Located south of the Sea of Mamara and North to the Black Sea, Istanbul is the largest and liveliest city in Turkey even though the political capital is Ankara. The city which has been part of many empires used to be called Byzantium or Constantinople, has the pleasant Mediterranean climate and unlike other big cities in the world, is spread across two continents (both Europe and Asia).
Offering a unique blend of western and eastern culture and heritage, Istanbul’s rich mix of diverse culture attracts tourist from all around the world. The Sultanahmet peninsula gives the much needed sneak peek of the comforts of modern Turkey from the galleries and clubs, architectures, malls, traditional Turkish bazaars, palaces, taverns and mosques.
The city has an abundance of ancient monuments including the Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. The iconic Hagia Sophia which is one of the most important and imposing religious buildings in the world started out as cathedral, later a mosque and now a museum for tourist to visit. Built about 1000 years later, the Blue Mosque is located over an attractive park area just opposite the Hagia Sofia from across the street.
The mosque is decorated with the domes, half-domes and six spindly minarets decorating the skyline around the mosque. It earns its name from the interior gleams with the famous blue Iznik tiles. Most visitors also visit the superb Süleymaniye Mosque Complex which occupies a hill-top above the medieval Grand Bazaar.
Talking about the Grand Bazaar, the world’s oldest shopping mall is a covered city within a city; its miles of alleyways are lined with over 4,000 shops stacked with everything from antiques, jewellery and carpets to Turkish delight. It started out as a small warehouse and has gone on to grow to one of the largest and oldest covered marketplace in the world.
The Basilica Cistern is one of Istanbul’s most surprising tourist attractions. The palace-like underground hall used to serve as water supply source for the royal family and is supported by 336 columns in 12 rows. A visit here is very atmospheric with the columns beautifully lit and the soft steady trickle of water all around you. The Spice Bazaar is another covered shopping complex in Istanbul; it is the perfect spot to get acquainted with the Turkish delight – Lokum as well as dried fruit, nuts, herbs and of course, spice.
Other Notable Attractions includes the Galata Tower, Dolmabahçe Palace, New Mosque, Pera Museum, Museum of Innocence and Princes Islands. With a lively nightlife propelled by its abundantly young population, and an exciting arts scene; Istanbul is truly a city that never sleeps. It’s also a place where visitors will feel welcome.
Discover Istanbul – The City Guide from ISTANBULFIND