Step Through History in Istanbul
Istanbul, the most populous city in Turkey, is a cultural clash of East and West, and new and old. While home to some of the oldest buildings in the world, Istanbul is a modern global city with one of the largest populations in Europe.
Istanbul is considered Turkey’s cultural and historical centre. Founded as early as 660 BC, it has been essential to the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman empires. You can get some sense of the city’s vast and complex history through its architecture.
One of the most iconic structures in Istanbul is the Hagia Sophia, which was for centuries the world’s largest cathedral and is now a museum. The Blue Mosque is another must-see building for its sheer beauty of colour and construction, with its brilliantly curved domes and blue Iznik tiles. All of these grand structures, and many more, can be found around Sultanahmet Square, which was once the Hippodrome of Constantinople – the capital of the Byzantine Empire.
Once you’ve explored the old, don’t forget to see what this modern city has to offer. Istanbul has internationally acclaimed shopping centres, as well as world-famous markets such as the Grand Bazaar, which has been operating since 1461. While you’re wandering the streets, be sure to pick up some classic Turkish food and drink such as Balik-Ekmek (a type of fish sandwich), fresh seafood, Turkish tea and dondurma ice cream, which uses orchid root extract to give it a unique chewy texture. Finally, no visit is complete without trying the hanam, or Turkish baths.
Istanbul is one of the most historically rich cities in the world, with far too many important buildings to name here. Yet the modern city itself is flourishing with spectacular art, music, food and more. It’s an essential destination for the true world traveller.