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Istanbul is definitely a must see location. With its dramatic location and rich, exotic history, Istanbul is an extremely cosmopolitan city. From high-tech fashion to prayer calls echoing in the air amid floodlit minarets scattered across the skyline. Across the deep blue waters of the Golden Horn, young Istanbulites sip cocktails in the bars of Beyoglu, while in the historic Sultanahmet district, old men still puff on waterpipes and chat over traditional glasses of tea.
If exploring the cobbled streets of the old town sounds interesting, then start in Sultanahmet Square at the sixth-century Hagia Sophia, a vast Christian basilica which became a mosque under the sultans. Later, cross the gardens to the beautiful Blue Mosque where you can see the fine stained glass and turquoise and indigo hues of the intricate Iznik tiles. The Anatolian treasures at the Archaeology Museum include the ornate Alexander Sarcophagus, which depicts the life of Alexander the Great, but does not, despite the name, contain his body. There are tablets from the world's oldest surviving peace treaty, from 1269BC, while the Istanbul galleries hold a section of the giant chain that once barred the entrance to the Golden Horn. The courtyards and pavilions of Topkapi Palace have emeralds the size of golf balls adorning daggers in the treasury, while the state rooms of the harem are encrusted in mother-of-pearl, ivory and gold. The world-famous Grand Bazaar has jewellery, carpets, textiles and leather goods all under kilometers covered shopping in the Sultan's former stables.
If you believe that Turkey is still living in the past, it's time to go see that Istanbul is anything but that. Istanbul is becoming increasingly colorful in terms of its rich social, cultural, and commercial activities. While world famous pop stars fill stadiums, activities like opera, ballet and theater continue throughout the year. During seasonal festivals, world famous orchestras, chorale ensembles, concerts and jazz legends can be found often playing to a full house. The Istanbul International Film Festival is one of the most important film festivals in Europe, while the Istanbul Biennial is another major event of fine arts.
Why not treat yourself?