Straddling Asia and Europe across the Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul is a place made for fairy tales and romance. For travelers who want to experience the best of both worlds, there couldn’t be a better choice than this city where the ancient and the modern exist in perfect harmony.

The Old City is pervaded with cultural influences from the many empires it was once part of; Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman traditions jostle with each other, giving it an ambiance you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

For those seeking modern pleasures, the Karakoy, Balat and Ortakoy neighborhoods are the ‘happening places’ – with chic restaurants, bars, pop-up souks and hammams frequented by the younger generation.

Stunning Byzantine churches, Ottoman mosques and Roman mosaics will all enthrall you, but no trip to Istanbul is complete without a day spent at the Grand Bazaar. Stepping inside is like walking ‘through the looking glass’ into another era. It spans over 60 ‘covered’ streets with more than 3000 shops, selling everything from spices to rugs to leather bags to the finest jewelery, making it the ideal place to buy gifts for friends back home.

And if you need a break from the bustling city-life, just hop aboard a ferry to take the one-hour ride to the Princes’ Islands, a car-free archipelago in the Sea of Marmara. You can rent a horse-drawn carriage to ride in style to one of the many beach clubs ringing the islands.

Last but not least, Istanbul’s one city where finding something to eat is a dilemma of the right kind – you’re absolutely spoilt for choice. From the delicious street food to the finest gourmet restaurants, eating in Istanbul may be one reason you’ll want to extend your holiday — and come back next year!