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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Beyazit Camii
Located near Istanbul University, this is one of the oldest mosques in the city. It was built in 1506 using materials from Theodosius' forum, over which it was constructed.
Eyup Mosque and Mausoleum
This is the holiest site in Istanbul and one of the most sacred places in the Islamic world. Erected by Mehmet the Conqueror, it honors the tomb of Eyüp Sultan, the standard-bearer for the Prophet.
Suleymaniye Mosque
Commissioned by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and constructed by the great Ottoman architect Sinan, this beautiful mosque patterned after the Hagia Sophia was finished in 1557.
Hagia Eirene
The "Basilica of Holy Peace" dates from the 6th century and was transformed into the arsenal of the Topkapi Palace in the 1460s. Today, its excellent acoustics make it a popular venue for concerts.
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).