Istanbul, Turkey

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Cruising to Istanbul, Turkey

A crossroads in history and culture

Istanbul is one of those places where all roads seem to magically converge, and as such is a meeting point between east and west, and old and new. Straddling the geographical boundary between Europe and Asia, the Turkish capital can make a pretty strong claim to being the centre of the universe, and for thousands of years, it had a front-row seat to all the major events in world history, with numerous successive civilisations having fought over it.

Sprawled across the two banks of the Bosphorus, Istanbul is a rich tapestry of sights, sounds, smells and stories, with the city's historic heart being Sultanahmet, where most of its iconic ancient structures and buildings are found. It's this area that was known as Constantinople by the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, and the history of the city is written into the many attractions in and around Sultanahmet Square.

Perhaps the most famous of these is the enormous Hagia Sophia mosque, which was originally built as a basilica by the Romans, before being converted to a mosque when the Ottomans took control of Istanbul in the 15th century. The western perimeter of Sultanahmet, meanwhile, is still lined by the ancient Theodosian walls, which have protected the city from attack since the 5th century.

The nearby Museum of Archaeology is the place to go to learn more about the many legends to have emerged from the city, and in true Istanbul fashion, these age-old artefacts are contrasted against the pieces on show at the nearby Istanbul Modern Art Museum. If there's one thing to be learnt in Istanbul, it's that the city is certainly no stranger to change, and has been continually reinventing itself ever since ancient times – a process which is still in motion today.

Another major reason to visit Istanbul is to sample some authentic Turkish food, and you'll find no shortage of excellent restaurants here. Kasap Osman is one of the top places to go for a traditional doner kebab, while Durumzade and Ciya Kebap are also both well worth a visit.

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