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Top things to do in Istanbul this summer


From relaxing in one of the city’s parks to dining al fresco or enjoying an evening cruise, Istanbul offers a host of summer pleasures. Here we offer the 10 must-do activities

Emily Scrivener,

Take a boat to the Princes’ Islands
If the heat and commotion of the city become too much why not take a ferry over to the Princes’ Islands? With no cars allowed, the islands are a great respite from the traffic of Istanbul. On Heybeliada, a number of good fish restaurants line the front, and there are also several bakeries selling perfect provisions for a picnic.

Enjoy live music across the city
See and hear the best of musical talent against the backdrop of the Istanbul skyline. The Istanbul Music Festival takes place from 31 May to 27 June this year, offering a wide range of world-class talent from classical music to opera to jazz. This year also marks the 21st Istanbul Jazz Festival which is set to liven up the city with more than 200 musicians performing at 13 different venues.

Eat under the stars
Istanbul has a wealth of terraces and gardens where you can dine al fresco, with many restaurants overlooking the stunning waterfront of the Bosphorus. During summer in the city many of the restaurants have a great party atmosphere, with DJs playing an assortment of music throughout the night. We love Ulus 29 for great food and music.

Jump aboard a Bosphorus cruise
With so much to see and do on land many people overlook the fact that a great deal of Istanbul’s heritage can be enjoyed from the water. Choose from either a short circle or a full Bosphorus cruise by night. The full tour takes you from Eminönü to the Black Sea, giving you great views of the shoreline of Europe and of the wooded hills of Asia.

Cool off in the shade at Gülhane Park
Formally the royal gardens of Topkapı Palace, Gülhane Park is now one of the city’s most popular locations in which to while away a sunny afternoon. In the height of summer the trees offer welcome shade from the Turkish sun, and free public concerts are staged on weekends.

Relax at Caudalie Spa
When the temperature rises, why not retreat to one of Istanbul’s finest hotel spas? The Caudalie Spa at the Hôtel Les Ottomans offers a range of luxurious pampering treatments including a moisturising honey and wine wrap and a hydro massage with vine extract. To revitalise tired feet sandals are provided that gently massage the soles of your feet - perfect after a long day walking around the city.

Explore the riverside at Bebek
Hidden along a deep sheltered bay on the European side of the city lies the charming neighbourhood of Bebek. Sophisticated dining, beautiful sailing boats and luxury boutiques make this area popular with Istanbul’s high-end shoppers and it’s the perfect place to spend day or two. Take a short stroll past bobbing boats to Poseidon, a renowned fish restaurant on the edge of the water offering a great selection of wines. Then head back to the heart of the neighbourhood for a cup of Turkish coffee in one of the cafés in Bebek Park - the perfect place to people watch.

Istanbul Shopping Fest
Every year Istanbul celebrates all things fashionable with the Istanbul Shopping Fest, which this year takes place from 7-29 June. As well as a wide array of shops offering tax-free shopping it will also present concerts, fashion shows and other performances. Keep an eye out for extended opening hours, too.

Indulge in tax free shopping
From the labyrinth of the Grand Bazaar to the city’s myriad department stores, shopping malls and luxury boutiques, Istanbul will satisfy the most ardent shopper. It is an amazing destination for high-end designer brands, and we recommend heading to leading Turkish fashion brand Beyman in the Zorlu Center as the place to pick up key summer pieces, from sandals to light jackets.

Explore the underground city
While Istanbul’s skyline is dominated by beautiful architecture, beneath the city are equally extraordinary architectural achievements. The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns lying underneath Istanbul. Built to hold 100,000 tons of water, it now is an empty maze of ornate columns and carvings. Naturally cool, it offers respite from the heat above.

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