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Istanbul, the ancient Constantinople, city built on two continents as the new Rome, center of the world, referred to as Queen of the cities in the ancient times, is a magnificent meeting point of cultures, nations, arts and traditions, the city everyone has to see at least once.

Istanbul (the name comes from the Greek phrase “eis tin Polin”, meaning “in the city”) was built by Constantine the Great and named Constantinople after him. The city was built as the new capital of the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD. Located by the Bosporus strait separating Europe and Asia, Constantinople was an important metropolis for thousand and a half years, serving as capital of both Byzantium and Ottoman Empire and is now the largest city in Turkey and the country’s economic and cultural center.

The city has a lot to offer and some stunning places to see and enjoy.  Long and turbulent history of the city, the layers of influences left behind by the ancient cultures – Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman –  all make Istanbul a unique and magnificent place.  Our list includes only the most important sites of Istanbul and is by no means complete.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, interior

Hagia Sophia, Interior

Built by Justinian the Great in the 6th century in only five years, Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom) was one of the largest and most magnificent churches in the Christian world. After the Ottoman conquest in 1453, the church was converted to an imperial mosque. Nowadays a secularized museum, Hagia Sophia is the best preserved Byzantine monument in the world. Fine mosaics and stunning architecture still show the grandeur of the ancient empires.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque in Instanbul

Blue Mosque

The Sultan Ahmet Mosque, also known as Blue Mosque for the blue tiles embellishing the walls of its interior, is one of the most famous monuments of the entire Islamic civilization. Completed in 1616, Blue Mosque is a stunning feat of architecture of the classical Ottoman era. The mosque has six towering minarets and 260 windows shedding light over its enormous main chamber, which is adorned with more than 20,000 Iznik tiles.

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace's Gate

Gate of Topkapi Palace

The primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for over 4 centuries, the enormous Topkapi Palace is the genuine jewel of the Ottoman Empire. Treasury, mint, library and other imperial buildings overlooking the Golden Horn, the Topkapi Palace is a major tourist attraction.

Grand Bazaar

Operating since the late 14th century, the Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s largest covered markets, with 58 streets and over 4,000 shops. The Grand Bazaar is an ultimate Oriental experience with  its jewelry, leather, pottery, spices and carpet shops.

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern of Constantinople

Built by Emperor Justinian the Great not far away from Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern is the largest cistern lying beneath the city of Istanbul. The Basilica Cistern served as the main water filtration facility of Constantinople and was crucial for the citizens during the many sieges of the city. Also referred to as “The Sunken Palace”, Basilica Cistern features stunning Byzantine colonades and ancient Greek sculptures.

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