Some ancient cities are the sum of their monuments. But Istanbul, the former capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, factors a lot more into the equation. Here, you can visit vulnerable mosques and churches in the morning, shop in chic boutiques during the afternoon, and party at glamorous clubs through the night. In the space of a few minutes, you can hear the evocative strains of the call to prayer issuing from the Old City’s minarets, the sonorous horn of a commuter ferry crossing between Europe and Asia, and the strident cries of a street hawker selling fresh seasonal produce. This marvelous metropolis is an exercise in sensory seduction like no other.
The Bosporous strait, between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, divides Europe from Asia. On its western shore, European Istanbul is further divided by the Golden Horn (Halic) into the Old City in the southwest and Beyogulu in the northeast.