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Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is not only where Europe meets Asia; it's where history, built upon empire after empire, meets modern-day commercialism. Explore Old Istanbul's mosques, hippodrome and opulent palaces. Discover remnants of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Test your bargaining savvy with the merchants at the Grand Bazaar and visit the awe-inspiring Ayasofya (Church of Holy Wisdom). Istanbul is the perfect place to step far back in time and admire incredible cultural accomplishments. Don't forget your camera!

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Istanbul, Turkey

Port of Call

The One Thing You Don't Want to Miss

Journey to Istanbul's Sultanahmet neighborhood to experience the astounding Ayasofya (also know as the Church of Holy Wisdom or the Hagia Sophia), an incredible example of Byzantine architecture. The original cathedral was completed in A.D. 537, using columns and marble from other temples around the empire. Earthquakes, crusaders and successive rulers have all left their mark on the Ayasofya. The original mosaics, which were once plastered over, have been gloriously restored. Simply put, this is a sight you will always remember.

Other Fun Things to Do

  • Take a tour of Topkapi Palace, which was the political center of the Ottoman Empire until the 19th century. It contains holy Muslim relics, including a footprint, tooth and hair belonging to the Prophet Mohammed.
  • Equally affecting is the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii), a grand, bulbous monument to Islam. With 260 stained glass windows, six minarets and liberal use of decorative tile, the Blue Mosque is an amazing visual adventure.

Get a Taste of Local Flavor

For an appetizer, don't miss out on barbunya pilaki, roasted baby eggplant topped with garlic, tomatoes and olive oil-fried onions. There are many types of kebabs (meaning roasted) to sample. The well-known shish kebab simply consists of chunks of roasted lamb. Fresh fish is typically served grilled and topped with olive oil and lemon. Popular desserts include baklava and puddings made from yogurt and eggs. And don't forget to try Turkish Delight, or lokum, a candy that's been around for about five hundred years, made from starch and sugar, often flavored with lemon or rosewater.

Shopping for Bargains

Turkey's leather goods are some of the best in Europe. You can purchase customized leather items for far less money here than at home. Carpet shops are abundant, so make sure you shop around. Visit the Grand Bazaar, with its thousands of shops, selling everything from brass, copper and jewelry to textiles, leather, carpets, and more. Prices are generally flexible, so be ready to bargain.

Local Currency

The Lira (TL) is the official currency of Turkey. Banks and exchange offices are generally open only on weekdays - you may find it hard to convert your traveler's checks on weekends. ATMs are common in Turkish cities, towns and resorts, and many of them connect to worldwide networks such as Cirrus® or Plus® and to credit cards.

Weather in Istanbul, Turkey


Temperature Fahrenheit Celsius
Average High 47.8° 8.78°
Average Low 37.2° 2.89°
Mean Temperature 42° 5.56°
Record High N/A N/A
Record Low N/A N/A
Precipitation Inches Centimeters
Average Precip. 3.9 in 9.91 cm

    Before You Visit

    Learn more about this port city with these tourist information guides.


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