Few cities in the world can boast the culture, history and grandeur of Istanbul. Founded over a thousand years ago as the Greek colony Byzantium, the city later grew into its importance as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire as Constantinople in 330 CE. The city finally changed hands, and names, again in 1453 with the Ottoman conquest under Sultan Mehmed II.
Since then, the city of Istanbul has been a truly global city, and one cited as a bridge between Eastern and Western cultures and societies. The city’s cultural and historical sights certainly reflect this long and illustrious history. With each foot in Europe and Asia, Istanbul represents a diversity of cultures found nowhere else in the world.
Getting into Istanbul
As a major transportation hub between Europe and Asia, Istanbul is relatively easy to get to from anywhere in the world. Istanbul has two major airports, Ataturk and Sabiha. Most major airlines fly into both airports, as well as native Turkish Airlines, which has bases in most parts of the world.
One thing to keep in mind is having a valid visa, which can be applied for online. For all American visitors, a valid passport and visa is needed to enter Turkey. The visa is also valid for a maximum of 90 days.
Once you arrive, staying in Istanbul is easy. As one of the largest cities in the world, Istanbul has a wealth of hotels, vacation rentals, and other visiting accommodations.
Staying in Istanbul
The Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel is family friendly and located in the central historic district. Only a two minute walk from major public transportation hubs, the Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel is a great place to stay for those interested in sightseeing the city. The Grand Hyatt is a great choice for a stay in a luxurious environment in the center of the city. The Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel is also a great choice. Located on the European side of the city, its rooms look down on the Bosphorus, giving you a view on the city’s straddling of Europe and Asia.
In a city as large as Istanbul, a major consideration to keep in mind is distance to public transportation. To really get a feel for the city, you’ll need to travel to different parts. Unless you want to pay for taxi rides, public transportation is indispensable here.
What to Experience
The city of Istanbul is full of incredible sights, sounds, smells and tastes. In a city brimming with palaces, churches, mosques and other sights, here are just some of the best to include in your trip to Istanbul.
Otherwise known as the Blue Mosque for the beautiful tile work that adorns it, this functioning house of prayer and worship was built in 1616. Expect to see many in prayer when you visit. Conservative attire, with legs and shoulders covered (but no shoes inside) is a must.