A city that was once known as both Byzantium and Constantinople, Istanbul is the largest city of Turkey with a population of almost thirteen million people. It sits on the Bosphorus Strait and includes the Golden Horn. It is also the only city in the world that is located on two continents, both Europe and Asia. Istanbul has been a capital in a number of empires which include the Roman, Byzantium, Latin and Ottoman Empires. As such, this city is one that seems to flawlessly combine several different styles of architecture, yet at the same time retain a very recognizable city landscape.
This city has more then twenty private and public universities which teach their students a variety of different languages such as English, French and German. Istanbul also has a vast network of libraries which contain works from the Roman and Ottoman Empires. The most prominent of these libraries are the Library of the Archaeological Museum, Topkapi Palace Library and the Library of the Naval Museum.
Istanbul is also home to two major airports. The Atatürk International Airport and the Sabiha Gökçen International Airport. The cities transportation needs are also serviced by several Metrobus lines, light rail, underground funiculars and bus lines. Special transportation needs are serviced by ferries and
gondola lifts. The city also has several venues available for sport fans. These include Sükrü Saracoglu Stadium, Atatürk Olympic Stadium and Sinan Erdem Dome. There are also various venues available for such activities as golf, tennis and horseback riding.
For those looking to partake in the active nightlife in this city have several options available to them. These include the seaside nightclubs such as Sortie,Reina and Anjelique. Other area nightclubs include the Babylon and Nu Pera.One of the most popular visitor attractions in this city is the Haghia Sophia , otherwise known as the “Church Of Divine Wisdom”. This is probably one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture to be found in the entire country, if not the world. This mosque was consecrated in the year 537AD and remained a popular place of worship until it was converted into a museum by the Turkish government. The dome of this mosque rises one hundred and eighty-three feet and notable features are the mozaics and the Ottoman shields inscribed with verses from the Koran. Topkapi Palace is another notable site in Istanbul. This ancient palace has served as the seat of government, a military fort and a harem for many centuries. It was abandoned it in 1855 and today it is a museum. Here all manner of ceramics and manuscripts can be perused by the curious visitor.
The Kapali Çarsisi, or Grand Bazaar, is a site that is popular both with residents and tourist alike. It was built in 1493 and today houses over four thousand market stalls. Other features of this site include a police station, two mosques, restaurants and a money changer. Another fine market to visit is the Misir Çarsisi or Spice Market. It was built in the seventeenth century and today sells all sorts of goods. These include exotic cheeses, spices, caviar, olives and locally manufactured crafts.
The Sultanahmet Camii is often referred by tourist as the ‘Blue Mosque”. This mosque was built in 1617 and is the only mosque in the city with six minarets. Its a beautiful structure that is inlaid with Iznik tiles of a blue hue. It also contains over two hundred and fifty windows that illuminate the interior with a blue light.
Another mosque that isn’t quite as popular as the Blue Mosque, but is still worth a visit is the Süleymaniye Mosque. It was built in the sixteenth century and features a huge dome. Inside are the tombs of Sultan Süleyman and Sinan and the mosque is set within a peaceful courtyard complete with a fountain.
A must see for any visitor to Istanbul is the Yerebatan Sarayi. This Cistern is often referred to as the “Sunken Palace”. It was originally built in 532 AD to be used as a water reservoir. Since then it was transformed into a Basilica. It contains over three hundred columns which are used to support the cathedral like ceiling. An interesting fact is that this location was used as a movie set in 1963 for the movie ‘From Russia With Love’.
An ancient attraction with a modern twist is the Galata Kulesi or Galata Tower. This tower was built in 1348 and was used for defense by the Genoese. It rises two hundred feet above the city and has a cone shaped roof. It has since been converted into a tourist attraction with the addition of a nightclub, restaurant and cabaret. Visitors can enjoy authentic cuisine and belly dancing at this location.
Art lovers should definitely pay a visit to the Türk ve Eserleri Müzesi, otherwise known as the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum. Visitors here can find over forty thousand items dating as far back as the seventh century. Everything from historic Koran stands and cases to rugs and artwork can be found here. Another popular museum is the Arkeoloji Müzeleri Archaeological Museum. This museum is actually a complex of museums featuring three buildings. These buildings house everything from the sarcophagus of Alexander to the facade recovered from the Temple Of Athena in Assos. Other works located here are Byzantine mosaics and ancient Egyptian manuscripts. The Istanbul Modern is a museum opened in 2004 and used to showcase modern works of art, with an emphasis placed upon photographs and paintings. There is also a restaurant and cinema screening room located here.