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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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.
Church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus
Commissioned by Justinian in the first year of his reign (527), this was an important stage in the development of Byzantine architecture. It is now a mosque known as the "Little Hagia Sophia."
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.
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.