What’s striking about Istanbul is the fact that it is situated on two continents, Asia and Europe. It’s the only metropolis in the world to enjoy that privilege. What’s even more remarkable is the beauty with which this amazing city has embraced the two. The Bosphorus Strait divides the city into the European and Asian sides, linked by two magnificent bridges straddling the two continents.

This lively, modern city has been known by different names over the centuries—Byzantium, Constantinople, and Istanbul since 1930, which is synonymous with Turkey’s cultural and religious diversity and rich history. Istanbul is a city of unique character, which has created an identity for itself as an important cultural hub in Europe and the rest of the world.

To get a taste of Turkey’s rich history and culture and to experience the thrill of being in two continents at one time, here’s a list of things to do and places to see in Istanbul.

Cruise the Bosphorus
Take a cruise along the Bosphorus to enjoy a stunning view of Istanbul from the river. You can board a ferry at the terminal near Galata Bridge and cruise up the strait toward Black Sea passing beautiful mansions, the Ortakoy Mosque and the Rumeli Hisari fortress, finally passing under the Bosphorus Bridge, which links Asia and Europe.

Visit Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace was home to the Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years and it’s a real treasure of artistic and architectural delights. This sprawling palace consists of many interlinking courtyards, surrounded by magnificent buildings. The lavish Harem, where the Sultan lived with his many wives and mistresses is a must-see in the Topkapi Palace. There are also various royal thrones and weapons of the Ottoman Empire on exhibition.

Visit Hagia Sophia
A trip to the majestic Hagia Sophia is a must when visiting Istanbul. An architectural marvel, Hagia Sophia has been an important monument both for the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires. Originally a church, then a mosque, and finally a Museum, Hagia Sophia is a great example of Turkey’s rich heritage.

Shop till you drop!
From the twisting lanes of the Grand Bazaar to the chic designer stores of the Asian side’s posh Bagdat Boulevard, Istanbul is truly a shopper’s paradise. There are more than 4000 shops in the Grand Bazaar selling antiques, exquisite jewellery, fine glassware, clothes, and leather products among other things. You will also come across a large number of colorful markets, big shopping centers and small boutiques displaying a beautiful range of products. So you have it all, from international brands to local products, there’s something for everyone and every pocket in Istanbul!

Visit a Hamam
Hamam, also known as a Turkish bath is a must-do activity for a truly authentic Turkish experience. It is basically a very hot steam room where you can soak, steam or get an invigorating massage, anything you like. These Hamams have separate arrangements and specific hours for men and women.  It can be a perfect way to end your trip and go back all refreshed and rejuvenated!

A designated Alpha World City, Istanbul is a truly enchanting blend of Eastern and Western culture. With its exotic location, stunning sights and rich heritage, this amazing city has so much to offer that after visiting once, you would most definitely want to come back for more