General Information

Istanbul, or Constantinople with its ancient name, is quite literally a combination of the serenity of the Orient and the modernity of the West, bridging Asia and Europe together. Having housed many civilizations, it displays incredible history intertwined with the magnificence of the new age.

Istanbul is the only city that is built on two continents. The Bosphorus Strait, running 31 km long, divides these two continents, with the width at the narrowest point being 700 m. Since 1973, it holds one of the longest suspension bridges in the world, and the only one that literally bridges two continents.

Culture and History

The Istanbul skyline is adorned with the beautiful silhouettes of churches and mosques, reminding of the multicultural past of the city. Hagia Sophia (Church of the Divine Wisdom), one of the largest churches in the world, built in 537 AD by Constantine the Great, is particularly impressive with its dome and architecture. After the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 1453, it became a mosque. Since 1934, the Hagia Sophia is open to public as a museum.

The Blue Mosque, the main mosque in Istanbul and the only mosque with six minarets, is another marvelous sighting. Its name comes from the decorative tiles that have a blue tint. Built between 1609-1616 by the architect Mehmet, it is an impressive work of Islamic architecture and art, with over 20,000 faience tiles and 260 stained glass windows.

Topkapi Palace, the residence of Ottoman sultans for many decades, is like a journey into the past. Holding many relics and treasures from the Ottoman period within its halls, it also gives visitors the chance to take a glimpse at the life of the ruling elite within its Harem section. With a magnificent view of the Golden Horn, Galata, Uskudar and Kadikoy from its many gardens and terraces, the palace reminds of the power of the Ottoman Empire. The Palace also holds the relics of the Prophet Mohammed and other items from Islamic history.

The Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi) was built in 1461, and has been a central commercial spot for decades. It is the largest covered bazaar, with a total area of 20,000 sqm, over 4500 shops, 17 entrance gates and 90 lanes, where about 20,000 people work. Almost everything is can be found within these numerous shops: antiques, rugs, clothing, leather goods, souvenirs, jewelry, copper goods, and art items.

The Egyptian Bazaar (Misir Carsisi), or the Spice Bazaar, is where everything that defines the oriental cuisine can be found, from spices, oils, coffee, tea, honey to the famous Turkish Delight. The scents and colors of the spices induce a festival of the senses.

The Istiklal Street, Galata and Taksim, within the Beyoglu District, offer a sense of the 18th and 19th Century Istanbul with its unique European-inspired architecture, combined with Turkish elements, the contrasting but inseparable cultural touches in the neighborhood turns a night’s strawl into a memory of fun and sweet melancholy.