Istanbul lies in Europe, or it is Asia? The city in the middle of two differing worlds separates Europe from Asia Minor. At such a position, you can expect a city with a rich history. Istanbul’s history is beyond rich. It’s stinking wealthy with around 2,500 years of tales to tell. The cultural melting pot may not be Turkey’s capital, but it is certainly the country’s cultural and economic king.
The world’s finest example of Byzantine architecture lies in Istanbul. Deemed the “Church of Divine Wisdom”, Haghia Sophia contains Byzantine mosaics, huge Ottoman circular shields and a vast dome surmounting to 56 meters in height. Consecrated in 537 A.D., Haghia Sophia remains one of the city’s most prized structures.
Those looking to be blue won’t find melancholy at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. A symbol and center for religious demonstrations, the Blue Mosque radiates in blue light shining throughout 250 windows. Further hues of blue appear throughout the mosque’s interior with blue Iznik tiles.
Impressive and architecture go hand in hand in Istanbul. Topkapi Palace is no exception, home to Ottoman sultans from the 16th century until 1855. The Palace contains jewels of the original treasury, armory, and silk. Everything about the Topkapi Palace and what it contains exudes Ottoman opulence.
Others are impressed not by Istanbul’s architecture but rather the contents of its museums. Also a 16th century palace itself, the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum holds over 40,000 artifacts from the 7th to 19th centuries. Famed for its carpet displays, the museum also contains Ottoman Koran cases and stands along with illuminated manuscripts and tiles. Also within the city, Istanbul’s Archeology Museums dominate with not one museum collection but several. The museum complex holds a number of notable palace collections sure to waste away the day or days for that matter.
Istanbul’s market scene may be the most grand way or buying, selling and of course, haggling. The Grand Bazaar in the city is easily the best known of Istanbul’s markets. From its ornate ceiling to maze like stalls, shopping here becomes sport. There are around 4,000 stalls alone. Throw in two mosques and you have the ultimate shopping experience.
While the Grand Bazaar regales in its fame and popularity, the Spice Markets adds a dash of flavor and vibrant colors to all viewers. Constructed in the 17th century, the market became known originally for its exotic spices and oils presented from the Orient. Visitors can not only marvel and take a whiff at the spices, but also collect souvenirs and feast on dried fruits and caviar.
Istanbul’s wonders go beyond ground level. The Basilica Cistern takes visitors underground to the old reservoir for water required for the Byzantine Great Palace. Dating back to 532 A.D., travelers can step back and down in time and through a few feet of water. The huge atmospheric structure even knows Bond fame, James Bond. The Basilica Cistern was used for the set of a James Bond film.
Ottoman mosques and Byzantine churches make for a setting only found in one part of the world. Not quite Asia and not quite Europe, it is easy to see why Istanbul was dubbed, “City of the World’s Desire”. Who wouldn’t want to be in the thick of it all, absorbing the cultures of East and West while possessing a character all its own, only found in Istanbul.