In its long history, Istanbul / Constantinople / Byzantium has served as the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395 AD), the East Roman (Byzantine) Empire (395–1453), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). The (Islamic) Ottoman Empire succeeded the (Christian) Byzantine Empire in controlling much of Southeastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Istanbul has been for many centuries the place where the Eastern and Western worlds meet. The historic areas of Istanbul were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.
Hagia Sophia ("Divine Wisdom"), built by Emperor Justinian in 532-537 AD, was the largest church in the world for 1000 years. It is considered one of the greatest and most beautiful buildings in history. It became a mosque under the Ottomans when they conquered Constantinople in 1453.
The monumental “Blue Mosque” (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) was built in 1609-1619. Its architect was trying to compete against the Byzantine architecture of the nearby Hagia Sophia Cathedral, which it resembles eventually in some ways. The interior design though is classically Islamic.
The walls of the Blue Mosque are covered by beautiful tile, but blue is just one of the colors…
Whereas religion clearly has its prominence here, sticking to tradition is a matter of personal choice.
The Topkapı Palace on a hill overlooking the Bosphorus was the official and primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans up to 1853. This “Chamber of Petitions” is where the Sultan would sit on his canopied throne, surrounded by gold and jewels, and personally receive the Viziers and officials.
The Imperial Harem of more than 400 rooms within the palace contains the private apartments of the sultan, the concubines and wives of the sultan, as well as the eunuchs who served them.
In the Topkapi visitors’ restaurant overlooking the Bosphorus.
The Dolmabahce Palace on the European side of the Bosphorus served the later Sultans as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1853 to the fall of the empire in 1922.
A room in the bath in the Dolmabahce Palace
The Grand Bazaar
This train station served as the final stop of the romantic “Orient Express” line connecting Paris to Istanbul beginning in 1883 (but not any more).
The lemonade street vendor
The colorful waterfront on the “Golden Horn” featuring the busy traffic of the various Bosphorus ferries.
The waterfront: Whole fish grilled on board of a docked boat and sold to pedestrians as “fast food”.
The “Spice Bazaar” also known as the “Egyptian Bazaar”
In the Galata district
The Galata Tower was built in 1348 as a part of the Genoese colony within the Byzantine Constantinople.
As viewed from the Galata Tower: On the skyline the Topkapi palace, the Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque. Behind them in the haze the Sea of Marmara and in the foreground - the Golden Horn.
No visit to Istanbul / Constantinople is complete without a cruise along the Bosphorus up to the Black Sea, passing the city, suburbs and towns, and then picturesque fishing villages.