Istanbul, the city of cities

Byzance or Constantinople, Istanbul is a millennium city, bearing witness to the history of Christian and Ottoman civilizations. It has seen important historical events that have upset Europe and the Mediterranean basin over a period of 2,000 years. Istanbul has a strategic geographic location on the Bosporus peninsula, between the Balkans and Anatolia. It also straddles two continents: Europe and Asia. Finally, it is one of the largest megalopolises in the world with more than 13 million inhabitants.
Istanbul was Turkey's capital until 1923, and it remains the economic and cultural center of modern Turkey. Old Istanbul, including the Sultanahmet, is on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Discover one of the world's most beautiful cities with Air France. Air France offers daily flights departing from major US cities for old Constantinople.

Istanbul, between Christendom and the Ottoman Empire

In old Istanbul, visitors can discover superb ruins that bear witness to hundreds of years of history. Sultanahmet is one of the most visited historical sites. The old quarters of Istanbul include remarkable monuments such as:

  • The Saint Sophia Basilica: built during the Byzantine Empire in 537, the basilica was transformed into a mosque after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 at the hands of the Ottomans. Four minarets were added. There are still golden mosaics, characteristic of Byzantine art.

  • The Basilica-Cistern: built in 530 AD, this amazing and gigantic construction provided water to the imperial palace. The cistern was built underground and has a capacity of 20,6015,419 gallons.

  • The Blue Mosque: it was named for the color of the mosaics that decorate the inside of the building. The Blue Mosque, or Sultanahmet Camii is the only mosque in the world with 6 minarets. It is a recent building because its construction dates back to the 17th century. Its architecture is inspired by both Byzantine art and Ottoman buildings.

  • The Topkapı Palace: building of Ottoman origin, the palace replaced Byzance's acropolis. It is surrounded by 3 miles of ramparts and overlooks the Golden Horn, the estuary that joins the Bosporus and the Marmara Sea.

Other lesser-known monuments are worth visiting, such as the Soliman the Magnificent mosque or the small Saint Sophia.

The shores of the Bosporus can be admired during a boat cruise, and they offer views of sumptuous buildings such as the Dolmabahçe Palace and the Beylerbeyi Palace.

Istanbul has many important archeological museums.
Go to the Grand Bazaar with its 4,000 shops for a relaxing break. The galleries alone are worth seeing. The Egyptian bazaar, also called the spice market, is the ideal spot for souvenirs during your trip to Istanbul.

Istanbul today

Today, Istanbul is a young, modern city. Night life is concentrated around İstiklâl Caddesi, a large pedestrian street that ends at Taksim Square. It is best to go to modern Istanbul at night.

Turkish cuisine is delicious. There are various types of restaurants in Istanbul. In addition to establishments that serve traditional Turkish and international dishes, there are Ocakbaşı that specialize in brochettes and meats that are grilled before your eyes. Like Greece, Turkish cuisine is composed of meze, small dishes that are shared: cucumbers with yoghurt, humus, salty pastries, etc. Turkish cuisine has a large variety of mouth-watering dishes and meze. Discover them during a trip to Istanbul . The best time of year to go to Turkey is between April and October. Istanbul has a Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and hot, sunny summers.

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