Mysterious and majestic, noisy and fabulously beautiful, Istanbul is a bridge between Europe and Asia, between the traditional East and the modern West. Throughout his rich history, he managed to change several names and visit the capital of four empires: the Roman and Byzantine, Ottoman and Latin.
The former capital of Turkey, its main cultural, commercial and industrial center, is divided into two halves, even geographically. It is located on two banks of the Bosphorus Strait, which means that it is immediately on two continents. The European part of Istanbul is conditionally divided by the Golden Horn Bay: the Old City with its famous sights has largely preserved its medieval appearance, and the New and concentrated business and commercial life. The Asian part is less popular with tourists, however, it is here that you can in great detail study the traditions and life of local residents.
Istanbul has many faces: ceremonial squares adjoin here at first glance, cozy courtyards, intricate narrow streets with bright avenues, ancient mosques with modern mansions. The crowded, booming metropolis remains a city for contemplation, for leisurely immersion in an amazing world where times and cultures are mixed.
The metropolitan area of Greater Istanbul includes 39 administrative districts, each of which is divided into several quarters.
Fatih is the main district of the central part of the city, one of the most orthodox and conservative in Istanbul. The most popular quarter for tourists is Sultanahmet, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the St. Sophia Cathedral, the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome and dozens of other unique historical monuments. The Eminenu Quarter is one of the oldest in the city, famous for its museums, mosques and colorful oriental bazaars, including the legendary Spice Market.
Beyoglu is the New City, the main cultural, commercial and entertainment center of modern Istanbul. The districts of Karakoy, Galatasaray and Taksim are located here – the places where the best shops, art galleries, antique shops and coffee houses are clustered. This is a multinational area that has become home not only to the Turks, but also to representatives of the Jewish and Christian communities. Beyoglu is visited daily by more than a million people, most of whom are tourists. The center of the district is Taksim Square, the terminal station of many buses and one of the metro lines. The main attractions of the square are the Independence Monument and the Culture Center named after Ataturk. Galatasaray is an old quarter, founded back in the Byzantine era. Many ancient Genoese buildings have been preserved here, the most famous of which is the Galata Tower, the symbol of the district. A little south is Karakoy, connecting Beyoglu with the historical center on the other side of the Golden Horn.
The pride of the Karakoy quarter is fish restaurants with the freshest seafood.
Another famous district of Istanbul is the prestigious Besiktas, located on the European coast of the Bosphorus. Here you can find Ortakey Marina, Sinan Pasha Mosque, Yildiz and Dolmabahce Palaces, Barbarossa Square. There are many hotels in Besiktas, most of which are quite expensive.
Kadıköy is one of the main areas in the Asian part of Istanbul, an ideal place for entertainment and shopping. Luxurious shopping centers, clubs and restaurants have turned it into a Mecca for wealthy Turkish youth.
Of course, in Istanbul there are not only ceremonial tourist streets, but also working suburbs, one of which is the Zeytinburnu district, located on the European coast of the Sea of Marmara. Its main population is migrants from the east of the country who come here to work.
Guests of Istanbul have a unique opportunity to relax on the shores of two seas: Black and Marmara. The most famous beaches on the coast of the Sea of Marmara are in the Asian part of the city, in the Kadikoy region, in Jadebostan. Their main advantages are free admission, well-developed infrastructure (there are showers, toilets, changing rooms, umbrellas, sunbeds) and a comfortable water temperature – the sea is shallow and warms up very quickly. The beach in Fenerbahçe Bay is more comfortable and secluded: it can accommodate only 50 visitors. It also has everything you need for relaxation: changing cabins, toilets, a cafe and a small restaurant.
What to try
In Istanbul, you will find a whole menu of unique dishes, which are simply unforgivable. You need to start the meal with appetizers: rice in grape leaves, stuffed tomatoes and all kinds of salads with olive oil. Traditional first courses are Chobra thick soup with a base of local kvass and cold Dzhadzhik made from fresh cucumbers with yogurt. Vegetarians will certainly like the stewed vegetables “gyuveche”, as well as Turkish pilaf, which is prepared here not only from rice, but also from bulgur – coarse wheat.