Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey with a population of over 12 million, is located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea. Capital of mighty Christian and Islamic empires, Istanbul was always a bridge between east and west. Now, Istanbul is standing as the only city sitting on two different continents: Europe and Asia.
Istanbul manages to link the two continents not only physically, but culturally as well. The differences on the two sides of the city are considerable, and the way the city life is integrating the European and Asian diversity is unique.
Getting to Istanbul is a trip that can be planed by air (landing at Ataturk Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport), car, train or by boat. Istanbul has a temperate oceanic climate which is influenced by a continental climate, with hot and humid summers and cold, wet and occasionally snowy winters. Summer is generally best time to visit, with averages of 27 degrees Celsius by day (expect some days to also reach 35 degrees).
As a bridge between East and West, Istanbul offers many landmarks to visitors from its wealth of historic and religious places. Among the ancient monuments dating back to Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods, you have the Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque (image), Basilica Cistern (built by Romans, near the Blue Mosque), or the Topkapi Palace.
The Eyup region offers an incursion to visit city’s holiest Islamic shrine and what daily life in Ottoman Istanbul was like. Istanbul also serves a business district, modernly built, with sky-scrapers. If you go to Istanbul, a visit to hamam (Turkish Bath) is a must; most hamam places will offer scrubbing and or a massage. The nargile (water pipe) is considered one of life’s great pleasures. Though you will find nargile pubs in Western cities as well, the Istanbul experience is something to try.
A walk to the Theodosian Walls is also a tour to put in your itinerary. The original walls of Constantine from 408 AD were replaced in the reign of Theodosius. These walls then became the critical point of defense of the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and their Ottoman successors.
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