With one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, Western European nations and the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires took turns ruling Turkey, cultivating an interesting sense of identity and cityscape adorned with palaces and mosques.
Naturally, Istanbul’s cuisine is as varied as its heritage, some traditional favorites including kebabs, mezes, catch-of-the-day seafood, signature brandy, and locally produced wine. But aside from this, Istanbul is most loved for its locals: a warm, inclusive community with a contagious zest for life, generosity of spirit, and strong observation of tradition as well as modernity.
While Istanbul alone is home to over 300 mosques, Sultanahmet Camii, or the Blue Mosque, is one of the most impressive with an ornate, blue mosaic interior and six distinct minarets as opposed to the usual four. The 17th-century mosque is located in the Sultanahmet area of Fatih and still functions as a religious site, closing for prayer five times a day.
Where dishes of tender duck in a sour-cherry glaze meet surprising combinations like fresh crab, green apple, cucumber, and lime, Nicole Restaurant delivers a sensational tasting experience paired with a chateau-style stocked wine cellar in a trendy yet sophisticated indoor/outdoor rooftop terrace.
As decadent and complex as Turkey’s history is, the 15th-century Topkapi Palace does an impressive job of encapsulating the reign of the Ottoman Empire. The palace showcases this period of Turkish history through the preservation of its immense grounds, intricate interior, extensive library, and Treasury still brimming with jewels.