Istanbul: The Gateway between Europe & Asia

Once known as Constantinople, Istanbul is the epicenter of culture in Turkey.



The Famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

Photo Provided with Permission

Filled with the most visually stunning architecture, located on the waterfront of the Marmara Sea, Istanbul provides a look into history books, taking you on a trip back to the times of the Roman and Byzantine Empires. Now the economic hub of Turkey and the regional gateway between two continents, Istanbul is home to 14 million individuals stemming from a variety of cultural backgrounds. With a blend of Mediterranean dining options, ranging from the kiosks serving traditional street food, to the fine dining of 19th century Ottoman inspired Feriye Lokantasi, possibilities of a great time are endless when in Istanbul.

 

It’s hard not to appreciate the extravagance of the architecture that runs rampant throughout the city. From the world-renowned Hagia Sophia, the ancient Greek Orthodox church turned museum, to some of the most beautiful mosques in the Middle East, it is impossible to take a bad picture in the city. Spend time at the historic Blue Mosque, one of Turkey’s greatest tourist attractions and an actively used place of worship. Over 400 years old and known to locals as Sultanahmet Camii, the mosque is positioned right on the water near one of the roads carrying you to the Asian side of town and next to several other noteworthy landmarks like the Galata Tower.

 

Take a break from sightseeing to enjoy the myriad of exquisite dining options scattered throughout the city. Immediately upon disembarking from your plane, you’re greeted with a complex array of aromas from the countless kiosks serving dürüm, the traditional wrap filled with seasoned meat all inside of lavash, or kokoreç – spiced sheep intestines – for those daring individuals. 

For those looking for a fancier evening out on the town, plan a night at Müzedechanga, the sophisticated Mediterranean inspired restaurant located inside of the Sabanci Museum Emirgan. Watch as Müzedechanga transforms from a casual brunch setting during the day into a spectacular candlelit dining room with views of ships navigating the Bosphorus Strait. Enjoy a variety of dishes prepared using the freshest selections of fish, beef, and chicken – all of them with a Mediterranean flare. Pair any dish with one of the fine choices of hand-crafted cocktails, like the house special Lychee Cocktail, which has the most alluring essence of grapefruit, finished off with a garnish of fresh mint.

 

After dinner, take a stroll across the street to Sütiş, a delicious, yet health-conscious café serving traditional Turkish coffee accompanied by a selection of post-dinner treats. With a unique dessert menu offering specialty cakes and milk puddings, you can rest assured knowing that the products used in the making of these desserts are organic, free of preservatives and made in-house daily. Open all night into the wee hours of the morning, Sütiş provides an environment to patrons that is truly reflective of what life in Turkey is all about.

 

Istanbul is generally considered a safe city in relation to its overall size. That being said, there are areas that should be approached with caution as well as areas that should be avoided completely. Those staying in, or visiting the immediate area surrounding the airport, known as the Bakırköy district, should be wary of pickpockets and taxi scams. It is best to familiarize yourself with your surroundings as well as the local currency and travel with a guide if possible. Any areas outside of the typical tourist venues that you may visit should be done with caution in mind, but are usually very friendly.

Istanbul bridges the cultural differences between the relaxed vibe of Europe and the more conservative ambiance in the Middle East. Adorned with some of the most visually stunning architecture and the social and economic hub of Turkey, Istanbul is home to an unrivaled nightlife, Turkish coffee, and a real-life history lesson. Take part in dining at some of the most beautiful restaurants Turkey has to offer while enjoying the most spectacular views in the Mediterranean