When to fly?
Istanbul’s tourist season runs from April to the end of October and July and August are the busiest months. If you plan on visiting during these months, it's recommended to search for flights to Turkey far in advance, especially around the festival dates, such as the Istanbul International Music Festival held every June and July. This highly prestigious event showcases classical music, ballet, opera and traditional music from a variety of well-known international artists. Many festival goers book a flight to Istanbul for the music and stay for a holiday.
The chill and wetness of winter fends off most visitors, but you will find fewer crowds and cheap flights and hotels.
The shoulder seasons of April through June and September through October have mild weather, fewer tourists, and slightly lower hotel and flight prices. It is also when the Tulip Festival takes place. Although tulips are widely associated with Holland, they are also an important symbol in Turkish and Ottoman history and can be seen on tiles in mosques, literature and on royal clothing. The Tulip Era also signifies an Ottoman Empire period in history. To celebrate it, Istanbul parks are filled with different coloured tulips, for about 10-15 days during either March or April. This coincides with art exhibitions, photo contests and other events in Sultanahmet and Taksim Square. Another event which takes place during this period is The International Istanbul Film Festival offers movie buffs the chance to view Turkish movies with English subtitles. Starting late March and lasting two weeks, this festival is definitely for those travellers who are looking for something slightly different.
The city is perched on the Bosphorus Strait and boasts a glorious imperial history. Istanbul has been the capital city of four empires - Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman. Its cultural heritage practically sings from the cobbled stones of the Grand Bazaar where traders and tourists haggle over treasures; in the Aya Sofya (also known as Haghia Sophia, its Greek name), and in the Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi), which was the official residence of the Ottoman Sultans for almost 400 years.
One of the best ways to experience Istanbul is through the mouth-watering Turkish cuisine. Specialties include mam bayildi (an eggplant and tomato dish, mam bayildi translates as "the priest wept" such is its deliciousness), mercimek corbasi (red lentil soup), kofte (meatballs), testi kebab, borek (a pastry that has hundreds of varieties) and sweet, sticky, syrupy baklava.
It would be a waste to take cheap flights to Istanbul and not visit a traditional hamam (bathhouse) or take a ferry trip between Eminönü (Europe) and Anadolu Kavagi (Asia).
A European capital of culture in 2010, Istanbul has caught the public imagination. It is an increasingly popular destination for anyone with an appetite for the out of ordinary. Starting with the Blue Mosque, probably the city's best-known landmark, through the bazaars including the Grand Kapali Carsi and spice, to the magnificence of the Topkapi Palace and the nearby Istanbul Archaeology Museums, Istanbul is no ordinary city.
Cap it off with a night cruise of the Bosphorus to see the city from another perspective.