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City Guide : Istanbul

Spanned on the Europe and Asia continents, Istanbul sprawls over the two sides of the Bosphorus, in the northwest of Turkey. Standing as the only city expanding on two continents, Istanbul is the most populous city of both Turkey and Europe. The city is the cultural, industrial, economic and financial capital of Turkey. The headquarters of the most of national companies and international companies operating in the country are situated at the metropolis. The Istanbul Stock Exchange is located at Istanbul. This culturally, historically and geographically wonderland has been the meeting place of the world cultures and religions. Throughout the history, countless colonies and nations arised within the Anatolian territory. So Anatolia is denominated as the cradle of civilizations. Istanbul, both geographically and historically, is the European aspect of that culture treasury. Beside harboring innumerable civilizations, nations and societies throughout the world history, Istanbul is known as the Capital of Capital Cities mainly due to its condition of being the capital of, in turn, Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire and Ottoman Empire in the history.

Tourist Attractions

Istanbul is absolutely one of the most romantic and panoramic world cities. The city is charming with its two basic facets, the history and the geography. The historical aspect of it allures person. The cultural and historical works and structures attests this charm. Monuments, museums, churches, mosques, synagogues and market places add charm to the incantation of Istanbul. As for the geographical position, Istanbul surrounded by Black and Marmara Seas is composed of two sumptuous peninsulas set apart by the Bosphorus. By the way of the boon granted by nature, the two shores of the Bosphorus is decorated by historical monuments, luxurious villas like Dolmabahce Palace, Goksu and Beylerbeyi Palaces, Rumelia and Anatolia Citadels. Istanbul has common historical structures getting the East and the West together such as Haghia Sophia Mosque, Basilica Cistern.

Haghia Sophia Mosque (Aya Sofya) is one of the symbol historical artifacts situated across the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in the Sultanahmet District. It was initially built as a Christian church by 1st Justinien in the time of the Byzantine Empire. During the history, it was plenty of times exposed to invasions, earthquakes and fires. After Fatih Sultan Mehmet, the Ottoman Emperor, invaded Istanbul It was transformed into a mosque in 1453. Kemal Ataturk, one of the former presidents of the Turkish Republic, converted the mosque in a museum. The walls of Haghia Sophia is covered with the mosaic panels of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and the emperors. Considered one of the finest architectural works in the world, it was originally built as a church. Although Haghia Sophia was occasionally damaged and was repaired and additions were built its essence remains, especially since 1453, untouched.

Another historic building that should be traveled before leaving Istanbul is Topkapı Palace constructed by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 1478 and Dolmbahce Palace constructed by Sultan Abdulmecit in 1856. The Chinese porcelain collection, gold embroidered thrones garnished by valuable stones, irreplaceable codexes, The Ottoman Harems and different valuable artifacts are exhibited within the palace. Topkapi palace was the official residence of the Ottoman Sultans and the center of state administration about 380 years until the construction of Dolmabahce Palace in 1856 by Sultan Abdulmecit.

Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici) is a historic water cistern constructed by the time of Byzantine Empire. Engraving decorations is existed over the some of its 336 columns. It has a capacity of 80.000 m3 water.

Built on the shores of the Golden Horn of Istanbul, Miniatürk theme park is the largest one of its kind in the world. The park harbors more than 105 small miniature models of the historical and archaeological treasuries of Turkey. The miniatures from Istanbul, Anatolia and former Ottoman territories allures hundred thousands of visitors every year.

Istanbul Archaeological Museum placed at Sultan Ahmet is a significant cultural complex. Composed of three centers, the complex is home to the Archeology Museum, the Tiled Kiosk of Sultan Ahmet and the Museum of the Ancient Orient. You will find a rich collection of a long period of time in this cultural center. Another wonderful artifact from the Byzantine Empire term is Kariye Museum decorated with mosaics and fresco works.

Maiden's Tower (Kiz Kulesi) constructed on a small island at the entrance of the Bosphorus is one of the symbol structures of Istanbul. Used as watchtower at the past, the tower is now open to public to enjoy joyous times.

Through the Galata Tower in Eminonu and the Pierre Loti in Eyup, the scene of Istanbul to be watched is quite different and mind-blowing.  

Culture & Entertainment

Being home to a vibrant daily life, Istanbul is an international art and culture center. Art galleries, cultural centers, theater, dance (opera, ballet), music, concert halls, congresses, fairs, festivals, the other cultural events and venues all constitute the cultural treasury of Istanbul.

Ataturk Cultural Center (AKM) at Taksim is the major multi-purpose cultural center in Istanbul. This complex is home to State Symphony Orchestra, State Theater, State Opera and Ballet. The center hosts a great deal of Istanbul festivals throughout the year. Every year, Istanbul International Art and Culture Festival (June-July) is held by the participation of many artists and art-lovers from every part of the world. Introducing the cultural wealth of the city through all the aspects, this festival witnesses opera, ballet, concerts, conferences, films, exhibitions and many other cultural activities. Most of these activities are performed in AKM. Istanbul International Theater Festival generally held in May is organized at AKM.

Istanbul Film Festival (April), International Istanbul Biennial (September) and Istanbul Music Festival (June) are some of the major international festivals held in Istanbul. Ramazan Feast (Ramazan Bayrami; the end of the Holy Ramazan Month) is a three days national holiday and is one of the most dynamic times of the year. Feshane at Eyüp is among the fundamental locations of this dynamism. Also, Kurban Feast (Kurban Bayrami) is Turkey's most significant religious period of 4 days.

Harbiye Open Air Theater is another major performing center in the city. The theater is home to Jazz Festival events and many contemporary concerts. Also, Rumeli Citadel Concerts are popular organizations actualized by the participation of national and international artists.

Cemal Resit Bey Concert Hall at Harbiye is also one of the popular venues for concerts and exhibitions. Especially classic music activities are held at this municipality-owned famous hall. Also, a great range of dance performances are held at the same venue.

Akatlar Cultural Center (Akatlar), Akbank Art & Cultural Center (Beyoglu), Ataturk Cultural Center (Taksim), İs Sanat Cultural Center (4th Levent), Sabanci Performing Arts Center (Sabanci University), Yapi Kredi Cultural Center (Istiklal Steet) and Yunus Emre Cultural Center (Bakirkoy) are among the major cultural centers spread throughout the city.

CNR Expo at Yenibosna and Tuyap at Beylikduzu are the main centers for a great range of national and international fairs throughout the year.

Beside its historical and cultural aspects giving a diversity to the social life in Istanbul, the hearth of Turkish economics pulsates in Istanbul. Lot’s of domestic and foreign corporations are situated within this metropole. The geographical benefactions, the high level of industrial and economical improvement leading a modern and the demographic structure of the society are all the factors for a dynamic, diversified and hectic night life of Istanbul. Istanbul is an amusement center by its modern hotels, exceptional restaurants, discotheques, cabarets, jazz clubs, bars and so on.

Modern discos, bars and jazz clubs are found in Harbiye and Taksim. Cicek Passage over the Istiklal Street at Taksim is a popular place to drink and eat out. Also, the Nevizade Street next to the Passage is an excellent place to taste sea food. The historical restaurants in Sultanahmet are among the most charming alternatives to eat out. Kumkapi stands out with the night clubs, fish restaurants and bars. Ortakoy is one of the best places for the nightlife at the city.

The Bosphorus tour via ships or boats is something that should be experienced anyhow. Princes Islands are placed on the Marmara Sea to travel. There are phaetons to see the islands.

Food & Drink

As a synthesis of east and west, the culture of Istanbul is reflected very much in its culinary tradition. A rich and diverse blend of cultural influences accumulated over the years, the cuisine of Istanbul offers visitors a sumptuous spread of the very best traditional Turkish dishes. 

The range of ingredients used is similarly vast, with recipes incorporating every kind of meat, fish, vegetable, and fruit, besides a myriad of spices. Dishes based on seafood, beef, lamb, goat, chicken, goose, duck, rabbit, and various fowl; casseroles combining meat and vegetables; cold vegetable dishes cooked in olive oil; stuffed vegetables; salads; fruit compotes and drinks; milk puddings and pastries: these are just a few examples of what Istanbul cuisine has to offer.

Whether a confirmed meat eater, a seafood fan, or a vegetarian, diet-conscious or a stickler for spicy food, you are certain to find a host of dishes to your liking in Istanbul.

Ottoman desserts and sweets are concocted from an unusual and surprising range of ingredients, unlike anything you've tasted elsewhere in the world. Puddings made from chicken breast, puddings made with pulses and dried fruits, compotes, marzipan "pillows" filled with rose water scented raisins, baked pastry mixtures or hazelnuts and angel hair pasta in butter and sugar syrups, deep ruby red candied quince, candied butternut squash (a denser pumpkin), rose petals in cream, sherbet, and of course the elastic ice creams, which street vendors still render in acrobatic feats of juggling. Many deserts are served with a cream so thick it can be cut with a knife.


It is possible to pay a visit to Istanbul only for shopping. This is the natural result of Istanbul to be the industrial capital of Turkey.

Situated in the wealthy street of Etiler, Akmerkez differs from other malls.
Kanyon and Metro City in Levent, Profilo in Mecidiyekoy, Cevahir in Sisli are other popular shopping centers of the city, offering thousands alternatives for shopping. With their expensive and world famous stores ,Nisantasi and Bagdat Streets are also popular shopping places.

The most proper place for shopping in Istanbul is the Covered Bazaar. The world famous Covered Bazaar (Kapali Carsi) is, owing to its architecture, history, location, and sheer variety of marchandise, one of Istanbul's most significant tourist sites. The Bazaar has eight different entrances, each of them facing one of the city's most important historic monuments. Anything can be found for every pleasure and for every level of income at the Bazaar. Various examples of Turkish handicraft, historical valuable pieces, pipes made of meerschaum and more are all suitable to be used as gift and memory.

Egyptian Spice Bazaar is located just behind Yeni (New) Mosque in Eminonu, the Spice Bazaar was built in 1660 by the architect Kazim Aga at the behest of Sultan Turhan. It gains its Turkish name, Misir Carsisi (Egyptian Bazaar), from the fact that it once received income from taxes levied on Egypt.


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