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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fatih Camii
Originally built in 1470, this mosque was entirely rebuilt in 1766 after an earthquake. It shelters the tomb of Fatih Mehmet the Conqueror.
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.
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.

Guided Tours of Istanbul