AAA 8045Photo by Fred Bigio

It is probably one of the most amazing destinations in the XXI century, if you were are traveling in the Euro-Asian part of the world. The most populous city in Turkey, IT was one of the major world centers for thousands of years. Formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, it was a home to one of the last Roman strongholds, thousands of years before it was conquered by Sultan Mehmed II, after what it became part of the Muslim countries.

It is one of those mystical destination which boasts mythical history, and legends of surrounding architecture give visitors a sense of wonder. Today, Istanbul is a tourist town. Because of its history as a former center of several empires, it has numerous historical and religious monuments and fascinating buildings. Hookah or oriental pipe is central thing in the social environment of Istanbul. There are various places around town where you can sit back and enjoy yourself.

In addition, Turkish coffee and Turkish delight are the two most important things to try. Turkish cuisine is legendary, and you can choose some of the hundreds of restaurants that city has to offer. Between mosques, churches, synagogues, palaces, restaurants, gardens, cafes and hookah, it will leave you in wonder: is this all just a dream? And, of course, you will be waiting for your next visit.

What to visit?

Hagia Sophia – Hagia Sophia is masterpiece of Roman architecture, the massive dome with a diameter of 31m, more than 1,000 years ago it was the largest enclosed space in the world. The church became a mosque in the fifteenth century when the Ottoman Empire took over the city. Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum in 1935.

Sultan Ahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) – With its six minarets and magnificent architecture, the Blue Mosque impresses with its appearance. It was built between 1609 and 1616. Like many other mosques this one also contains the tomb of the founder, madrasah and lobby. Inside the mosque, the high ceiling is lined with 20,000 blue tiles in a variety of forms, from which it got its popular name.

Sarayı Dolmabahçe (Dolmabahçe Palace) – Architect Garo Balyan mixed the styles of East and West and built a palace for Sultan between 1843-1856. The palace was lavishly decorated with luxurious furniture, crystals and carpets.

Archaeological Museum of Istanbul – consists of three museums: the Archaeological Museum in the main building, of the Museum of ancient eastern works and the Museum of Islamic art. It is filled with Roman sarcophagi, Turkish pottery exhibits and Hittites.

Sarnica Yerebatan (Basilica Cistern) – Istanbul has hundreds gloomy cisterns, which are abandoned since the time when it was Constantinople. The most magnificent one is the famous Basilica Cistern. This giant tank with its 336 marble columns, was used to supply the water to center of Byzantine Constantinople. It gained fame by appearing in the Hollywood film “James Bond – From Russia With Love” in the scene where Bond rowes a small boat through a series of marble columns.

Topkapi Palace – This huge mansion was the residence of the Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years. Although majority of the palace is not available for sightseeing, daily Harem tours are very interesting for tourists. Although the palace changed over the years, its four main courtyards didn’t.

Grand Bazaar – This huge market has started as a warehouse, and then eventually grew into a “merchant’s Mecca” – the largest covered bazaar in Turkey. Bargaining is part of the culture and it includes everything from carpets, jewelry to the spices. It contains more than 4,000 shops so be ready to put on your comfortable shoes, a lot of energy and a good dose of humor to bargain with vendors.

Bosporus – it is 32km long and it physically divides the two continents, Europe and Asia. Be sure to catch the ferry from Karaköy ,from the European side to the Kadıköy on the Asian side.

Çemberlitaş Hamamı (Çemberlitas bathrooms) – Turkey is home to a hammam and this is one of several Turkish baths in the city. It was built by the same architect who was responsible for the appearance of the Blue Mosque.

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