During its long history, Istanbul has served as the Capital of the Roman Empire (330-395), the East Roman (Byzantine) Empire (395-1204 and 1261-1453), the Latin Empire (1204-1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922). Located in the center of the old world, this exotic city is famous for its historical monuments and scenic views. It is the only city in the world which spreads over two continents: Asia and Europe which are separated by a narrow strait - the Bosphorus.
Istanbul is adorned with the masterpieces of Turkish art, the great mosques of the Sultans that crown the hills. The city presents an exquisite, majestic and serene silhouette from all directions. The Golden Horn, which is a very secure natural harbor, has played a significant role in the development of the city. The historic city of Istanbul is situated on a peninsula flanked on three sides by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.
Even if you spend only a short time in Istanbul, you can see much of this great heritage. Although renowned for its mystery and history, Istanbul is also a rapidly modernising country with a prime location; one foot in Europe and one in the Middle East. Thus Istanbul retains its fascinating differences, and its contradictions: mosques coexist with churches, and remnants of the Roman Empire still stand alongside ancient Hittite and Neolithic sites.
While in Istanbul, you may want to discover the Grand Bazaar which is a teeming indoor maze of jewelry, carpets, leather, textiles, and antiques that dates back 500 years. Its sheer size—65 alleys and more than 4,000 shops—is not for the faint of heart. Get oriented by finding the Old Bedestan, the original marketplace, in the center of the bazaar, and remember that haggling is part of the culture.
For an authentic Turkish bath (this is Turkey, after all!), head to the historic Cagaloglu Hamam or Çemberlita Hamam in the Old City. You get a pestemal, or towel, and, after warming up on a hot stone slab for about 10 minutes, expect to be massaged, scrubbed, and soaped up for another 15 minutes, leaving your skin softer than you could ever imagine possible.