Most people who have visited the bustling and cosmopolitan city of Istanbul fall in love with it straightaway. They testify wholeheartedly as to its glory and welcoming hospitality. Some even return year after year, while others find it reinvents their outlook on life, promoting a new path and they return to be an expat by buying property in the city. Many reasons exist as to why it gains so much admiring popularity but ultimately; it does have a luring vibe and a secret ambience that is difficult to put into words yet instantly felt.
Cultures, Traditions, and Interests
Formerly Constantinople and the capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire and Islamic Ottoman Empire, Istanbul has a colourful timeline but combine it with today's secular structure of the country and it is easy to see the diversity of culture, traditions, and interests spread across the city and formed from hundreds of years of multi-culturalism.
Undeniable evidence of this exists in the variety of neighbourhoods from the upmarket and sophisticated district of Nisanti, the hunting ground for affluential Turks often with a western education or travelling experiences under their belt.
The Galata area, famous for its Genoese tower also boasts of small synagogues sitting in among the cobbled side-streets, and behind those walls are untold historical tales of the Jewish communities of Istanbul. Heading further into the heart of the new part of Istanbul is Cihangir neighbourhood, part of the Beyoglu district. Attracting creative people like artists and writers, it has established a contemporary and bohemian vibe where innovation and unique personalities thrive.
The Most Interesting History Lesson You Will Ever Have
Even people with no interest in history find themselves diving into a historical timeline that amazes and wows them, with its hidden secrets and quirky facts, such as the lives of Ottoman rulers and their bizarre protocols.
Buildings like the former church; mosque and now museum of Hagia Sophia are spectacular inside, with its large dome, once the biggest in the world, combined with Christian frescoes on the ceilings and huge Islamic calligraphy plagues hanging from the domineering walls.
Across Sultanahmet square and directly opposite the Hagia Sophia, is the majestic Blue Mosque. Built in 1616, the alternative name stems from thousands of blue tiles adorning the interior. Sitting next to it is the ancient Hippodrome, where chariot races took place for the amusement of Byzantine emperors and in 532AD, was where the famous Nika riots took place, an event that burned half the city and evoked the death of tens of thousands of people.
Close by, visitors descend a flight of stone steps to the Basilica cistern. Holding the upside head of Medusa, it supplied Constantinople with water and famously was featured in the James bond film “From Russia with Love.”
Do not forget the luxury palaces of Istanbul built by Ottoman sultans. Topkapi is a sprawling network of thousands of rooms of which some contain relics like the spoon makers diamond and Muhammad's staff. Heading across the waterway, Dolmabahce Palace with its gold leaf ceilings, crystal staircases, and pure silk carpets historically signified the end of the Ottoman Empire because it depleted their bank accounts and their legacy was as the sick man of Europe.
The amount of historical buildings and stories of famous rulers goes on and on, so much so, entire books will solely feature various aspects of its history. Time spent in the city will be the most fun and productive history lesson that you will ever have.
It Also Screams of Modern Diversity
While the historical value is certainly impressive, it should not distract from modern influences that have engulfed the city since the late 1970s. As well as being a major tourism hub, Istanbul is a centre of commerce, finance, travel, arts and cuisine. The old part of the city, known, as the historical centre is Sultanahmet but across the Galata Bridge, sits Istiklal Avenue and the districts of Taksim and Beyoglu, labelled as the new part of the city.
Here, visitors and locals enjoy hundreds of choices for shopping, nightlife, and cuisine. Street food is eaten in abundance for a mere 2 pounds or tables in upmarket establishments where Dom Perignon sells for 500 pounds or more for a bottle need to be reserved weeks in advance. The nightlife scene ranges from evenings in traditional venues like Cicek Pasaj, to nightclubs featuring top DJs that charge an extraordinary amount for entrance tickets.
Sitting on the shores of the Bosporus, the Modern Art museum exhibits leading and emerging Turkish artists while the Museum of Innocence is the brainchild of Turkey’s leading male author Orhan Pamuk. Annually, various festivals by the film, music, and art industries attract thousands and no matter what people’s lifestyle preferences are, they will certainly find them in Istanbul and be satisfied with the outcome.
It is the Gateway to the Rest of Turkey
Often called the city bridging the East and West of the world, for many Istanbul, is also the gateway to exploring the rest of the country. After a four-day city tour, they head onto places like Cappadocia, a lunar landscape in the heart of the Anatolian region that defies belief with its cave hotels, fairy chimneys, underground cities, and sunrise hot air balloon trips.
In addition, luring international visitors are seaside destinations such as Fethiye on the Mediterranean coast or Bodrum on the Aegean. Others head to Pamukkale, Turkey’s top natural landscape. The white pools of calcium water cascading down the hillside have led it to be nicknamed “the cotton castle” and they often follow it up with an overnight trip to Ephesus.
The ancient city ruins mainly stemming from the Roman Empire surprise everyone with its carefully restored infrastructure such as the Roman houses, public latrines, Celsus library and large theatre that is the best preserved in the whole world. Turkey is a traveller’s delight and Istanbul is a wonderful introduction into a visit that often becomes people’s most memorable holiday. There is every reason to love and adore the city.
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