It is a huge city, with tens of millions of residents, offering modern next to the old and grandeur and wealth next to popular simplicity. The rich and volatile history of this city is seen here from every street and corner. Istanbul is full of museums and palaces, as well as mosques, churches and even a few synagogues that survived here.
Many say that Istanbul, like all of Turkey, is like a man who runs to the West, but does so on a train going to the East. Indeed, its geographical location, the encounter between Asia and Europe, makes Istanbul a point of contact, in almost every area, between East and West. But it also rips this city between the worlds and creates constant tension - political, social and cultural - between the dominant Muslim religion here and the secularism inherited by the legendary leader Atatürk of the new Turkey.
In the year 196 CE the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus besieged the city and destroyed large parts of it. Emperor Constantine (306-337 AD) restored and enlarged it in the 4th century AD and re-inaugurated it in 330 CE as the "New Roma." It became the new capital of the Roman Empire. Later it received his name "Constantinople."
With the division of the Roman Empire, the city became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. The location and strength of the Byzantine Empire, its new name, made it a cultural and commercial center and in the 9th century it became the largest city in Europe.
But Crusades, conquests and destruction, weakened the Byzantines and in the 15th century they barely controlled the city and its immediate surroundings. This allowed the Ottoman Turks to occupy Constantinople and turn it into Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire for 500 years. After the defeat in World War I and the fall of the empire, Ataturk, leader of the Turkish Republic, transferred the capital to Ankara.
Still, in the 20th and 21st centuries, Istanbul remained the cultural, economic, commercial and tourist center of Turkey. The city may no longer be a place armies shed blood over, but its size, its vast population, its unique position in space and her history doesn't allow it to be forgotten.
This allows Istanbul to enjoy both worlds at once - the progress of the European continent on the one hand, and the tradition and past of the Asian continent on the other.
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In terms of weather, it's best to visit Istanbul in spring (April-June) and autumn (September-October). In the summer, the humidity is tiring, warmer, you'll have to wander through masses of tourists, the prices will be higher and you will have to stand in long lines. In the winter you will have a relaxed visit and good prices, but it is cool here, and even cold. Spring is a fair compromise for Istanbul - more pleasant, less crowded than the tourist-bombed summer, and also a little cheaper in lodging.
Tip: Buy an "Akbil" ticket at the airport, a discount for public transportation throughout the entire vacation in Istanbul.
Walking in the Old City is the most convenient way to see the place. The urban buses here are red, and the metro is not in tourist areas, but trips can be combined with buses, taxis or simply walking, and reached cheaply, easily, and quickly.
Children travel for free - by bus, ferry and even on the Sightseeing Istanbul bus.
In order to save on public transportation, buy the economical "Akbil" card at the kiosks in the city or in the central stations. This is a pre-paid card that gives discounts. At the end of your stay in Istanbul you will receive back the deposit fee. The ticket is good for buses, ferries and airports.
If you want to go to a Turkish bath - these are significantly cheaper on the Asian side. They are also more authentic and less touristy. A real, cheap Turkish bath is Carsi Hamami, next to the Asian side ferry station. The price is a quarter of that on the west side and you can also enjoy massage scrubbing of your delicate body.
The Meyhane, where alcohol and food lovers go, is a tavern supplier and a Turkish tavern supplier. Most of them eat good and inexpensive.
With culinary offerings from the most varied and rich in the world, With culinary offerings from the world's richest and richest, Istanbul restaurants are also an atomic food hub. Here are some of the most popular dishes in the world. The meal will always start with a Mezeler, which are appetizers, vegetarian appetizers, or Dolma, which are meatless vegetables cooked in olive oil, here and there with seafood.
Turkey has traditionally specialized in restaurant kitchens. There is a distinction between specialization in meat, fish, street food, burekas pastries, or filo pastries. There are the "wines", which serve wine and mazes and small dishes. There are delis that specialize in mini desserts or lukum shops, marzipan and dried fruit sweets and so on.
All this means that not every place will excel in everything and they will be focused on what they are good at. But the Turks understand that tourists expect full service. So you will often see waiters carrying delicacies and food from restaurant to restaurant, to satisfy the diners' desire. A restaurant with an excellent dessert will bring it to its neighbor, a burekas from a nearby street stand, a fish from a restaurant specializing in fish and so on.
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The shish-kebab is the grilled steak on the grill and so on. In general, the word kebab is used in Turkish for everything that was cooked on the grill (shish) or baked in the oven.
And, of course, the stuffed ones are the best there are, although the best of the Turkish stuffed ones is an eggplant filled with a wonderful culinary delight, dubbed "Imambayıdı," means "the fainted Imam." They say that this is what happened to the imam who tasted it for the first time ...
The vegetable dishes with meat that are cooked here are also known in the clay pots in the oven and in Turkish they are called Gibecz. These wonderful cooked dishes also include eggplant in various styles, along with delicacies such as muskas, stuffed peppers and onions.
Other local hits are the eggplant, rice and beans dishes, or the stuffed intestinal stew called paça.
It is customary here to sip Ayran's glasses, which is the wonderful yogurt with the sour-sour taste, and there is also a great yogurt soup in the Turkish kitchen that is worth ordering.
At the end of the meal you can order a sutlach, which is baked rice pudding and tastes great. An equally wonderful dessert is Ashura, an amazing delicacy made of wheat, dried fruits and nuts. There is also Ekmek Kadayif - a dessert of bread baked for many hours in sweet syrup and served with Cayamak. But in the desserts there is also Turkish delights in every scent of every color, shape and taste, oriental cakes full of almonds and pistachios, baked baklavas, kanafas, kadaifs and hot halva that can be as wonderful as you can imagine.
The street food here includes the burekas, which is considered one of the most popular pastries in Turkey. In its crisp pastry dough, the Turks fill Bulgarian cheese or cheese, eggplant, potatoes, spinach and other fillings. What goes great with burekas is an Iranian or yogurt drink in Turkey that goes with anything.
In Istanbul, the Ballyk Ekemek, the fish in the bun, is also popular. This popular dish is a delicacy that the Turkish people eat as a satisfying mid-meal or as a shopped and self-sustaining meal. These sandwiches are made of fresh, fried fish that is put into a fragrant roll.
Other popular street foods here are Simit, which is a fresh, warm billet with sesame, a lemajun, a kind of Turkish pizza, with minced meat instead of cheese. Also known are the dry sujuk sausages, which hang here in every corner and the Turkish filo, topped by Su Börek, made of Yufka dough leaves and excellent for eating alongside a cup of hot tea.
Sweet lovers will try the delicacy of the Eastern Lokum, with its exotic taste, which also includes almonds, pistachios and coconut.
The two most famous shopping sites of this city are the Egyptian market and the big market, also known as the "covered market" or simply the "big bazaar."
Clothing brands can be bought in the streets of Eastclal and Cumhuriyet - the name of the boulevard that continues north, after Taksim Square.
Leather products will be found in the big bazaar, as well as jewelry. The pottery decorated there are colorful and beautiful, but note that they are not suitable for the dishwasher.
The biggest shopping center in Istanbul and one of the largest in Europe is AkMerkez. It is in the Etiler region, northwest of the Republic Bridge on the Bosphorus. This mall is full of excellent shops and a free bus will pick you up from Istiklal Street.
Shopping is really cheap on Ordu cad, which crosses the Old Town. It is located in the Laleli neighborhood, which extends south of Ardo Street to the Grand Bazaar. In this neighborhood you will find hundreds of wholesale shops, with very cheap prices and almost everything you will look for. The selection here includes clothing, household items, decorations, gifts, accessories, food and utensils. The selection here is huge and they say you can find everything in the shops and markets, but at a very cheap price.
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Next to Istiklal is also Taksim Square, which is the modern heart of the great city. There are plenty of restaurants and nightclubs in and around it.
In Istanbul you will find tourists as well. The Meyhane is a pleasant place to enjoy, eat and drink alcohol, a certain type of Turksih taverna or Hamara. Here you can mainly drink Raki (Turkish Arak), and eat small plates on the side.
Most of the Meyhane in Istanbul are located in Taksim Square and offer food and drink, Turkish music, and often live performances.