Busy Istanbul harbor
Photo by: Minamie’s Photo, Creative Commons

Istanbul is a city in the northwest of Turkey. It is part of the Mamara region. Its name is derived from the Greek phrase meaning “to the city” or “in the city.” This is a city of diverse cultures; it has a European and Asian side. These areas are defined by the lands separated by the Bosphorus Strait.
A modern city of rich history and colourful culture, that’s what Istanbul is. From the intricate structure of Hagia Sophia to Ottoman mosques, lively modern bars, and shopping centers, Istanbul has a variety to offer.

The best times to visit Istanbul are in the months of April to May and September to October. These are the spring and autumn months. Temperatures during these months are relatively moderate and most of the time clear skies can be expected.

Istanbul can be accessed through its two international airports. The larger Atatürk International Airport is located in the European side. And the Sabiha Gökçen International Airport that is located on the Asian side. Getting around Istanbul is by sea and land. Commuter ferries and catamaran are available for transport to and from the European and Asian sides. Light rail transit and trams are also available.

Hagia Sophia is a domed structure with four towers or minarets on its corners. Originally, it was built as an Orthodox church in the Byzantine period. It became a mosque later, adding the four minarets. Today it is a museum for the Turkish Republic. Previously, this structure was the largest domed cathedral for nearly a thousand year in the world; this was before the Seville Cathedral in Andalucia was made. Its magnificent interiors and details are quite an architectural grandeur and must not be missed.

The Basilica Cistern is another unique structure only found in Istanbul. It is an underground water reservoir in the Byzantine period. Today it still exists and was preserved and opened to the public for visit. This cavernous structure has a roof that is 143 meters long and 65 meters wide. It is supported by 336 columns that were made of previous ruined buildings. It is famous for its medusa head carved blocks and teardrop designed columns at the center.

Shopping centers in Istanbul are not quite the typical ones. They vary and most of them are preserved historical buildings. Some of them even have received awards for their designs. The Akmerkez in 1993 has both won “Europe’s Best” and “World’s Best” awards. The Kanyon mall has won the 2006 Cityscape Architectural Review Award for its design.

Nightlife in Istanbul is very much alive; there are numerous bars, restaurants, and pubs near the Bosphorus area. If you are lucky, the Istanbul Arena in Maslak is a frequent venue for world performances. Arts and culture in Istanbul is vibrant. Throughout the year, there are shows and exhibits to indulge in. Major events for fine arts are the Istanbul Biennial and Istanbul International Film Festival.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *