Istanbul, Turkey

Straddling the Bosphorus strait, which links the Mediterranean and Black Seas, Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city and one of the biggest urban areas in the world. Istanbul has long been a link between Europe and Asia. More recently, it has been one of Royal Holiday’s most exciting destinations. With a history that includes time spent as the home of four different imperial thrones, Istanbul has many names and endless stories that make for a breathtaking vacation. Whether Royal Holiday members choose to travel to the city to explore the remnants of the past or to make a business deal in Istanbul’s rapidly expanding economy, they will find an exciting urban landscape that demands exploration.

The club’s Istanbul affiliate, the Best Western Senator Hotel, offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy the city at its finest. Featuring lavish decor and a location amid the old city of Constantinople, the Senator Hotel provides Royal Holiday members with comfortable studio and ambassador-style lodging outfitted with the latest technologies. The hotel’s many amenities include a spa and health club, while its two restaurants, the Historic Restaurant and the Brasserie Restaurant, offer authentic Ottoman cuisine and international fare, respectively.

While the peninsula region of present-day Istanbul was first settled by Neolithic people more than 2,500 years ago, the city itself has its roots in Byzantium, a city established in 660 B.C. by the Greeks. The city became Constantinople nearly a thousand years later, when Constantine the Great founded what would become the Byzantine Empire, and under that name weathered both the Middle Ages and the conquest of the Ottoman Empire, under which the city was renamed. The Ottoman Turks brought the Middle East to the city stylistically and religiously, leading up to the present day. Royal Holiday members will find themselves exploring a city that has played a role in many of the world’s most expansive empires, all of which left an indelible mark to be traced by the savvy traveler.

Most people will want to start with Istanbul’s major landmarks, such as the Topkapi Palace, where the Sultans ruled, or the street where the Hadia Sophia and the Blue Mosque face each other as a symbol of the city’s religious heritage. Royal Holiday travelers will find numerous opportunities to view history – still living and breathing – firsthand. The Grand Bazaar has been filled with the noise of hagglers for centuries, while the majestic scope of the Romans’ Basilica Cistern brings the ancients’ control over their environment into clear, if haunting, focus. In order to see the city at its finest, a cruise down the Bosphorus will do nicely, while the city’s best walk will be found on the winding street of Istiklal Caddesi, although vintage red trams provide a respite for weary travelers. While Royal Holiday members staying at the Senator Hotel will be on the city’s European side, a trip across the river via the incredible Bosphorus Bridge to the Asian part of the city is well advised, whether one wants to explore the markets of Kadiköy or see the city from atop Çamlica Hill.