Standing as a proud testament to the rise and fall of three great civilizations – Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman – Istanbul seamlessly combines the seductive age-old allure of Asia and the vibrant modernity of Europe. The waters of the Bosphorus , the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn all flow through this glorious city.
There’s a whole world waiting to be discovered in Istanbul, famous for its traditions of hospitality. Start your exploration in Sultanahmet where a plethora of architectural marvels jostle for space in this UNESCO World Heritage site. Standing in the Hippodrome (Roman racecourse), now a park, is Istanbul’s oldest monument, the 3,500-year-old obelisk of Theodosius.
Close by is the famous Imperial Sultanahmet Mosque or the Blue Mosque, so named because of its beautiful interior paneling of blue and white Iznik tiles. Its six elegant spires become the backdrop for a son-et-lumiere during the summer months. Considered one of the beautiful of all the imperial mosques in Istanbul, the white marble Imperial Suleymaniye Mosque was built by Sinan, the most famous architect of Ottoman times. Situated on the West Bank of the Golden Horn, its vast domes and slender minarets dominate the skyline. Other grand mosques in the city are the Rustem Pasa Mosque, the Imperial Fatih Mosque, the Sokullu Mehmet Pasa Mosque, the Mosque of Eyup, and the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque.
Istanbul’s stunning palaces are one of the reasons why this city is such a magnet for visitors. The spectacular Topkapi Palace was once the home of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries. Must-sees are its Harem and its Treasury Room with its dazzling 86-carat teardrop-shaped Spoonmaker’s Diamond (the fifth largest in the world), the emerald-studded Topkapi Dagger, the bejeweled sword of Suleyman the Magnificent, and the mother-of-pearl inlaid throne of Ahmet I. And, while entering the Imperial Gate of Topkapi, don’t miss the ornate Fountain Sultan Ahmet III built in 1728. The palace has even been the subject of a Mozart opera, The Abduction from the Seraglio. The Ottoman-European Dolmabahce Palace, with its ornate gate and beautiful gardens, spans 600 metres of the European shore of the Strait. Visit the lavish selamlik (ceremonial suites) and harem and concubines’ quarters to see its extravagant interiors. Beylerbeyi Palace us a stunning creation in white marble set in fragrant magnolia-filled garden, overlooking the Bosphorus. Built by Sultab Abdulaziz as his summer residence, it once hosted many royal guests including Napoleon III’s wife, Empress Eugenie. Istanbul’s other splendid palaces include Ciragan Palace, Goksu Palace and Yildiz Palace.
MONUMENTS & MUSEUMS
Built by Constantine the Great and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century, the Basilica of Hagia Sophia (now called the Ayasofya Museum) is one of the finest architectural masterpieces of all time. Once the most magnificent church of the Christian world, it was converted into a mosque by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453, and then into a museum by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and the first president of the Turkish Republic. Its awe-inspiring dome and stunning Byzantine mosaics cannot fail to dazzle even the most blasé of visitors. The Kariye Museum, in the Chora complex, is an important Byzantine monument, especially for its stunning 14th-century mosaic depicting scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary. The beautifully restored Haseki Sultan Hamami, now an exhibition center for Turkish textiles and carpets, was once one of the most magnificent hamams in Istanbul with its two grand domed halls. There are many more palaces, monuments and museums to explore in Turkey. Car rental Istanbul is for the confident tourist who wants to explore the sites which feature in any list of Turkey’s top tourist attractions.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT…
It would be a shame to leave Istanbul without taking an unforgettable boat ride up the Istanbul Strait that separates Europe and Asia. Its shores offer breathtaking views and are lined with beautiful palace, majestic fortresses, wooden villas and trendy hotels-a curious blend of the past and present. Embark at Eminonu and sail past Dolmabahce Palace, Yildiz Palace, Ciragan Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, Goksu Palace the fortresses of Rumeli Hisari and Annadolu Hisari, and the two bridges that link Europe and Asia – the Bogazici Bridge and the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. A traditional boat excursion is a great way to see some of the stunning sights of this fabulous city. Leaving Istanbul Turkey car hire is the most convenient way to explore beautiful places and attractions.