Come to Istanbul to experience thousands of years of history and ancient traditions as they collide with modern cosmopolitan energy. Explore colorful marketplaces and ancient ruins, and then stay up late and experience the fashion and glamour of 21st century Turkey.
Among other sites here, you'll want to see the gallery and the beautiful Byzantine mosaics of the Hagia Sophia. Built as a church under the emperor Constantine in the 4th century, the structure was converted nearly a thousand years later into a mosque, and then a secular building under Ataturk. Now one of the most renowned museums and historic sites in the world, the Hagia Sophia is an indispensable stop on a visit to Istanbul.
After a day exploring the museums and wandering the winding streets of the city, watch the sun set while enjoying a real Turkish coffee in an Istanbul cafe. Then prepare for an evening of exotic culinary adventures, live music and dance performances, and an energetic nightlife that will carry you around the city until dawn.
Here are a few additional suggestions as you plan your trip:
- Take a guided tour of the city: You may want to do this when you first arrive. The process can orient you to your surroundings and point out some alluring sites that you can return to later on your own.
- Take a Turkish cooking class: After you've sampled the traditional cuisine of some of Istanbul's world class restaurants, take a cooking class and learn how to bring these flavors home with you.
- Visit the Istanbul Archeology Museum: As one of the largest museums in the world, this collection contains over one million Greek, Roman and Byzantine artifacts.
- Visit the Blue Mosque: Also known as the Sultan Ahmet Camii Mosque, this is an important and majestic religious site built around 1610. The open market close by is also a wonderful place to explore.
- See a dance performance at the Hodjapasha Culture Center: This theater showcases the traditional dance styles of the regions around Anatolia. Come here to learn more about the culture and history of dance in Turkey.
- See the Basilica cistern: This ancient site lies across from the Blue Mosque and consists of a preserved well and cistern that visitors climb into. Those who enter the well describe it as a haunting and beautiful experience.
You won't have any trouble finding a place to stay while you're in Istanbul. No matter your interests or travel needs, you'll find a wide variety of vacation rental options in almost every quarter of the city. Find a luxurious villa overlooking the bustling streets, or rent a sleek condo or vacation apartment close to the nightlife.
As featured in USA TODAY and recommended by Travel + Leisure in its annual Villa Guide:
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