If you like food, history, or architecture, you need to go to Istanbul. With the introduction of Turkey’s new e-Visa program in 2013 and excellent metro connections from the airport, it has never been easier to explore Istanbul as a tourist. You can even see quite a lot during a 7-hour layover through Istanbul.
Now that I think about it, you should probably be ashamed if you haven’t been to Istanbul yet!
After over 1,000 years as the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires, modern-day Istanbul is a cultural melting pot with influences from all over Europe, the Mediterranean, and Asia — perhaps you’ve heard of Constantinople, established in 324 AD? Nothing is a more obvious reminder of this rich legacy than the dozens of minarets spiking the skyline; beautiful mosques in the unique Turkish style are everywhere you look!
The Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya in Turkish), for example, is nearly as old as Istanbul itself, and has existed as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, then as a Roman Catholic cathedral, and finally as a mosque. As you can see, the building looks stunning in the afternoon light of Istanbul’s summer: