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The City of Two Continents

The wonders of Istanbul! A city that takes your breath away. A unique blend of ancient and modern. A heritage that goes back thousands of years – architecture, religions, cultures and peoples all mixed to become what is today one of the most vibrant and exciting cities of the world!

Istanbul is the only city to embrace two continents – Europe and Asia – separated by the beautiful Bosphorus Strait and then reconnected by two great bridges – The Bosphorus and the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. The Bosphorus runs through to the Black Sea to the north and the Sea of Marmara to the south through to the Dardenelles and finally to the Aegean Sea. At the joining point is the beating heart of Turkey – Istanbul.

Founded over 3000 years ago, for centuries it was known as Byzantium. Upon the rule of Constantine the Great in 330AD it was made the Eastern Capital of the Roman Empire and it became Constantinople. The use of this name continued as Konstininnya during Ottoman rule up until the 19th Century. It was commonly called Istanbul in the west, and Stamboul by Turks which referred mainly to the old walled City. In the 1930’s it officially became Istanbul. It is truly the centre of two continents – Asia and Europe, East and West.

What to See and Do

The ancient peninsula was surrounded by land and sea walls on all sides. With its 123 towers and 36 gates the walls were built over the centuries from 3CAD to 4CAD to the protect Istanbul from various invaders.

They were bested only twice – in 1203 by the 4th Crusaders and then when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. The remains of the walls are still visible today.

Undoubtedly one of the greatest monuments of Istanbul is the Hagia Sophia in the old city of Sultanahmet. Rebuilt by Justinian and Theodora in the 5th Century (replacing two previous wooden structures) it was first known as The Church of the Holy Wisdom (Justinian’s words as he opened its doors for the first time “Oh Soloman, I have surpassed thee”).

It remained a great Christian basilica until after Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered the city. It then became a Mosque with 4 minarets being added, and was finally declared a Museum in 1934 my the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustapha Kemal Ataturk.

Since that time its doors have been opened to all people of the world no matter what creed or nationality.

Opposite the Hagia Sophia stands the other best known monument in Istanbul – The Blue Mosque, constructed between 1609 and 1616 under the orders of Sultan Ahmet  to the Architect Mehmed Aga under his master, the prolific Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan.

These two monuments stand opposite each other, reminding visitors of the glorious and tumultuous past of Istanbul. Nearby is Topkapi Palace, and within its gardens the Archeological Museum. And don’t forget the Basilica Cistern!

Cross the Galatala Bridge and catch a glimpse of the new and old Istanbul in one birds eye view! – the ancient peninsula. Bosphorus Bridge, Sulimaniye Mosque and the newly constructed Metro Bridge.

Take a trip to Kadikoy on the Asian side, or the Princes Islands in the Sea of Marmara or take a bus to Pierri Loti Café for a cay and a look down the Golden Horn.

Take the tram to Taksim Square, and walk down Istiklel Street to the Beyoglu district to see Galatala Tower and the funky shops. Buskers line the street at night and shops as open until late. Galleries and cafes abound.

No visit to Istanbul is complete without a cruise on the Bosphorus, where you can view palaces, summer houses and Rumeli Fortress on it shores.

Museums abound: Archeological Museum, Pera Palace, Istanbul Modern, Islamic Museum of Arts and Crafts, Kariye Museum are just a few.

Take a trip to the Asian side – the public ferry over the Kadikoy, or the new Marmaray Tunnel to Uskudar to see a different perspective of Istanbul!

Don’t leave Istanbul without experiencing a Turkish Bath or Hamam – have the luxury or a local experience depending on your budget – and come out glowing!

So many things to see,and do so make sure you allow plenty of time – and expect the unexpected, the hidden gems that will surprise and delight you!


What to Buy

Beautiful carpets, leather jackets and bags, stunning ceramics, miniatures original and reproductions. antiques, lamps! You will find a myriad of things that will catch your eye! Leave room in your luggage or better still buy a new case to take home all your purchases!

The Grand Bazaar is the largest covered market in the world, is as labyrinth of passages and shops. Gold and Silver, carpets, leather, bags, shoes, and ceramics lamps! Everything is on offer.

For spices visit the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, Turkish delight (lokum) of all flavours. Surrounding the Bazaar is the area of Mahmutpasa where you can shop for all sorts of things – from homewares to underwear.

For designer labels visit Nistantasi, Istiklell, St. and the famous shopping centres such as Kanyon, Cevahir, and Forum Istanbul!

What to Eat

From street food to high end restaurants, Istanbul has so many choices for eating. Eat from the many street carts that abound all over Istanbul, from simit sellers, watermelon vendors, corn cooked on coals, to kokoruc (grilled intestines)!

Eat a fish sandwich at Eminonu or the fish markets or mussels stuffed with rice and cinnamon. Specialist restaurants selling kofta, donor, liver. Fish restaurants beneath the Galatala Bridge or at the famous Kumkapi area and Sumatya.

High end restaurants, such as Mikla in Beyoglu with its magnificent view of the old city, Hamdi’s specialist Turkish cuisine. Mavi Balik and Feriye on the Boshporus for a special occasion.

Visit the Beyoglu restaurants, and Cezayir and Nevizade streets with their outdoor tables and bars! Cross to the Asian side to visit the streets of Kadikoy. Ciya restaurant is famous for its tasting Ottomon dishes but also many others to try.

You might like to take a back street walking tour or a culinary course! There are a variety of choices for daytime and evening. Whatever your taste Istanbul has so much to offer.



Turkey Travel Guide Tours