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Istanbul

Between two continents

On both sides of the Bosphorus Strait, the channel that runs through Istanbul and connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, civilizations and men have succeeded each other. Here ends Europe and begins Asia and the city radiates energy. Its glorious past remains very present in the collective imagination with its sumptuous monuments and buildings, dating back to the Byzantine or Ottoman era, that punctuate every corner of the city. Formerly Byzantium, then Constantinople and today Istanbul, this megalopolis of fourteen million inhabitants has preserved the greatness of the empires that have made it their capital.

 

MUST SEE

Topkapi Palace : Residence of the Ottoman rulers between 1465 and 1830, the sumptuous Topkapi Sarayi contains more picturesque stories than all the palaces of the world combined. The whole complex shows the extravagant remnants of centuries of madness, intrigue, excesses and war. The treasure has jewels from around the empire, beautiful costumes and precious Islamic relics. The harem is so splendid that you can easily forget that women spent their entire existence in a completely closed universe.

 

Hagia Sophia : Built by the great Byzantine emperor Justinian in the 6th century, the church was the symbol of Eastern Christianity, with its 32 m diameter dome, a true architectural wonder. It was coveted by the Ottomans long before Mehmed the Conqueror seized the city and turned it into a Muslim place of worship. Hagia Sophia is the essential step of any tourist route.

 

Blue Mosque : More than a thousand years after the construction of Hagia Sophia, Sultan Ahmet I ordered a mosque that could rival with the Christian basilica of Justinian. If it has not managed to equalize it in dimensions, it has probably surpassed it in finesse and elegance. The interior of the mosque is decorated with more than 21,000 blue Iznik tiles, which gave their name to the mosque.

Dolmabahçe Palace:  : Everything in the Dolmabahçe Palace evokes opulence, excessiveness on the edge of the Bosphorus: 280 rooms, 43 ballrooms including one of 2000 m2, 6 hammams, gigantic Bohemian crystal chandeliers, a crystal Baccarat staircase, Greek columns, carpets galore; in short a true palace of the thousand and one oriental nights in a baroque version.

HISTORY OF THE CITY

The foundation of the city is lost in legends. It is in the 7th century BC. that Byzas, at the head of a troop of sailors from Megara, settled on the point occupied today by the palace of Topkapı to found Byzantium. In 324, Emperor Constantine seized Byzantium and decided to make it the capital of the Roman Empire. In 330, he inaugurated his New Rome, built on seven hills, and will name it Konstantinou Poli. In 1453, the Ottomans who dominated the entire region, stormed the city. Constantinople surrendered in the morning of May 29, 1453. Mehmet II became Fatih Sultan Mehmet (the Conqueror) and, the same evening, he caped Agia Sophia with a crescent and a star. The symbol of Christendom has become a mosque and Constantinople became Istanbul. In the time of Soliman the Magnificent (1520-1566), when Paris, the largest city in the West, had only 250,000 inhabitants, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, with its 500,000 inhabitants, was the biggest city in the world.

 

LEISURE

Grand Bazar (Kapalı Çarşı) :  The largest covered market in the world, with narrow streets teeming with shops and “hans”, small closed courtyards. It has a few thousand stalls and about sixty lanes grouped by types of products: glassware, carpets, jewelry, narghiles, manufactured products. If the current version dates from the early nineteenth century, the bazaar exists since 1461.

 

İSTIKLAL CADDESI : In the heart of the modern city, a perfect district for a drink, dinner and shopping, İstiklal Caddesi embodies 21st century Turkey. Taksim Square is the symbolic heart of modern Istanbul. Galata is the neighborhood whose winding cobblestone lanes maintain a relaxed atmosphere in an unexpected mix of churches, mosques, shops, hotels and traditional Turkish Hammams (steam bathes). 

 

Flexibility (days)
Under 12 years
Under 24 months
Practical information
BEST TIME TO VISIT

The Bosphorus, the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara create a microclimate that defies weather forecasts. Istanbul has a hot and humid summer. The winter is rainy with a few days of snow. The best time to visit is in the spring and fall, especially in May, early June and September

 

WHAT TO WEAR?

Winter is rather cold and woolens and coats are essential. In summer the short sleeves are advised.

FLIGHT TIME

Istanbul is 2h35 flight from Tunis.

HOURS

Istanbul (GMT + 3) is two hours ahead of Tunis (GMT + 1).

LANGUAGE

Turkish as main language, English as a second language.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

New Istanbul International Airport is located about 35 km west of Istanbul.

CURRENCY

Turkish Lira (EUR)