Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul
Sunset over Istanbul. Photo Creative Commons License David Bjorgen.

Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, with a population of almost 14 million people. The overused phrase "East meets West" really applies in Istanbul, where the continents of Europe and Asia come together and miniskirts coexist with head scarves.

Istanbul has a myriad of attractions for visitors, particularly those interested in history and religion. Previously known as Byzantium and then Constantinople, the ancient city is a layering of civilization on civilization, empire on empire. As a major religious center for both the Greek Orthodox Church and the Islamic faith, Istanbul is the custodian of one of the world's most important cultural heritages and home to some of the world's most opulent displays of art and wealth, most of which were built in the name of faith.


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Church of the Holy Apostles
This great church was built by Constantine as the resting place of Byzantine emperors, several apostles, John Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian. Destroyed in the Crusades, its materials were used to build the Fatih Mosque.
Hagia Sophia
This world-famous structure is a Byzantine church built by Justinian. It was later converted to a mosque and is now a museum.
Church of the Pantocrator
The Church of the Pantocrator, now a mosque named Zeyrek Camii, is one of the most important landmarks of the Byzantine period. Today it is in a state of neglect.
Orthodox Patriarchate and Cathedral
A rather humble exterior in Istanbul shelters the worldwide headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George (Aya Yorgi).
Fethiye Camii (Pammakaristos Church)
The Theotokos Pammakaristos Church was built in 1292 and served as the headquarters of the Orthodox Patriarchate from 1456 to 1528. It is now a mosque.
Blue Mosque
The cascading domes and six slender minarets of the Blue Mosque dominate the skyline of Istanbul. The 17th-century mosque was built by Sultan Ahmet I to rival the Hagia Sophia.
Kariye Camii (St. Savior in Chora)
This 11th-century church (later a mosque and now a museum) contains one of the finest preserved galleries of Byzantine mosaics anywhere.
Yeni Camii
The "New Mosque" is not so new - it was built in the 1600s. Designed by Da'ud Aga, a pupil of Sinan, Yeni Camii has become a defining feature of Istanbul's skyline.