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Istanbul has seen great empires rise and fall. It was once best known as Constantinople, while it was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Now as the biggest city of the Republic of Turkey, it is a modern city in an ancient setting. Scattered among the historic mosques, churches, castles, palaces, bazaars, fountains and underground cisterns you will find award winning luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants, large modern shopping malls and tea gardens. Here you can visit the sultans’ harem at Topkapi Palace, experience the magnificent Byzantine mosaics at Haghia Sophia church, marvel at the blue mosaic tiles inside the enormous dome of Blue Mosque, and then grab lunch at McDonalds or Burger King. You can also cross over to Asia through one of the two modern bridges or take a cruise across the Bosphorus, but you will find most of the main attractions on the European side which compasses the old town. A new subway system that connects the business and shopping district of Taksim Square to the modern suburbs of the town takes you to great shopping malls and elegant stores, but visiting the Grand Bazaar is a must while in Istanbul. With 64 streets, 22 gates and over 4000 shops, it is one of the world’s largest covered markets. Leathers, carpets, jewelry, pottery, exotic spices and much more is sold at this marketplace which dates back to 1400’s.
At the end of the day, you must find one of the hilltops (or the rooftop of your hotel) to watch this exciting and magical city as it flickers with lights as a jewel in the night.