Istanbul Weekend Guide

Istanbul is a fantastic mix of exotic, spicy aromas, brilliant markets and tourist attractions. It's the only city in the world to link Europe and Asia, with the Bosphorus - a strait of water only 70 metres wide - linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.

WHERE TO STAY: Pera Palace Hotel, where Agatha Christie wrote Murder On The Orient Express. They keep her room just as it was. Luxury hotels are around the Taksim Square area. Most attractive are the ones converted from wooden merchants' houses in Sultanahmet, historic centre of the city.

DON'T MISS: Topkapi Palace, former home of the Sultans with wonderful treasures, including an emerald-encrusted dagger. The Blue Mosque, with its magnificent dome (pictured), is covered in thousands of tiles in 99 shades of blue. The Grand Bazaar, more than 3,000 shops selling jewellery, leather goods, fake designer goods, carpets and brassware. Bargain for everything. The Spice Market near the waterfront and Galata Bridge. Brilliant for spices, Turkish delight, herbs, tea, nuts. Turkish baths. International hotels will have them or tell you where to find one.

EATING OUT: Try fish restaurants near the Bosphorus and opt for a meze - loads of small, delicious dishes. For a special evening Vito, an Italian restaurant in Ortakoy, entirely lit by candlelight, is romantic and delicious.

CURRENCY: The New Turkish Lira. Don't change money before you go as you'll get a better rate in Turkey.

INFORMATION: Visa on entry to Istanbul costs pounds 10. Taxis are a cheap and easy way to get round the city.

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