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Asia meets Europe

Transcontinental Istanbul

In dynamic Istanbul the might Bosporus divides Asia from Europe. This city's fairytale charm is as unpolished as the raw myriad of streets.

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For centuries Istanbul has been known for its multicultural character. The Greeks and the Romans had settlements here. And thanks to its strategic location wedged between two continents along the legendary Silk Road, many traders stayed here enhancing the city's cultural diversity.

We will take you to the best spots on both continental shores.

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Istanbul 03 Europe Bg


The Hagia Sofia, also known as the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi palace and the Grand Bazaar: the European side of Istanbul is packed with famous landmarks and is probably where you will spend the majority of your time. But there is more…

Basilica Cistern

Underground beauty

This is one of the most surprising attractions in Istanbul. Deep underground you will come upon a hall that seems straight out of a palace. Twelve rows with a total of 336 pillars support the ceiling of this sixth century water reservoir used by the emperors of the Byzantine Empire. The fairytale lighting and continuous sound of dripping water create a magical ambiance.

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The artistic and cultural heart

Walk along the Galata bridge with its many fishermen to reach the neighbourhood of Beyoglu, which is guarded by the medieval Galata Tower. As Istanbul's artistic and cultural heart, this part of the city is home to many art galleries, museums and shops.

The busy Istiklal Caddesi is the main artery of Beyoglu, but even more fun is the Asmalimescit. Lined with restaurants, this cosy street comes alive at night. Be sure to visit the Balik Pazari, the local fish market. Many of the shops have been around for almost a hundred years and have very loyal customers.

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Images & Stories / Alamy Stock Photo
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Hackenberg-Photo-Cologne / Alamy Stock Photo

Egyptian bazaar

Heaps of colourful spices

No matter what spice you are looking for, you are guaranteed to find it at the Egyptian Bazaar, also known as the spice market. The bazaar was built in the 17th century. At the time this was a large apothecary that sold spice concoctions and medicinal herbs.

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Today there are still several medicinal shops, but most of the selection now consists of brightly coloured cooking spices, nuts and dried fruit. West of the Egyptian Bazaar is a maze of narrow streets that are a delight to explore.

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Istanbul 07 Asia Bg


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Istanbul's oldest neighbourhood

Kadiköy is Istanbul's oldest neighbourhood and perfect to wander around in the afternoon. The area boasts many historic buildings, including the gorgeous Haydarpasa train station and the Süreyya Opera. But the real draw is the laidback atmosphere and the many bars and terraces. Here you can sip a cup of tea or try the ayran (a traditional Turkish yoghurt drink) and watch the dally hustle and bustle. There is also a daily market with the most vendors on Tuesday and Friday.

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What is there to do on the Asian side of Istanbul? A lot less than on the European side and that is exactly why you should go. This part of Istanbul is rarely visited by travellers. The interior of the hammams was not created for tourists, and the menus of the local cafes cater to the locals. For an authentic experience, grab a ferry across the Bosporus to the Asian side. The boat trip alone is worth the effort.

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A stroll along the water

Üsküdar lies on the shore of the Bosporus. This waterside boulevard is the perfect place to see and be seen and to enjoy the spectacular view of Istanbul's European skyline.

For an even better view climb to the top of Camlica. This is the city's highest ‘mountain’. Grab a table in the cool shade of ancient trees at one of the many cafes or restaurants and drink in the spectacular view.

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Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo
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GM Photo Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Behind the magnificent Mihrimah Moskee lies a tragic love story.

Architect Sinan was madly in love with Mihrimah, the daughter of the Ottoman sultan, Süleyman. However, fifty years old and married, Sinan didn't stand a chance. Ironically he was commissioned to build a mosque in her name. He poured his heart and soul into to the design to create a magnificent building that has been preserved in its original state.

Mihrimah means ‘sun and moon’ in Persian. Sinan created a fairly dark mosque with few windows to symbolize the moon. To further express his love, he built another Mihrimah mosque on a hill on the European shore. This time with a sea of windows to symbolize the sun. You can see both mosques from the Galata Tower.

The Mihrimah mosque

Two mosques and a love-story

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Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
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Sean Burke / Alamy Stock Photo


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