Istanbul, known as Constantinople before 1924, is the most populous city in Turkey and the country's economic, cultural, and historic center.
Istanbul straddles Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait.
The city reflects cultural influences of the many empires that once ruled here.
The imperial city of Constantinople was, for nearly a thousand years, the last remaining outpost of the Roman (later termed Eastern Roman or Byzantine) Empire. It was conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II on 29 May 1453, an event sometimes used to mark the end of the Middle Ages. Ottoman rule continued until it was defeated in WWI and Istanbul was occupied by the allies. The Republic of Turkey was born in 1923 after the War of Independence.
The Aya Sofya (formerly the Hagia Sophia) is one of the top tourist attractions and Istanbul's most cherished landmarks. Built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian, it was converted to a mosque during Ottoman rule and afterwards converted into a museum in the 20th century.
Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) gets its nickname from its interior decoration of tens of thousands of İznik tiles giving the blue color effect to the interior. This is one of the finest achievements of Ottoman architecture and a must see site in Istanbul.
The Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque are separated just by the gardens sandwiched between these icons of Istanbul.
Turkish coffee — Dark, strong and ordered with little (az), medium (orta) or a lot (çok şekerli) of sugar.
Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı) - lokum (Turkish delight), dried fruit, nuts, herbs, and of course spice.
Döner - This Turkish classic (döner kebap) comes in many forms including dürüm (döner wrapped in lavaş bread) and iskender kebap (döner on a bed of pide bread with yogurt, tomato sauce, and butter).
Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı) might very well be the world's first shopping mall. This massive covered market lined with shops and stalls is the place to see and experience even if you are not in the mood of buying anything.
Istanbul wouldn't be the same without its many stray cats.