Although Ankara is the capital of Turkey, Istanbul, is the country's largest city and the administrative capital of Istanbul Province, one of the 81 in which Turkey is divided. One of the characteristics that make it famous, among others, is the fact of being divided by the Bosporus into two areas; the peculiarity is that one of those parties is geographically in Asia and one in Europe.
... And see the pirate captain, singing gaily on the poop,
Asia aside, the other Europe,
And beyond his forehead Istanbul.
José de Espronceda
The first data about its origins speak of the year 330, when it was known as Byzantium, later renamed Constantinople. The city was the capital and center of classical culture of the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire, but it was not until October 29, 1923 when the Republic was officially established and the capital moved to Ankara.
In the 70s of the twentieth century, the city of Istanbul experienced a huge population growth due to migration from Anatolia to find work in the new factories of the city, which made Istanbul began to expand beyond the borders it had until then.
After being declared a World Heritage Site in 1985, the legendary Istanbul has become one of the most tourist cities of the world.
The visit to the city of Istanbul varies depending on time with one counts. Despite these, the main tourist attractions are located in what might be called the center of the city, so take one of the trams that run and go without hesitation to Sultanahmet Square, the epicenter traveler par excellence city. Around you can find the main places not to be missed:
Hagia Sophia: the crown jewel in this part of the world; a real spectacle for lovers of art and history. The current Hagia Sophia served as Byzantine Orthodox cathedral since 360-1453 and after the conquest of Constantinople, it became a mosque. Hagia Sophia impresses with its size, the artistic pieces it houses and for its breathtaking beauty. Do not forget to look in one of the columns of the entrance a kind of hole where you must place the thumb and try to walk around with the palm of the hand on the stone. If you succeed ... you will return to Istanbul!
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 to 17:00 hours (from April to October until 19:00). Closed Mondays.
Hours: Wednesday to Monday: 9:00 to 17:00 (from April to October until 19:00). Tuesday: closed.
Blue Mosque: across the square, with St. Sophia on your back, the minarets of the impressive Blue Mosque start to appear between fountains and trees. This is one of the most spectacular mosques in the world, built by Sultan Ahmed I between 1609 and 1616. Dig into it and lose yourself in its colors, its huge central hall and the prayers of the faithful who pray there.
Hours: daily from 9:00 to 19:00 hours.
Basilica Cistern: As we already told you on our post about this unique place, the Basilica Cistern is one of the most interesting points of the city of Istanbul. Do not miss our previous post to discover!
Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar: markets are probably the most real locations throughout town, where locals and foreigners mix. In the case of Istanbul also acquire a particular mysticism thanks to the characteristic aroma of spices and Turkish food accompanying the traveler on his ride.
But not all there is to do in the city is limited to around Sultanahmet Square. Istanbul offers a host of unique experiences and places you will not find in any other corner of the world, such as the following:
Galata Tower: The tower composes, next to the bridge of the same name, the entry access to the busiest area of the city. Around the tower, through Istiklal Street and Taksim Square until the day and night life is confused between the huge number of people occupying the area at all hours. The tower, on the other hand, is one of the oldest in the world, built in 528 and rebuilt in 1348, and it offers one of the best views over the city. The sunsets from the top of the tower are simply spectacular. Hours: daily from 9:00 to 20:00 hours.
Uskudar carpets: from Istanbul Kabatas port, take a ferry to the port of Uskudar, about twenty minutes by boat. Once there, ask for Uskudar carpets, get there and sit down for tea or Turkish coffee as we did in Izmir while back ago, and lose yourself in one of the best sunsets you'll find in the city.
The authentic kebab: Turkish food is famous worldwide, but not all the variations you have in your hometown. If you want to taste the authentic kebab, ask for the Adana kebab, which talked about in our Experiences section.