Published On: Sat, Nov 18th, 2023
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The beautiful city that’s so big it’s in both Europe and Asia | World | News

The Turkish capital straddles both Europe and Asia, and thus pulls on each continent’s cultural lineage to provide visitors with a truly unique experience.

Ancient architecture? Yep. Bustling street markets? Got ’em. Authentic cuisine so good you’ll never be able to go to your local kebab shop again? Afraid so. Istanbul has it all and deserves to claim a place amongst the greatest cities on earth.

Despite being Turkey’s most populous city (15 million people call it home), it was actually founded by the Greeks.

Istanbul then became part of the Christian Byzantine Empire before being taken over by the Ottoman’s in 1453. From that point on it could be considered Turkish. However, it wasn’t until 1930 that Istanbul became Istanbul. Prior to that the sprawling settlement, split by the Bosphorus Strait, was known as Constantinople – as fans of The Four Lads or They Might Be Giants will gladly tell you.

The city took its name from Roman Emperor Constantine when he moved the capital of his empire there, before its name changed following the formation of the Republic of Turkey. But that’s enough of the history, here’s some of the things you can do, see and eat when you’re there.

Although I said that the history lesson was over, so many of the must-visit spots in Istanbul are historic that unfortunately it’s not quite done.

The Basilica Cistern is an incredible 6th century underground reservoir, the largest cistern from Istanbul’s Byzantine-era. It boasts 330 marble and granite columns and was even featured in the Bond classic From Russia With Love.

Perhaps the greatest physical embodiment of the battle for control of the city is the Hagia Sophia. Built originally in the Byzantine period as a church, the site then became a mosque, a museum and then a mosque once again.

Both the Basilica Cistern and Hagia Sophia are essential visits on your trip to Istanbul, but they do not form an exhaustive list. There’s plenty more historial treats besides. The Topkapı Palace, for instance, is more than worth a stop-off.

Beyond the historic, Istanbul has a flourishing artistic scene. If you like jazz, head down to Galata and check out Nardis Jazz Club – you won’t be disappointed.

The aptly named Istanbul Museum of Modern Art has you covered if you want some trappings for the eyes. As does the Ara Güler photography museum.

And then there’s the food. Where to start? Whether it’s Peynirli Su Böreği (cheese-filled pastry), Tantuni (a traditional street wrap) or the best doner kebab you’ve ever had, Istanbul has got your tastebuds well looked after.

Can’t decide between a European adventure and an Asian excursion, why not visit Istanbul and get the best of both?

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