ISTANBUL

Istanbul is one of the truly great romantic cities, straddling the Bosphorus with its skyline studded with domes and minarets. Today it hums as Turkey’s cultural heart and good-time capital. Its history tracks back from Byzantium to Costantinople to its place at the head of the Ottoman Empire. In this city you can tramp the streets where crusaders and janissaries once marched; admire mosques that are the most sublime architectural expressions of Islamic piety; peer into the sultan’s harem; and hunt for bargains in the Grand Bazaar. Side by side with Old Istanbul you’ll find hip bars and clubs, flashy executives, malls and haute cuisine.

All this history, hustle and bustle coexists around the spine of the Bosphorus, a constantly busy, heaving mass, dotted with ships and ferries, which provides the link between Europe and Asia. There is a rich arts culture, opera, music, cinema, which nods its head to the Ottoman and Byzantine ways while taking cues from Europe. Istanbul has architecture, art, nightlife, cuisine, history, religion, shopping more than enough of it, a true gem to be visited.