Of all the places we’ve visited, and we’ve been to quite a few, Istanbul is without a doubt the most exotic city we’ve seen. And, for a city with a population of over 12 million people that welcomes millions of visitors each year, it’s a fairly inexpensive city to visit. Added to that, there are plenty of sights and attractions worth seeing.
Click the thumbnails below to read more about what to see, where to eat, and things to do in Istanbul.
Situated at the crossroads between continents, where East meets West, Istanbul has been a powerful center of trade and commerce, controlling – as it did for centuries – the traffic between Europe and Asia, as well as the waterway connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. Though the earliest signs of settlements in the area date back 8000 years, the city’s official founding dates to the 7thcentury BC, when the Greeks arrived and established the city called Byzantium. Later given the name Constantinople during the reign of Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire, Istanbul has served as the capital city of various powerful empires. These include not only the Roman Empire, but also the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire and the Ottoman Empire.
Known as Istanbul since modern times (ca. 1930), the city is steeped in history and offers an abundance of sights and attractions, especially in the ‘old city’, where you’ll find the former palace of the sultans, numerous mosques, an ancient Christian church-turned mosque-turned museum, underground cisterns, the Grand Bazaar and the spice market. And, in the ‘new city’ just across the Golden Horn, you’ll find a number of historic sights mixed in with popular nightspots and some really good neighborhood eateries.
Travel Tip: US and UK citizens traveling to Turkey are required to purchase a VISA prior to their visit. This can be done online. Citizens of some western European countries are allowed entry without a VISA. For more information on obtaining a VISA and whether or not you are exempt, visit the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. To apply for your VISA online, visit the MFA e-visa website.
Note: we purchased, downloaded, and printed our VISAs from the e-visa website and had no problems entering Istanbul.