Discover why İstanbul is the new cool

It may be an ancient city with the stories of millenia etched into its foundations, but İstanbul has a contemporary, vibrant energy that is enticing a new generation of traveller

Visitors to İstanbul are prepared for its historic wonders and intriguing heritage sites, with the peninsula inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. They’re ready for its architectural treasures like Little Hagia Sophia, and unique 12th-century masterpieces like Zeyrek Mosque.

What they may not be expecting are the trendy neighbourhoods buzzing with cafes, restaurants and bars; the pop-up galleries, street art and burgeoning live music scene.

Take Yeldeğirmeni, for instance. Located in the Kadıköy district, this once sleepy neighbourhood has come alive with a new wave of artists and creatives settling in, opening studios and adding pops of colour to its buildings with large murals depicting everything from wading elephants and hot air balloons to impressive, abstract dreamscapes.

This bohemian hotspot still teems with rich heritage experiences, so you’re just as likely to stumble into a hidden hipster cocktail bar as you are to wander past one of the first apartments ever built in İstanbul.

Immerse yourself in culture

The Atatürk Cultural Center is a one-stop culture shop for design, architecture and the performing arts

For a more bricks and mortar (and then some) approach to culture, head to the popular Beyoğlu district, where you’ll find a wealth of museums and institutions. Lovers of the contemporary should aim straight for the İstanbul Modern, where a regularly revolving roster of modern works from TÜRKİYE and abroad are displayed over four floors.

While at the Atatürk Cultural Center (known as İstanbul’s cultural heartbeat) you can enjoy the incredible architecture, watch opera, ballet and theatre and generally immerse yourself in the arts in a futuristic one-stop hub.

Further along The Bosphorus coast lies Dolmabahçe Palace, a vast mono-block structure and one of the most impressive symbolic buildings of the Ottoman Empire’s shifting identity in the 19th Century. The palace is set within extensive, vibrant flower gardens and is divided into three unique sections.

One of those sections, once the residence of the Crown Prince, has been turned into the National Palaces Painting Museum. Here you can admire works by the likes of Osman Hamdi Bey, Germain Fabius Brest and Russian painter Ivan Aivazovsky before exploring the rest of the palace grounds.

Shopping with a difference

From the incredible Grand Bazaar to the boutiques of Nişantaşı, Istanbul is a shoppers’ paradise

This permeating theme of ancient meets modern is perfectly captured in the abundant shopping opportunities İstanbul presents. It’s not often your high street trip transports you to the heart of a 15th-century retail micro-city, but at the Grand Bazaar that’s exactly what you’ll get.

The world’s largest covered market, the bazaar has been gradually expanding for nearly 600 years. Here you’ll find everything from decorative plates and dazzling lamps to jewellery, spices, silk scarves and soft furnishings.

Don’t leave without visiting one of the market’s excellent authentic eateries to fuel up on ali nazik (marinated beef on a mashed roasted eggplant and garlicky yoghurt sauce), dürüm (wraps, usually stuffed with lamb) or midye dolma (huge rice-stuffed mussels). Then it’s off to Nişantaşı to peruse the boutiques and luxury stores that line many of the main streets.

Travel sustainably

The charming tram system makes for eco-friendly tours around the city

With so much to see and do in İstanbul, you may find yourself moving around the city regularly. Luckily, the public transport systems of electric vehicles like Metrobüs or the local trams reduce greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion.

This is part of a programme of measures the national tourism industry is putting into place to accelerate its global sustainability practices, and preserve İstanbul, and its ever-evolving cityscape for generations to come.

For more inspiring TÜRKİYE travel ideas, from so-cool city breaks to secret retreats and incredible adventures and experiences, visit Go Türkiye

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