Istanbul, where Europe meets Asia across the Bosphorus Strait between the Black and Marmara seas, has been the crossroads of civilisation for millennia. Book cheap flights to Istanbul and see a sprawling metropolis with a skyline of minarets and skyscrapers where modern financial importance meets historic significance.
Sultanhamet, the oldest part of the city, has endured all of Istanbul’s periods, including those that have most affected the landscape and culture here. Unsurprisingly, it includes important attractions which for many visitors are the main reasons to get flights to Istanbul. Considered one of the wonders of the world, the Hagia Sophia was originally built as a cathedral during the Byzantine era nearly 1,500 years ago, and later turned into a mosque by the Ottomans in the 1400s. The building is a breathtaking mix of these two histories, and full of original surviving mosaics. Facing the Hagia Sophia across a park is the shining dome of the Blue Mosque, built in the 1700s and still in use today. Next to the Blue Mosque is the Hippodrome of Constantinople, a park built on the foundations of a long-gone circus. The Serpentine Column, a remnant of the chariot races that used to be held here, is around 2,500 years old and a must see. The park also contains some incredible obelisks such as the 105ft-tall Column of Constantine.
In the nearby district of Fatih, the Ottoman-founded Kapali Carsi is a beautiful and exotic covered market featuring more than 60 streets and an astounding 3,000 shops: a truly unmissable place.