Istanbul At Sunset

Travel Guide To Turkey ~ Discover A World of Turkish Delights

In Adventure & Discovery, Holiday Reviews - Europe, Honeymoons by The H4C Team

Looking for a honeymoon destination that is exotic, romantic and packed with history? Look no further! With its turquoise waters, colourful bazaars, hundreds of historical sites, and unforgettable landscapes, Turkey is a dream holiday or honeymoon destination.

Our travel guide will ensure you get the most out of any holiday or honeymoon to Turkey. Come with us as we take you on a journey through Istanbul and Antalya…

Panormama of Istanbul
Panorama of Istanbul. Photo: Mikael Damkier.

Istanbul

Istanbul is intoxicating, romantic and mysterious. Centuries of Byzantine and Ottoman history have left behind an exotic legacy of grand mosques and majestic churches, lavish palaces and bustling souks.

This melting pot of history provides the city with an air of undeniable romance. The Arabian Nights fairy tale setting is perfect for lovers looking for an exotic holiday or honeymoon destination, with days spent walking hand in hand admiring the enchanting architecture and the evenings spent cruising along the Bosphorus or devouring the delicious Turkish bites, considered one of the best cuisines in the world.

The Byzantine Empire gifted modern-day Turkey with ancient Roman walls, Byzantine churches, columns, public baths and aqueducts. At the same time, the Ottoman Empire is reflected in the hundreds of imposing mosques, curved domes, palaces, wooden mansions and bazaars.

The Apollon Temple Istanbul
One of Istanbul’s treasures: The Apollon Temple. Photo: Heiko Barth.

What to see and do in Istanbul

Basilica Cistern

Basicilia Cistern Istanbul
Basicilia Cistern Istanbul

The underground water reservoir from the 6th century, known locally as Yerebatan Sarayi (meaning Sunken Palace) is one of Istanbul’s splendid historic buildings. There are 336 giant columns (mostly Ionic or Corinthian in style) supporting the structure in 12 rows of 28 columns. Located in the southwest of Hagia Sophia, be sure not to miss the two mammoth Medusa heads used as plinths in the far corner of the cistern.

The Maiden’s Tower

This iconic landmark on a small isle at the entrance of the Bosphorus Strait has a fascinating history, its romantic myths inspiring writers, artists and poets for centuries. Once a watchtower and lighthouse, today you can climb the tower to enjoy the spectacular views back to the city. At night the restaurant is known as one of the city’s most romantic spots for dinner with a view! The Maiden’s Tower’s most recent claim to fame saw it feature as Elektra’s hideaway for the finale of the Bond movie The World is not Enough.

Cruise the Golden Horn

Cruise the Bosphorus at sunset.
Do a Bosphorus cruise at sunset for a romantic twist on this under-rated activty

With so many amazing historical sights in Istanbul, it is easy to overlook a simple yet remarkably worthwhile activity: A cruise on the Golden Horn, the horn-shaped inlet on the Bosphorus, which divides the European side of Istanbul from the Asian side, forming a natural harbour. Soak up the charm of this historical city as you enjoy the enchanting views of numerous iconic historical buildings along the shores—cruise at sunset for a romantic twist.

Princess Islands

Princess Islands are a chain of nine relatively small islands in the Sea of Marmara. They evolved from a place of exile during the Byzantine era to a popular destination for tourists and locals alike to escape to. The primary transportation means are bicycles, electric buses and electric taxis, the latter replacing the typical horse-drawn carriages since 2020. The only sounds you’ll hear are bicycle bells and footsteps, ensuring the islands are an oasis of peace. 

Hagia Sophia

The UNESCO World Heritage Hagia Sophia
The UNESCO World Heritage Hagia Sophia

Quite simple a must-see – if you visit nothing else, you have to make time for Hagia Sophia. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and the contested religious centre of both Christian and Muslim empires. It was the biggest cathedral in the world in the 6th century, and its famous dome, gold-gilded mosaics, and energy attracts people from all over the world. Serving as a museum since 1935, on the 10th of July 2020, a decree was made to proclaim the Hagia Sophia as a mosque formally.

The Blue Mosque

Near Hagia Sophia is The Blue Mosque, formally known as The Sultan Ahmet Camii. A usual mosque has one, two, or even four minarets. However, during the construction of The Blue Mosque, controversy brewed because it would be the only mosque in Istanbul with six minarets, rivalling the Prophet’s mosque in Mecca. After sending a construction team to Mecca, the decision was made to add a seventh minaret to the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Embellished with more than 20,000 blue handmade tiles, stained-glass windows, and the golden brushstrokes of a 17th-century calligrapher, the Blue Mosque features two main sections: a vast unified prayer hall crowned by the central dome and an equally spacious courtyard. It’s an Istanbul must-see.

Süleymaniye Mosque

The truly staggering size of the Süleymaniye Mosque will take your breath away. It represents the classic Ottoman Art built in the 16th century and was created by the legendary architect Mimar Sinan. Offering a fantastic view from the garden through the Bosphorus, it is located on the Third Hill of Istanbul, Turkey. 

Topkapi Palace

Topaki Palace Istanbul
Istanbul’s Topaki Palace

The subject of many of the world’s most colourful stories, Mehmet the Conqueror built the first stage of the Topaki Palace shortly after the Conquest in 1453 and lived here until he died in 1481. Successive sultans lived in this grand setting until the 19th century when they moved to the ostentatious European-style palaces they built on the shores of the Bosphorus. Visit the palace’s opulent pavilions, jewel-filled Treasury and sprawling Harem and fascinating glimpse into the life of sultans, courtiers, eunuchs and concubines during the Ottoman Empire.

View of Old City
A view from the old city of Istanbul to the east with Hammam roof and the Egyptian Mosque in the background.

Antalya

Away from the hustle and bustle, just a short flight from Istanbul to Antalya brings you to the Turkish Riviera, a holiday destination with a gorgeous Mediterranean climate, clear, turquoise waters and more than its fair share of archaeological sites.

Antalya’s old town has a charming atmosphere. Its cobblestone pathways wind lazily down to the Mediterranean Sea and are lined with bars, clubs, restaurants and shops. It is one of the largest cities on the Turkish Mediterranean coast, and there is no shortage of beautiful resorts and hotels perfect for couples on a romantic holiday.

Antalya has a stunning Old Harbor and beaches filled with tourists from all over the world to enjoy its mostly year-round sunny weather. It’s chic and glamorous, but it doesn’t matter where you are in Turkey, history is never far away.

The Turkish Riviera has Greek and Roman historical gems, including the remains of the Temple of Artemis near Ephesus, which dates back to 650BC and is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

What to see in Antalya 

Ruins of Perge

Ruines of Perge, Turkey
Ruines of Perge, Turkey

Visit the Ruins of Perge, the former capital of the Asia Minor region of Pamphylia Secunda, and an incredible example of Roman architecture. Perge was a major city of ancient Pamphylia. It was initially settled by the Hittites around 1500 BC and is the closest significant Roman ruin to Antalya and well worth a visit! Make a day of ruin-hopping by combining it with visits to Aspendos, an ancient Greco-Roman city built during Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It is one of the best-preserved Roman theatres in Turkey.

Düden Waterfalls 

A short boat trip or drive around the coast of Antalya is the best way of arriving at the region’s most famous natural attraction: the Duden Waterfalls. Düden Waterfalls are a group of waterfalls formed by the recycle station water and are just 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) northeast of Antalya.

Explore Kaleici, Antalya’s old town

Tucked back from the limestone cliffs that edge the main harbour, Kaleici is Antalya’s Old Town and has been well-preserved by the Turkish authorities, ensuring an ideal relaxed afternoon in the city.

What is the best month to visit Turkey?

Turkey experiences hot summers and cold winters, so the spring and fall seasons (April, May, and mid-September through mid-November) are good times to visit. The weather in Turkey is relatively mild during these months, so you will be able to explore the cities and the outdoor ruins without being overly concerned about the heat. This is also shoulder season, so there should be fewer crowds, and you might also have a better chance at discounted airfare and accommodation.

Related Article: Top 10 Places to Propose (yes, Turkey is here … discover WHERE to pop the question on your Turkey romantic getaway).