Istanbul is the largest city of the Republic of Turkey. With a massive population of 14.1 million, the city is the largest in Europe, second largest in the Middle East and fifth largest in the world. A truly transcontinental city, Istanbul spans across the Bosporus Strait, claiming Europe and Asia as footholds. Founded as Byzantium around 660 BC, it was re-established as Constantinople in 330 AD and would later be the capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire. In 1930, the name Istanbul was officially adopted and the Republic of Turkey set up their capital in Ankara.
Following the British, French and Italian occupation of Istanbul after World War I, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk declared the nation a Republic and the country signed the Treaty of Lausanne, defining the borders for modern Turkey. Ataturk transformed Turkey into a secular and modern state, ensuring political, educational and social reforms. While some worry that today’s Erdogan regime might undermine Ataturk’s vision, Istanbul remains a cultural and educational example of the old meeting the new and creating a beautiful and remarkably successful city.
Istanbul skyline at night. Skyscrapers mix with small cafes, houses and posh estates along the Bosporus.
Miniaturk is a miniature park on Istanbul’s Golden Horn that features 126 models of structures from Istanbul, Anatolia and Ottoman territories outside of Turkey. The park also hosts a children’s playground, large chessboards and a restaurant.
Church of St. Stephen of the Bulgars was cast in Vienna and transported via barge down the Danube in 1871 when Bulgarian subjects of the Sultan demanded freedom from the Greek Orthodox Patriarch. They were provided their own church and a palace for the Bulgarian exarchate.
The largest mosque in the city, Süleymaniye Mosque lies on the Golden Horn on the Third Hill of the Old City. Mimar Sinan, the prolific Ottoman architect, designed the mosque in a simple manner, using white marble, ivory and mother of pearl.
The Bosporus bridge connects the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side, crossing over the Bosporus strait. The bridge is lit by Phillips LED lights nightly and allows for an infinite array of colors to be produced.
Referred to as the Blue Mosque due to the interior walls’ blue tiles, the Sultanahmet Camii is a tourist destination as well as an active mosque.
Constructed on behalf of Sultan Abdülaziz along the Asian side of the Bosporus, Beylerbeyi Palace was completed in 1865 in the Second Empire style. It is thought to have served as a summer palace for sultans and a state guesthouse.
60 streets, 5,000 stores and 400,000 people are what make up the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. A visitor can find anything in the Bazaar, even the occasional celebrity.
The spice bazaar is a study in sensory overload. Vibrant colors of spices, treats and herbs can’t outweigh the aroma of culinary inspiration. Many years ago, the Bazaar was the last stop for the camel caravans traveling the Silk Routes from China, India and Persia.
Turkey has a long adoration of pickles of all kinds. Called turşu, pickle shops in Istanbul carry cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes, and even cherry pickles. Whether made with lemon juice or vinegar, they’re a must have with every meal.
A stunning example of Baroque architecture in Istanbul, the Ortaköy Mosque is located in the Ortaköy neighborhood along the Bosporus.
Maiden's Tower. The legend goes that a young woman was told she would be killed by a snake on her 18th birthday. Her father locked her in the tower, and on her 18th birthday brought her a basket of exotic fruits. An asp found its way into the basket, bit her and the girl died in her father’s arms. Located on a small islet off of the Asiatic coast of Istanbul, the tower was used as a lighthouse and quarantine station, but the inside now boasts a café and restaurant.