A magical, ancient place where the east meets the west across the Bosphorus Strait. Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, serving as the country's economic, cultural and historic hub.
Its Old City reflects cultural influences of the many empires that once ruled here. In the Sultanahmet district, the open-air, Roman-era Hippodrome was for centuries the site of chariot races, and Egyptian obelisks also remain. The iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia features a soaring 6th-century dome and rare Christian mosaics.
When it was first settled three millennia ago, it was called Lygos and by 330AD, it had become known as Constantinople or New Rome. Today, it marries a myriad of cultures together in a truly unique and magical visitor experience. For more than 1,600 years, 120 emperors and sultans ruled the world from Istanbul – no other city can make the same claim. Its powerful location is the main reason why it attracted Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Istanbul lies at a point where Asia and Europe are separated by the Bosphorus Strait and is flanked on three sides by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.
The oriental skyline of domes and minarets and the cobbled streets lined with wooden houses, epitomise the old quarter, while relics of Byzantine Christian and Ottoman Empires are dotted throughout. The mighty Byzantine Church of the Holy Wisdom (Aya Sofya) and the ornate pavilions of Topkapı Palace, the centre of the Ottoman Empire still tower over the old quarter in all their majesty. Then there’s the magical Süleymaniye Mosque Complex, which looks over the medieval Grand Bazaar – even in modern times, this eclectic market houses more than 4,000 shops. Much is the same today at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar as it was in 1461 when it was established. Its crowded narrow streets are filled with exotic aromas, side shows and merchants promoting their wares.
A timeless scene that one could imagine taking place at the height of the Ottoman Empire. At the same time, Istanbul is every bit a modern city with a bustling stock exchange cast against a skyline that rivals Manhattan. In some ways, it’s difficult to imagine that gleaming skyscrapers rise from the same ground that was once capital of the Byzantine Christian world. Wars were fought here and Constantinople was the main barrier between Islam and the rest of Western Europe. This it did successfully until 1453 when it fell to the Ottoman Turks.
Top Tourist Attractions in Istanbul
The Blue Mosque.
The Hagia Sophia.