‘City of Majesty at the crossroads of the world.’

Istanbul is Turkey’s most populous city as well as its cultural and financial hub. With one arm reaching to Asia and the other to Europe, Istanbul is the only city in the world built on two continents. The Bosphorus courses the waters of the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn through the city’s heart. Istanbul’s fate has been sealed by its vital strategic location and its enchanting natural beauty. For more than 1500 years, it was the capital of three empires: Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. It was beautified accordingly with magnificent monuments and became a metropolis where different cultures, nations and religions mingled. Those cultures, nations and religions are the small pieces that form the mosaic of Istanbul.

The conquering armies of ancient times tended to ransack the city rather than endow it with artistic treasures, but all that changed with the Byzantines, who adorned their churches and palaces with mosaics and frescoes. Miraculously, many of these remain. Their successors, the Ottomans, were quick to launch an ambitious building program and the magnificently decorated imperial mosques that resulted are architectural triumphs that together form one of the world’s great skylines. In recent years, local banks and business dynasties have reprised the Ottomans’ grand ambitions and endowed an impressive array of galleries, museums and festivals for all to enjoy.

If you plan on visiting Istanbul, behead ready to fall in love this place over and over. There are direct flights available from India and the currency used is Turkish Lira (1 TRY=11.08 INR). The best times to visit Istanbul are from March to May and September and November. That’s when crowds at the city’s attractions are manageable, room rates are average and daytime temperatures generally sit in the 60s and 70s.

Some ancient cities are the sum of their monuments, but Istanbul factors a lot more into the equation. Chief among its manifold attractions are the locals, who have an infectious love of life and generosity of spirit. This vibrant, inclusive, and expanding community is full of people who work and party hard, treasure family and friendships, and have no problem melding tradition and modernity in their everyday lives.

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