The only city in the world to be located across two continents, Istanbul has a rich heritage spanning the Byzantine, Roman, and Ottoman empires. Situated on both sides of the river Bosphorus, Turkey’s most populous city bridges Asia and Europe both geographically and culturally, and has always been a hub for trade, commerce, and multiculturalism.
Most of the famous historical sights of Istanbul are located in Sultanahmet, the old part of the city which essentially made up the ancient city of Constantinople in the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods. This area is worth visiting just to look at the architecture on display, but it is also in this district that Istanbul’s oriental bazaars are all located. Legendary for the shopping experience on offer, the Grand Bazaar is a staple tourist attraction. With over 5,500 stalls selling everything from spices to rugs, from chess sets to jewellery, you should be prepared to spend at the very least a couple of hours here – and come equipped with a calculator and your finest haggling skills. For better bargains head to less commercialised bazaars. The famous Topkapı Palace is also situated in this district of the city, and is filled with relics of the Ottoman Empire.
It would be rude to go to Turkey and not indulge in some Turkish Delight, or Lokum as it is traditionally called. It is recommended to buy it fresh rather than in pre-packed boxes, and to try new flavours rather than the typical rose-water or lemon flavours available abroad. As for the cuisine of Istanbul, most of the dishes have an Arab influence and you can also expect lots of sweet and sour fruit and meat combos. A well known dish is Kavun dolmasi, a melon stuffed with minced meat, rice, almonds and pistachios. Istanbul is a heady mix of sights, smells, and sounds; the ancient and the modern; and the East and the West. It has something that will appeal to everyone, and should feature on everyone’s to-do list.