to beach in no time.
Find out more about the best cheap holidays in May from the expert team at Purple Travel or call us directly on 0207 993 9228.
You may have heard that Turkey’s second second city, Istanbul, has been voted this year’s best European destinationin a public vote. But if you’re left wondering what all the fuss is about, take a walk through this ancient city with this week’s infographic.
PurpleTravel.co.uk wants to find you a cheap holiday that you’ll never forget. Check out our top 10 best free attractions in the world before you decide on your next break away.
1. Kensington High Street Roof Gardens, London – It’s the biggest roof garden in Europe and is home to three different themed gardens, Spanish, Tudor style, English garden. What’s not to like? Image via @ Arripay
2. Park Guell, Barcelona – The lively Catalan city’s park is a feast for the eyes, with coloured lizards, tiled walkways and Gaudi’s inimitable style everywhere to see.
4. St Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican – The symbol of the Pope and one of the holiest sites for Catholics across the world, St Peter’s is also home to some of the most breathtaking collections of art in the world with works by Michealangelo. Image via @ RandyOHC.
5. Smithsonian, WashingtonDC – The biggest museum complex in the world, this is a whopper – with 19 museums, a National Zoo and nine research centres. Image via @ Wikicommons.
6. USCapitol, WashingtonDC – Visitors can wander around the impressive outdoor area of the Capitol and admire the iconic façade of the building. Image via @ Wikicommons.
7. NotreDameCathedral, Paris – One of the most well known buildings in the world, Notre Dame Cathedral is a miracle of architecture right in the centre of Paris. Image via @ Wikicommons.
8. The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul – It’s one of the biggest covered bazaars in the world with 58 alleys and more than 4.000 shops. That’s definitely where you’ll find a bargain! Image via @ Wikicommons.
9. Central Park, New York – Spring, summer, autumn or winter, Central Park is a delight for the senses, and an escape from the (sometimes) high prices of the Big Apple. Image via @ Wikicommons.
10. Symphony of Lights, Hong Kong – A huge light show offers a stunning backdrop to the city every single night. Grab a good place to watch it and soak up the colours, lasers and atmosphere. Image via @ Wikicommons.
The results are in! If you’re looking for a European City Break, then why not go to the official, Best European Destination 2013: Istanbul. The fabulous city has taken spot in a public vote, with just 439 votes ahead of its nearest rival, the Portuguese capital Lisbon.
The famous city is right on the dividing line between two continents and has an amazing mix of culture, cuisine and good times. Filled with clubs and restaurants, there are live gigs, cafes and street art to impress younger people, and a variety of museums and galleries culture vultures will love, it truly is a city that offers something for everyone.
2013 is set to be a landmark year for the city too, with the Istanbul Biennial, pop concerts, special exhibitions and Orhan Pamuk’s recently opened museum of Innocence. It’s also the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic by Ataturk, with huge celebrations on the cards. With so much happening and a bit of a reputation as a city that doesn’t sleep, it’s not surprising Istanbul took the top spot with 12.4% of the vote.
Here are some of the nice comments people shared about Istanbul:
Hatice aus Berlin: Istanbul is the best city of the world and sooo nice i love turkey <3
Otfire: I S T A N B U L – the ONE and ONLY! :))
Mark: If new york was in europe, guess we call it istanbul.
Nikos: Vote for Istanbul, it is the best city in the world!
Mikey: İstanbul is the most beautiful city of the WORLD 😉
Busra: I think Istanbul is the nicest city of Europe because there are many things with History which are very important and there is a big nice blue sea which creature a good atmosphere at nigt but normal days too. You can see different cultures and many other persons of the world. There are many modern buildings too which is interesting too. Everybody have to visit Istanbul it is only perfect !!!
Adam: Istanbul is an unique city and not only in the europe but also in the world. It is the oldest city of the old world. Other cities in the list are new and more or less same cities compare to istanbul.
Susan Gurz: After travelling most of the world, ISTANBUL is my favorite
The minute you land in Istanbul you’ll be amazed by its magical atmosphere and beauty, as well as (more importantly?) the smell of spices drifting through the air. The good news is, it’s not difficult to find something tasty to eat in this superb city, we’ve got the the insider’s guide to the best kept foodie secrets in the Turkish capital. Be prepared, the best places to eat are found in dark narrow alleys, on the fourth floor of abandoned looking buildings, without any signs of life. Enjoy our Istanbul Food Guide. And remember, if there’s something we’ve missed please let us know in comments.
Click here to read where to eat like a local: Ibiza and Athens editions.
The first and foremost (m)eating you have to taste is the infamous kebab (this is found in a variety of dishes, consisting of grilled or broiled meats, usually lamb or beef, on a skewer or stick). You’ll probably find numerous kebab corners all around the city, but we reckon the best place is to enjoy this delicious meal overlooking the magnificent Golden Horn, Bosphorus and Galata areas. Head for Hamdi Restaurant in Eminonu which has been serving mouthwatering Turkish dishes since the late 60s.
Tip: Make sure that you book a table on the top floor near the big glass window to enjoy the panoramic view.
These tiny pasta treats (kind of Turkish dumplings) are served with a generous spoonful of yoghurt, melted butter and ground-up red pepper. One of the best places to savour manti is at Marko Pasa restaurant in Taksim. There, the manti are freshly made, right before they’re cooked.
Tip: Highlight of the restaurant is the making of the food in the front window, so that people can watch how they are cooked.
Wandering around the city, you’ll find it tough to find a place NOT selling these treats from the sea. It is a cherished treat and that’s something all Turks agree with. Eat them fried with garlic sauce or, even better, stuffed with spicy rice, pine nuts and more rarely with raisins. Mussels are brought to you by a waiter that grates the zest from a lemon right on your dish as it is served. Head for the fish market, Balik Pazari for the tastiest.
Tip: Buying mussels from street vendors is not recommended, because you might be unlucky to experience some side effects, you can probably imagine what we’re getting at.
Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. This divine pastry is available in every confectionery, but for the ultimate baklava go to Gulluoglu in Karaköy. There you can taste as many of the twelve different original recipes as you like.
Tip: Ask the shop owners to let you watch the ritual of baklava making. The baklava masters start making the filo pastry by taking an oath on baklava, which is really funny!
Turkish coffee is a ritual. Made in a special pot called a cezve, finely ground coffee is boiled, usually with sugar and served in a cup where it’s allowed to settle. (This is a very important bit!) Coffee and drinking it is so important in Turkey, breakfast is known as Kahvalti, literally meaning “before coffee.” While walking to Eyüp, a stop at Pierre Loti café is a must. Have an aromatic Turkish coffee and admire the view over the city and Golden Horn.
Tip: To find your fortune, all you need is a simple cup of coffee. When you’ve finished your cup, tip over the residue onto your saucer and read what the future holds for you.
Ps. If you’re feeling adventurous, the Kokoretsi (actually a Greek speciality, but also served in Turkey) is definitely one to try. Made mainly from goat or lamb intestines, it’s usually wrapped in offal and filled with whatever bits and pieces are available, we’re talking hearts, lungs and kidneys.