Istanbul-Turkey is one of the most important tourism spots

As a travel destination, Istanbul is a rising star, with sights like the Hagia Sophia mosque. If all top 10 destination cities maintain their current rates of growth in the next few years, then by 2016, Istanbul will surpass Singapore, New York and Paris in terms of international visitor arrivals.

Quick Info

Country: Turkey
Area: 2,063 mi² (5,343 km²)
Elevation: 328′ (100 m)
Weather: 63°F (17°C), Wind SW at 3 mph (5 km/h), 39% Humidity
Local time: Thursday 6:34 PM
Population: 14.16 million (2013)


Istanbul is a thoroughly modern place, but it traces its roots back to 660 B.C. It’s the former seat of the opulent Byzantine and Ottoman empires and is divided into European and Asian sides by the Bosporus Strait, offering a wealth of history and stunning scenery. Entry to imperial palaces, museums and most other monuments and sites is not free, and “Istanbul prices” are notoriously higher than the rest of Turkey. Still, residents say that the most pleasurable pastimes in Istanbul — such as walking along the Bosporus or through the Grand Bazaar — cost next to nothing.

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Istanbul is scattered with religious sites and most of them, particularly Muslim and Christian houses of worship, are free. There are many to choose from but the Sultanahmet Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque, in the historic Sultanahmet district should be on top of anyone’s list. The mosque stands out with its six minarets and a cascade of domes, and derives its name from the blue-and-white tiles that decorate the inside.

Suleymaniye Mosque, near Sultanahmet Mosque, built in honor of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, is considered one of the masterpieces of the famed Ottoman architect Sinan.