Istanbul, Turkey: stunningly beautiful.

It’s neither Turkey’s capital nor is it yet part of Europe, nonetheless Istanbul is this year’s European Capital of Culture, reports Hello Magazine. Famous for its key position on the global map, firstly as Byzantium, then as Constantinople, and finally under its current name, it’s a vibrant city with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, overlooking the waters of the Golden Horn and the Bosporus.

Its spectacular location, striking Ottoman mosques and Byzantine churches and bustling bazaars make it worth a visit at anytime, however, as Capital of Culture many of its monuments have been restored, including the city walls, the mosque (formerly a Byzantine church) which houses the museum of Santa Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, heart of the Ottoman Empire for nearly four centuries.

Istanbul has inaugurated a new concert hall and a handful of new museums and art centres this year. Among the museums opened is the Museum of Innocence, inspired by the eponymous novel by the Turkish Nobel prize-winner, Orhan Pamuk; it focuses on the evolution of daily life in the city from the Fifties. Of the number of special events organized you are still in time to see the International Shadow Theatre Festival (Oct 12-16).

And don’t forget the old time favourites. Visit the Sultanahmet old town, where the city's Egyptian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman heritages are clearly visible and steam in one of the area’s Turkish Baths. You can also haggle in the The Grand Bazaar which contains 4,000 shops within 60 streets and where you can find anything and everything.

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