Through the heart of Istanbul runs the Bosphorus, the winding strait that separates Europe and Asia and a stretch of water that encompasses the romance of this fascinating city.
The best way to capture the magic is to take a boat excursion up the river, where along its shores you will experience the past and present of Istanbul. Marble palaces, stone fortresses stand alongside yalis (wooden villas) and small fishing communities. At sunset, as you relax on the shores of the river contemplating the red evening light reflecting in the water, you comprehend the attraction felt by the ancient settlers to what is today one of the world's most glorious cities.
Topkapi Palace (Museum, view map)
Now one of Istanbul's leading museums, the Topkapi Palace was the Imperial residence of the Great Ottoman Empire for almost 400 years until the reign of Abdülmecid. The palace was subjected to many changes as it passed from sultan to sultan, but today houses a spectacular museum famed for its large collections of Chinese and Japanese porcelain.
Haghia Sophia (Heritage, view map)
Considered the eighth wonder of the world, this Byzantine Church is one of the largest ancient buildings to be found anywhere. It is the most significant masterpiece of Byzantine art and Eastern Christian church architecture and was completed in 532 during Justinian's reign. The church covers a surface of 7,570 square meters and its dome is 55.6 meters high and 32 meters wide and is carried by 107 columns.
The vast building, with its range of architectural styles, is one of Istanbul's best known landmarks and few visitors to the city miss a trip to view its extraordinary interior.
Blue Mosque (Building, view map)
Dating from the 17th century, this is one of the largest Mosques in Istanbul and is one of the principal features on the city's skyline. The only mosque in the world with six minarets, its real fame derives most from its beautiful interior tiles with flower and tree motifs. On the east side of the mosque is the Arasta, a bazaar for the various tradesmen guilds.
Suleymaniye Camii (Building, view map)
The mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent is yet another of the city's great landmarks set in a complex of surrounding buildings capped by over 400 domes. Its design represents an important development in Ottoman mosque architecture.
Kariye Camii (St-Savior inChora) (Heritage)
Worth seeing for its famous mosaics which constitute one of the world's most important examples of early Byzantine pictorial art. The mosaics tell the story of the New Testament from the birth of the Virgin Mary to a scene showing the Resurrection of Christ. The building was turned into a mosque during the reign of Bayezit II. The surrounding neighbourhood has many old Ottoman wooden houses.
Yerebatan Sarayi (Sunken Palace) (Heritage)
A walkway just above the water allows you to view the forest of stone pillars that support this vast under ground cistern. Built in 532 AD it was at one time supplied by the Valens aqueduct.
Eski Sark Eserleri Muzesi (Archeological Museums) (Museum, view map)
1st Court of Topkapi, Istanbul
Contains the Museum of Antiquities and the Museum of Oriental Antiquities, both of which contain incredible artifacts.
Kapali Carsi (Grand Bazaar) (District, view map)
A vast labyrinth of little streets lined with over 4000 shops selling rugs, pottery, jewellery and countless other goodies.