Go List 201325 PLACES TO GO IN 2013

Show Map Photo: DoreenD, Fodors.com member

Istanbul Buzzy

Stunning historical sights and urban style define the city that straddles two continents

Why Go Now Istanbul has an irrepressible energy that constantly propels it forward with exciting new hotels, restaurants, and art galleries, even while the culture maintains a firm grasp on the traditions of the past. On the European side, Istiklal Caddesi is the heart of contemporary Istanbul, and Istanbulites throng here to stroll the pedestrian-only street lined with modern stores and restaurants. Make sure to check out the smaller streets that branch out, for more authentic meyhanes—literally "drinking places" and also where you find the best mezes. Kadikoy, a hip neighborhood on the Asian side, is frequently compared to Brooklyn, with casual restaurants and a fun nightlife scene. –by Caroline Trefler

Where to StayThe hotel scene is heating up in the Queen of Cities. In 2012, the Istanbul Edition opened to great acclaim, garnering a Fodor's 100 Hotel Award right out of the gate. By late 2013, expect the luxurious new Viceroy Istanbul (located in a former monastery) to open, as well as a massive new Hilton property, named the Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Hotel & Conference Center. The city already has a bevy of appealing hotels, whether you're looking to experience sumptuous luxury in a historic palace or a great value boutique hotel. The small but elegant Dersaadet Hotel is a calm oasis in the busy Sultanahment neighborhood, close to all the major sights of the old city. Or go for the ultimate splurge and book yourself a majestic suite on the Bosphorus, at the 2012 Fodor's 100 Hotel Award–winning Ciragan Palace Kempinski, once a residence for Ottoman sultans.

Insider TipMake sure to take a boat trip up the Bosphorus, but wait till you're over your jet lag or the leisurely pace might lull you to sleep.

Word of Mouth "After dinner, we hopped on a 1-hour boat cruise up the Bosphorus," says Fodorite Dina4. "Being on the water at dusk and seeing all the beautiful houses, hopping clubs, and candlelit restaurants definitely felt like a once-in-a lifetime experience. We hadn't planned on taking the cruise, we sort of just hopped on spontaneously, but we were so happy we did!"

When to Go Late spring and early autumn are the best times to go, when it's not too hot, and the wildflowers bloom on the Princes Islands. There are also a variety of music and art festivals in spring and summer.

Plan Your Trip Start planning using Fodor's Istanbul Travel Guide.

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