The lowest fare found to Istanbul (IST) was £159 with Alitalia, the cheapest direct flight was £165 with Turkish Airlines, while Business Class was £573 with Lufthansa. The fares shown here are the lowest flight prices to Istanbul obtained in actual searches by Just The Flight customers. To search and book flights to Istanbul in 2013 and 2014, please enter your requirements and click the search button above.
Although Istanbul stands at the gateway to Asia, getting there these days is easy. There are regular flights to this fascinating city, and with a choice of two airports, there's no shortage of bookings. The main airport is 23 km south of the city and handles scheduled international flights to Istanbul, while Sabiha Gokcen, on the Asian side of the city, is mainly used by low cost carriers. This airport is situated further away from the city, so it's not as convenient for quick access to the centre.
There are two international coach stations, and two railway stations, so the traveller has a wide choice of transport. Once in the city there are loads of taxis, an efficient public transport system, ferries to explore the magnificent Bosphorus, and even a funicular railway. So getting around and exploring is really easy.
And you will want to explore. This ancient city is a glorious blend of history and modernity, Eastern and Western cultures, sights and sounds. It's a city of minarets, mosques, bazaars and Christian churches. Its strategic position, looking across the River Bosphorus to Asia, has been the centre of three empires in its long history - the Eastern Roman when it was known as Constantinople, the Byzantine when it was called Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire. For the past 80 years it has been known by its present name, Istanbul.
Once you have arrived, by whatever means, the best place to begin to explore is from the ferry departure point of Eminou. This bustling hub of the city will probably be your first experience of east meets west and the mix of architecture, the noise and the general hub-bub may be bewildering at first, but soon it will thrill you. Eminou Square dates from the time when it was a Byzantine market and is home to a magnificent mosque, an Egyptian spice market, and such 20th century innovations as the city Post Office.
In amongst all this history is a lively modern city, with all that entails. From Enimous Square take a walk across the Galata Bridge, hop on the funicular up to Istaklal Caddesi and a short walk will bring you to Taksim Square.
It is here, in the European part of Istanbul, that you get the best example of east-west amalgamation - as well as the shops, there are familiar hotel chains like the Intercontinental and the Ritz Carlton and, unsurprisingly, MacDonald's and Burger King. With bars, restaurants and a lively nightlife, the area around Taksim is, like Eminou, bustling with people, noise and atmosphere. It's full-on Istanbul and mustn't be missed, even though you may find it a bit overwhelming at first.
Away from the commercial centres there is much to take in culturally. But where does one start in a city seething with history?
Well, the number one spot must be occupied by the Topkapi Palace. This monolithic building was first created in 1453 after Sultan Mahmet conquered Istanbul. Set on a headland overlooking the river it has been added to for over four centuries. It was finally restored in 1923, and transformed into a fabled museum.
The building is so enormous that only some sections are open to the public, but you still need to set aside three or four hours to see most of the exhibits. If time is short you should centre your visit on the Imperial Treasury, housed in the Conquerors Pavilion, the oldest part of the palace, built around 1460. Here you'll see the famous Topkapi Dagger, and the museum's most famous object, the 86 carat Spoon-makers Diamond.
If you have the time, visit the Mosque of the Eunuchs, the Harem, and the uncomfortably named Circumcision Room. Despite its connotations it is worth seeing for its collection of rare tiles.
Tearing yourself away from the Topkapi can be difficult, but there is so much else to see in Istanbul, such as the Hagia Sofia, a church turned mosque turned museum. The famous Blue Mosque is close by so the two sites can be visited one after the other.
If sightseeing has tired you out, plan a quiet boat trip up the Bosphorus next day. An average cruise will last about an hour and a half, and a narrated trip is a great way to learn more about this fabulous city.
You may feel there is too much to see in a weekend, but with cheap flights to Istanbul so readily available there will be plenty more opportunities to return.
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