Istanbul Travel & Vacations in Turkey
Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, is the largest (and arguably the most important) city in Turkey. Located on the Bosporus, the narrow strait between the Black and the Aegean Seas, Istanbul truly bridges Asia and Europe both literally and figuratively. Istanbul's population is variously estimated between 11 and 15 million people, making it also one of the largest cities in Europe and the world. Founded by Constantine the Great in 324 CE on the site of ancient Byzantium, Istanbul was the capital, successively, of the Eastern Roman Empire (324-476), the Byzantine Empire (476-1453) and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922) - this almost unrivalled heritage, as well as its dynamic modern existence, make Istanbul a fantastic destination for for many travellers.
Built on the site of the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium by the order of Roman emperor Constantine, the imperial city of Constantinople was for hundreds of years the last remaining outpost of the Roman and after of the Byzantine Empire before finally falling to Mehmed the Conqueror in 1453.
Istanbul (as Constantinople) was the capital of Turkey until the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, when the capital was transferred to Ankara. The name "Istanbul" was adopted officially in 1930.
Museums and such: Haghia Sophia, then on to the Topkapi museum (these two should take care of three to five hours), preferably along the road in the back of the Haghia Sophia, where there are some nicely restored houses. Then on to the Blue Mosque and the square with the obelisks on it (At Meydani). Along its side is the very good Museum of Islam Art. Descend slightly and find the Small Haghia Sophia with its nice garden (it was under restoration, but you probably can get in). Then uphill to the Sokollu Mehmet mosque complex: top notch tiles inside.
Haghia Sofia Dating from the sixth century, originally a basilica constructed for the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. The huge 30m diameter dome was the largest in the world. Looted in 1204 during the fourth Crusade, became a mosque in the 15th century and minarets were added. It's turned into a museum in 1930's. Don't miss the excellent mosaics, including those in the gallery, reached by a stone slope to the left of the entrance.
Topkapi Palace The imperial enclave of the Ottoman emperors for three centuries. Lavishly decorated, with four courts of increasing grandeur. In the second court in the entrance to the Harem (admission extra) and the State Treasury, housing a weaponary display. The third court has the Imperial Treasury (admission extra). The views from the Fourth Court over the Bosphoros are spectacular.
Be aware of high-drink price scams encountered in many clubs in the Taksim area of Istanbul. In this scam, you enter a club and are shown a menu with certain drink prices on it. When you ask for the bill, the prices have been considerably raised. When you ask to see the menu, another modified menu is produced with the higher prices listed.
A variation of this scam is for young ladies to come to your table and introduce themselves. After a word or two, they leave. When the bill comes, they have charged 10-12 outrageously-priced drinks to the bill, which the customer has allegedly offered to pay for. Also be aware of apparently friendly groups of young Turks striking up a conversation in the street and inviting you to a "good club they know". This has frequently been reported as a prelude to such a scam. The person(s) in on the scam may offer to take you to dinner first, in order to lull your suspicions.
In either of these scams, if you refuse to pay the high prices or try to call the police to file a complaint, the club managers may use physical intimidation to bring the impasse to a close.
Based on work by Ryan Holliday, M. Kerem Kiziltunc, Niels Elgaard Larsen, Denis Yurkin, Paul James Cowie, Tamás Katona, Colin Jensen, pcb21, Dr Adam Carr, Matthew Mayer, Yann Forget and Evan Prodromou, Wikitravel user(s) Benne, Jonboy, Mnd, Jpatokal, EvolutionKills, Markblank, InterLangBot and Akubra and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.
Galata Whirling Dervish Hall: A dancing hall of the mystical Mevlevi order, shut down in 1925 along with all other 'reactionary' movements in Turkey. Today the building houses the Museum of Divan Literature, but the best time to come Sundays between 3 to 5 pm when sema dervish ceremonies are staged. (Buy tickets in advance, as space is limited.) Also check out the small graveyard next door, where the carved fez perched upon the gravestone indicates the occupant's rank in the dervish hierarchy.