We have just returned from a short trip to Istanbul. If you are thinking about having a holiday in Istanbul, this article will tell you what to do before you go and while you are there.
Where is Istanbul?
Istanbul is the inter-continental city. It is located on three spurs of land between Europe and Asia. The old city lies on the European side of the Bosphorous, with ever growing residential areas on the Asian side. The old city itself is divided by the Golden Horn, a small tributary of the Bosphorous. Istanbul may also claim to be a coastal town. Parts of it overlook the peaceful Sea of Marmara.
The History of Istanbul
The city began its life as a Greek colony. The small town of Byzantium overlooked an important trade route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Ships passing either way would have to navigate the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorous River. The entrance to these two bodies of water is dominated by the hills of Istanbul.
The town later fell under the rule of the Roman Empire. It became a city in its own right when the emperor Constantine I moved his capital there, renaming the settlement Constantinople. After the Roman Empire was split in two, Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. The largest surviving relic of the Byzantine Empire is the Hagia Sophia. This was the largest building in the world until the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. If you are visiting Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia is a must-see.
In 1453 the Ottomans conquered Constantinople and established it as the capital of their empire. This period saw the building of fantastic palaces, awe inspiring mosques and rich bazaars in the city. Ottoman sites you have to visit include: Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace, Süleymaniye Mosque, the Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar.
Where to Stay in Istanbul?
I’d recommend staying in the Sultanahmet area of the city. This area of Istanbul contains all of the major historical sites as well as shops, businesses and transport. Make sure that your hotel has a swimming pool, because beaches are a long boat ride away.
Before Travelling to Istanbul
Before you go to Istanbul you should definitely watch The Accidental Spy. Why am I telling you to watch an old Jackie Chan film before going on holiday? Once you get to Istanbul, you’ll know. Jackie Chan fights his way through most of the major sites of Istanbul in this hilarious martial arts comedy. You will end up touring sites such as the underground Cisterns and saying to yourself “isn’t that where Jackie Chan roundhouse kicked that Turkish gangster?”