The Voya guide to Turkey's largest and most vibrant city, Istanbul.
Positioned exactly between Europe and Asia, Istanbul is the quintessence of East meets West. The Bosphorus flows through the heart of the City, separating the Asian and European sides of Istanbul, as it does, to the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. This strategic position, being the trading port of the Silk Road for centuries, gives the city its own unique flavour. With now 15 million inhabitants, it is a bustling cosmopolitan city full of culture.
The city is mostly shaped by Byzantine and Ottoman architecture, for a perfect example of both of these, head to Sultan Ahmed Square.
Visit the iconic Hagia Sophia, built originally in the 6th century as an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral by the Roman Empire, it was converted into the imperial Mosque by the Ottoman Empire, during the 15th century. Just last century it was converted into a museum, attracting 3.3 million visitors annually. Also located on Sultan Ahmed Square, are the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, more commonly known as the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Once home to Sultan Mehmed II, the enchanting Topkapi Palace not only has many beautifully adorned rooms, but also has a magnificent view overlooking the Golden Horn, the estuary of the Alibeyköy and Kağıthane Rivers.
The Blue Mosque is an active place of worship, although they welcome tourists to visit, in between the 5 prayer times per day. It is important to dress modestly when entering any place of worship, so thankfully there is a specific counter for tourists entering the Mosque to be able to borrow a shawl to cover their hair or body as needed.After your history fix, make sure you spend some time, wandering the streets of the Grand Bizarre area. A souvenir paradise, full of traditional home wear, such as hand painted ceramics, lamps & traditional Turkish carpets. Gaze at the gold, silver & precious stones in the Jewellery market, then head to the spice markets, with their incredible mix of aromas, from perfumes, Turkish coffee, Turkish sweets and local spices. We recommend you find a little tea stall to sit and really take it all in, then enjoy some local Chai mint or lemon tea, with Baklava, a sweet nutty dessert, an ideal energiser.
For some interesting nightlife, explore the now fashionable, art and culture hub of Kadıköy-Moda, watch a movie at the independent Rexx Cinema or see a performance at the Süreyya Operasi.