Formerly known as Constantinople, this is the cultural capital of Turkey and is definitely worth a visit. Famous sights like Dolmabahçe Palace, Topkapı Palace and Hagia Sophia Mosque can be discovered by a boat trip on the Bosphorus straits that run through the city, a bus tour or walking tour. These tours include food and drinks and are accompanied by a guide who will give you more insight into the city’s incredible past. You will be amazed at the beauty of the Bosphorus straits and the exquisite architecture of its landscape.
The Golden Horn is the main inlet of the Bosphorus and is crossed via the historical Galata Bridge. The Bosphorus Bridge is one of three modern-style suspension bridges that connects Europe and Asia. Leander’s Tower, or Maiden’s Tower, is an islet in the Bosphorus named after the tragic myth of a man named Leander who drowned trying to swim to his lover, a priestess of Aphrodite, and the myth of the Byzantine princess who died of a snake bite. Fishing boats can be seen near the shore of Anadolu Kavağı, a quaint little town with wooden houses. Rumeli Fortress was built alongside the strait, to defend the city against incoming ships.
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Dolmabahçe Palace, where Atatürk died in 1938, Çirağan Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace and the grand Topkapı Palace are all worth visiting.
The Egyptian Bazaar is a good place to try out bargaining skills and pick up a few souvenirs. Istanbul Turkish Night Show is a combination of folk dance, belly dancing and a special traditional play in the form of dance called the Asuk Masuk show.
Hagia Sophia, a church that was converted to a mosque, is now one of the world’s most popular museums and Turkey’s most important landmark. This magnificent monument dates back to 537 AD and is famous for its architecture and its high dome painted with intricate patterns and images. Next to this is the ethereal Blue Mosque, whose dome is covered with hand-painted tiles. You will see the charming Old Pasha Villas, Çamlıca Hill and the Hippodrome with its Egyptian Obelisk, Column of Constantine, Serpentine Column and German Fountain of Wilhelm. The Princes’ Islands are a unique getaway, completely free of traffic, where you can take a ride on a horse-drawn cart.
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There are day trips from Istanbul to the nearby Troy, famous for Homer’s tale of the Trojan War, a city dating back to 3000 BC. The Gallipoli Peninsula and its World War I memorials and Bursa, the first capital city of the Ottoman Empire, can be visited from Istanbul in a day. If you want to venture further afield there are two-day trips to extraordinary places like Cappadocia, Pamukkale and Göbeklitepe.