Istanbul, Turkey

With roots going back to 660 B.C., Istanbul has been at the centre of some of the most significant periods of modern history. Today the city is among the most populous in the world, with more than 14 million official residents. It spreads across two continents, European and Asia, which are connected by two suspension bridges. The strait of Bosphorus marks the border between the continents and is one of the busiest shipping channels in the world. 

Istanbul is a city in evolution and is attracting more tourists than ever. This vibrant, colourful city is home to a number of major cultural and economic organisations and an energetic, vocal youth culture. At its core though, is an ancient history of east meets west, providing an abundance of religious sites. 

Various religious influences have influenced the city since its foundation. Today, the majority of Istanbul’s population is Muslim, with Christianity and Judaism also making up large communities within the city. 

Visit the Süleymaniye Mosque, the largest in the city, or the iconic Blue Mosque with its six towers. Nearby, witness fascinating architecture than spans many periods and religions at Hagia Sophia, one of the city’s most popular historic attractions. 

Despite Istanbul’s size, navigating the city is simple thanks to an efficient and affordable network of mass transit services. Trams, trains and buses connect all quarters of the city on dry land, while ferry routes connect the two sides of the city with the Princes’ Islands. The islands provide a unique experience, providing historic summer homes and activities like a ride on a traditional horse-drawn cart. 

With its mild Mediterranean climate, Istanbul has an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. You cannot miss a visit to one of the city’s many produce markets to pick up ingredients for a picnic or to sample local delicacies. Try hand-picked teas, baklava and Turkish delight. Pull up a seat at a restaurant to try three of the most common local dishes: gozleme, a savoury pastry with fillings such as spinach and feta, durum; a doner kebab-type wrap; and içli köfte, a type of meatball. 

You’ll find distinct differences in the cuisines depending which side of the city you’re on. Head to Kadikoy on the Asian side for the highest concentration of restaurants or try local seafood at the waterfront on the European side. Istiklal, the main pedestrian street in the city, is perfect for a post-dinner stroll. Many shops remain open late. Explore the plentiful bars, cafés and other venues after dark.

Istanbul is serviced by two international airports that receive flights from around the world. The metro system will take you straight to the city centre from the airport where you’ll find a range of accommodation for all budgets and tastes.

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