The god and human, nature and art are together in there, they have created such a perfect place that it is valuable to see." Lamartine's famous poetic line reveals his love for Istanbul, describing the embracing of two continents, with one arm reaching out to Asia and the other to Europe.
Istanbul, once known as the capital of capital cities, has many unique features. It is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, and the only one to have been a capital during two consecutive empires - Christian and Islamic. Once was capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul still remains the commercial, historical and cultural pulse of Turkey, and its beauty lies in its ability to embrace its contradictions. Ancient and modern, religious and secular, Asia and Europe, mystical and earthly all co-exist here.
Its variety is one of Istanbul's greatest attractions: The ancient mosques, palaces, museums and bazaars reflect its diverse history. The thriving shopping area of Taksim buzzes with life and entertainment. And the serene beauty of the Bosphorus, Princes Islands and parks bring a touch of peace to the otherwise chaotic metropolis.
Adalar, Avcılar, Bağcılar, Bahçelievler, Bakırköy, Beşiktaş, Bayrampaşa, Beykoz, Beyoğlu, Eminönü, Eyüb, Fatih, Gaziosmanpaşa, Kadıköy, Kâğıthane, Kartal, Küçükçekmece, Pendik, Sarıyer, Şişli, Ümraniye, Üsküdar, Zeytinburnu, Büyükçekmece, Çatalca, Silivri, Şile, Esenler, Güngören, Maltepe, Sultanbeyli, and Tuzla.
From the Tunel area to Taksim square, is one of the city's focal points for shopping, entertainment and urban promenading: Istiklal Cadesi is a fine example of the contrasts and compositions of Istanbul; fashion shops, bookshops, cinemas, markets, restaurants and even hand-carts selling trinkets and simit (sesame bread snack) ensure that the street is packed throughout the day until late into the night. The old tramcars re-entered into service, which shuttle up and down this fascinating street, and otherwise the street is entirely pedestrianised. There are old embassy buildings, Galatasaray High School, the colourful ambience of Balik Pazari (Fish Bazaar) and restaurants in Cicek Pasaji (Flower Passage). Also on this street is the oldest church in the area, St Mary's Draperis dating back to 1789, and the Franciscan Church of St Antoine, demolished and then rebuilt in 1913.
The street ends at Taksim Square, a big open plaza, the hub of modern Istanbul and always crowded, crowned with an imposing monument celebrating Attaturk and the War of Independence. The main terminal of the new subway is under the square, adjacent is a noisy bus terminal, and at the north end is the Ataturk Cultural Centre, one of the venues of the Istanbul Theatre Festival. Several five-star hotels are dotted around this area, like the Hyatt, Intercontinental and Hilton (the oldest of its kind in the city). North of the square is the Istanbul Military Museum.
Taksim and Beyoglu have for centuries been the centre of nightlife, and now there are many lovely bars and clubs off Istiklal Cadesi, including some of the only gay venues in the city. Beyoglu is also at the centre of the more bohemian arts scene.
In addition to this wonderful selection of historical and architectural sites, Sultanahmet also has a large concentration of carpet and souvenir shops, hotels and guesthouses, cafes, bars and restaurants, and travel agents.
The name Ortakoy reflects the university students and teachers who would gather to drink tea and discuss life, when it was just a small fishing village. These days, however, that scene has developed into a suburb with an increasing amount of expensive restaurants, bars, shops and a huge market. The fishing, however, lives on and the area is popular with local anglers, and there is now a huge waterfront tea-house which is crammed at weekends and holidays.
Sarıyer and Rumeli Kavağı are the final wharfs along the European side visited by the Bosphorus boat trips. Both these districts, famous for their fish restaurants along with Anadolu Kavagi, get very crowded at weekends and holidays with Istanbul residents escaping the city.
After these points, the Bosphorus is lined with tree-covered cliffs and little habitation. The Sadberk Hanim Museum, just before Sariyer, is an interesting place to visit; a collection of archaeological and ethnographic items, housed in two wooden houses. A few kilometres away is the huge Belgrade Forest, once a haunting ground of the Ottomans, and now a popular weekend retreat into the largest forest area in the city.
The Iskele, or Mihrimah Camii is opposite the main ferry pier, on a high platform with a big covered porch in front, often occupied by older local men watching life around them. Opposite this is Yeni Valide Camii, built in 1710, and the Valide Sultan's green tomb rather like a giant birdcage. The Cinili Mosque takes its name from the beautiful tiles which decorate the interior, and was built in 1640.
Apart from places of religious interest, Uskudar is also well known as a shopping area, with old market streets selling traditional local products, and a good fleamarket with second hand furniture. There are plenty of good restaurants and cafes with a great views of the Bosphorus and the rest of the city, along the quayside. In the direction of Haydarpasa is the Karaca Ahmet Cemetery, which is the largest Muslim graveyard in Istanbul. The front of the Camlica hills lie at the ridge of area and also offer great panoramic views of the islands and river.
Bagdat Caddesi is one of the most trendy – and label-conscious – fashion shopping streets, and for more down-to-earth goods, the Gen Azim Gunduz Caddesi is the best place for clothes, and the bit pazari on Ozelellik Sokak is good for browsing through junk. The Benadam art gallery remains in Moda district with many other foreing cusines, restaurants and cafes.
Since the 1970s the village has become a popular place with local Istanbulites, who buy their pig meat there (pig being forbidden under Islamic law and therefore difficult to get elsewhere). All the Poles have since left the village, and the place is inhabited now by wealthy city people, living in the few remaining Central European style wooden houses with pretty balconies.
What attracts most visitors to Polonezkoy is its vast green expanse, which was designated Istanbul's first national park, and the walks though forests with streams and wooden bridges. Because of its popularity, it gets crowded at weekends and the hotels are usually full.
The town has plenty of accommodation available, hotels, guest houses and pansiyons, although can get very crowded at weekends and holidays as it is very popular with people from Istanbul for a getaway, especially in the summer. There are small restaurants and bars in the town.
Buyukada The largest and most popular one in Istanbul is Buyukada (the Great Island). Large wooden mansions still remain from the 19th century when wealthy Greek and Armernian bankers built them as a holiday villas. The island has always been a place predominantly inhabited by minorities, hence Islam has never had a strong presence here.
Buyukada has long had a history of people coming here in exile or retreat; its most famous guest being Leon Trotsky, who stayed for four years writing 'The History of the Russian Revolution'. The monastery of St George also played host to the granddaughter of Empress Irene, and the royal princess Zoe, in 1012.
The island consists of two hills, both surmounted by monasteries, with a valley between. Motor vehicles are banned, so getting around the island can be done by graceful horse and carriage, leaving from the main square off Isa Celebi Sokak. Bicycles can also be hired.
The southern hill, Yule Tepe, is the quieter of the two and also home of St George's Monastery. It consists of a series of chapels on three levels, the site of which is a building dating back to the 12th century. In Byzantine times it was used as an asylum, with iron rings on the church floors used to restrain patients. On the northern hill is the monastery Isa Tepe, a 19th century house.
The entire island is lively and colourful, with many restaurants, hotels, tea houses and shops. There are very big well-kept houses, trim gardens, and pine groves, as well as plenty of beach and picnic areas.
Burgazada It is a smaller and less infrastructured for tourists.The famous Turkish novelist, Sait Faik Abasıyanık lived there, and his house has been turned into a museum dedicated to his work, and retains a remarkable tranquil and hallowed atmosphere.
Heybeliada 'Island of the Saddlebag', because of its shape, is loved for its natural beauty and beaches. It also has a highly prestigious and fashionable watersports club in the northwest of the island. One of its best-known landmarks is the Greek Orthodox School of Theology, with an important collection of Byzantine manuscripts. The school sits loftily on the northern hill, but permission is needed to enter, from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Fener. The Deniz Harp Okulu, the Naval High School, is on the east side of the waterfront near the jetty, which was originally the Naval War Academy set up in 1852, then a high school since 1985. Walking and cycling are popular here, plus isolated beaches as well as the public Yoruk Beach, set in a magnificent bay.
There are plenty of good local restaurants and tea houses, especially along Ayyıldız Caddesi, and the atmosphere is one of a close community.
Polonezköy, which is 25 km. away from Istanbul, is founded at Asia coast during 19th century by Polish immigrants. Polonezköy, for walking in village atmosphere, travels by horse, and tasting traditional Polish meals served by relatives of initial settlers, is the resort point of Istanbul residents. Beaches, restaurants and hotels of Şile at Black Sea coast and 70 km. away from Üsküdar, are turning this place into one of the most cute holiday places of Istanbul. Region which is popular in connection with tourism, is the place where famous Şile cloth is produced.
Bayramoğlu - Darıca Bird Paradise and Botanic Park is a unique resort place 38 km. away from Istanbul. This gargantuan park with its trekking roads, restaurants is full of bird species and plants, coming from various parts of the world.
Sweet Eskihisar fisherman borough, to whose marina can be anchored by yachtsmen after daily voyages in Marmara Sea is at south east of Istanbul. Turkey's 19th century famous painter, Osman Hamdi Bey's house in borough is turned into a museum. Hannibal's tomb between Eskihisar and Gebze is one of the sites around a Byzantium castle.
There are lots of Istanbul residents' summer houses in popular holiday place 65 km. away from Istanbul, Silivri. This is a huge holiday place with magnificent restaurants, sports and health centers. Conference center is also attracting businessmen, who are escaping rapid tempo of urban life for "cultural tourism" and business - holiday mixed activities. Scheduled sea bus service is connecting Istanbul to Silivri.
Islands within Marmara Sea, which is adorned with nine islands, was the banishing place of the Byzantium princes. Today they are now wealthy Istanbul residents' escaping places for cool winds during summer months and 19th century smart houses. Biggest one of the islands is Büyükada. You can have a marvelous phaeton travel between pine trees or have a swim within one of the numerous bays around islands!
Other popular islands are Kınalı, Sedef, Burgaz and Heybeliada. Regular ferry voyages are connecting islands to both Europe and Asia coasts. There is a rapid sea bus service from Kabataş during summers.