“Hoş geldiniz!” is the first thing heard when arriving anywhere in Turkey. It means “Your arrival is lovely,” which is both a compliment and a greeting that makes a visit feel more like a homecoming. It’s the cornerstone of Turkish hospitality that a stranger on their doorstep is considered “God’s guest”.
Turks frequently infuse conversations with these lyrical expressions and clever proverbs passed down from their ancestors. It’s this reverence for tradition along with an easy, sociable character that makes Turkey a fascinating and inviting destination for travellers.
The country itself is a mesmerizing fusion of modern and ancient worlds. There are cosmopolitan cities full of skyscrapers, fashionable textiles and culinary delights. Then, there are biblical landmarks and numerous UNESCO Heritage Sites that form the cradle of civilization. It’s a playground of lively resorts on soft, glimmering beaches, and it’s a mythological wonderland of primeval forests and geological oddities.
What is most distinctive about Turkey is that it straddles two continents—Europe and Asia—split through the iconic metropolis of Istanbul. As the terminus of the Silk Road and the Orient Express, a constant flow of trade, people and ideas inherently shaped its culture. The modern Republic of Turkey is now a multi-party, secular democracy that embraces social progress alongside Islamic faith.
Journey through time with these 20 unique destinations, all accessible on a single visa stamp. Experience how the flavours of East and West come to a head in a captivating mix of the exotic and familiar. It’s an incredible history lesson on the origins of human civilization and a visual feast of beach-side holiday indulgence.
20 Butterfly Valley - Named For The 100 Species Of Fluttering Fairies
Hidden away in a striking limestone canyon off Turkey’s southwest coast is a tiny sliver of paradise. Butterfly Valley is named for the 100 species of fluttering fairies that inhabit the thriving lavender coloured chaste trees. Two 60-metre waterfalls feed a creek that gives life to all the diverse flora and fauna in the area. A golden, shallow beach stretches out to the warm Mediterranean Sea, giving the bay waters a sky-blue colour near the shoreline.
The Turkish government designated the valley as a nature reserve, denying any major construction in the area. Their efforts have also helped various fruit trees naturally flourish. Olives, pomegranates, lemons, oranges, grapes, walnuts, peaches and apricots can all be found in the valley.
It’s an almost untouched oasis where hippies and backpackers make the journey to unplug from civilization. There’s one café on the beach which is basically a wooden hut with chairs, where you’re expected to clear your own table and wash up afterwards. The only other amenities are shared bathrooms further inland, and a generator.
As the sun starts to wane, the last tour boats head back to their marinas, taking away most of the tourists. A few remain behind to spend the night. Some try the quaint motels in nearby Faralya where rooms are dressed in traditional stone and natural wood. Others opt for tents that are available for rent on the beach. True hipsters, however, simply lie on the velvet sand and take comfort under the twinkling stars.
19 Troy - The Trojan Horse
In northwest Turkey, there's a large wooden horse which tourists like to climb in and poke their heads out. It makes for a fun photo op because the symbol of the Trojan Horse is universally understood. Hisarlik is the modern name for the archeological site believed to be the location of ancient Troy, the large fortified city which inspired Homer's masterpiece, The Iliad.
Hidden under a tell (a mound under which cities are buried), the site is 200 metres in diameter and 15 metres high. The elevation is due to the layering of different cities over the same site. After one city was destroyed, a new one was built on top. It’s estimated that 10 layers of cities rest on the Hisarlik site, beginning in the Early Bronze Age and spanning 3,500 years. The relics found at Hisarlik are significant examples of early interaction between civilizations from Asia and the Mediterranean islands. Uncovered treasures includ weapons, gold, silver, vessels and thousands of gold rings.
The site features traces of a massive defensive wall made of cut stone blocks and clay bricks. In Homer’s account of the Trojan War, this impenetrable wall results in an ineffective 10-year siege by Spartan and Achaean warriors from Greece. The Greeks resort to the deception of the Trojan Horse as a way to penetrate the wall and finally win the war.
18 Şirince - Perfect Synthesis Of Turkish-Greek Culture
Once known as Çirkince ("ugly"), Şirince (“pretty”) is a picturesque Orthodox village nestled in a pastoral setting on the Aegean coast of Turkey. It’s said that the village was settled in the 15th century by freed Greek slaves who gave their home a derogatory name in order to deter others from following them. The name was aptly changed in 1926 by the governor of Izmir Province. Today the village is a perfect synthesis of Turkish-Greek culture.
Set near the top of a mountain, the houses cascade down the slopes in a perfect patch of white stone and stucco walls with red clay roofs. Although settled in the 15th century, most of the current homes were built in the 19th century and reflect the techniques and materials available in the region at the time.
Once the village was declared a national heritage site, a project began restoring ruined historic houses to their original appearance. Other structures were added including a theatre and actors' retreat as well as a library. Several larger restored houses are now quaint hotels for the many tourists who come to visit each year. The nearby Nesin Mathematics Village was constructed using the same traditional Aegean rural architecture, adding to the popularity of the Şirince region.
At the foot of the mountain, on more level ground, are impressive vineyards and fruit trees. One of Şirince’s attractions is its artisanal wine-making history. Domestic varietals, Öküzgözü and Emir, can be sampled in the town’s plentiful cafés and shops.
17 Hattusa - From Noah's Ark?
Back in their heyday, the Hittite Kingdom rivalled that of Egypt. And, in fact, the very first peace treaty in the world was signed between the two nations in 1259 B.C., acknowledging their equivalent resources and military strength.
Hattusa was the capital of the Hittite Empire. Its ruins lie in north-central Turkey, in Çorum Province. It’s believed the Hittites settled in the region before 2000 B.C. They flourished around 1600 to 1200 B.C., invading neighbouring indigenous peoples and conquering Babylon and Syria. They eventually fell to the Assyrians around 700 B.C., but they left behind a legacy of masterful artwork and innovations with iron. They spoke an Indo-European language and often used cuneiform script, which consists of wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets.
For many years, little was known about the Hittites except what was written in the Bible. In the Hebrew Bible, they are said to have descended from Noah. Then in 1834, the Hattusa ruins were discovered. Excavations began in 1905, revealing thousands of cuneiform tablets which provided vivid descriptions of their history and laws.
Hattusa is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site noted for its urban organization, the preservation of buildings, rich ornamentation, and amusing artwork, such as the relief sculpture of a smiling warrior at the King's Gate.
16 Safranbolu - A Hefty Price-Tag
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, retailing for over $500 USD an ounce—that’s more than the price of gold! Named for its celebrated production of the precious spice, Safranbolu is another UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s located in the western Black Sea Region of Turkey, and it held great importance as a stop on the caravan route between the Orient and Europe from the 13th to the early 20th century. Saffron's hefty price tag is due to the intensive labour required to harvest and process the crop.
Each flower has three tiny, threadlike stigmas in the centre which must be removed by hand and carefully toasted to dry. More than 80,000 flowers need to be hand-harvested and processed to make just one pound of saffron spice.
Visitors to Safranbolu can observe and participate in the harvest. Saffron flowers taste best when they’re picked at the very moment the flower opens, which is sunrise. For those who cringe at the thought of a 6:30 a.m. call time while on vacation, a stroll through the picturesque town might be more enjoyable.
Safranbolu's old quarter is known as Çarşı, and it’s a classic Ottoman town of white homes with clay-tiled roofs and meandering cobbled streets full of tiny shops. Saffron can be found everywhere, infused with tea, lokum (Turkish delight candy), even cosmetics. Other attractions include the old mosque, old bath and Süleyman Pasha Medrese, an educational institution built in 1322. The town’s architecture heavily influenced urban development throughout the Ottoman Empire.
15 Sumela Monastery - Biblical Scenes
Clinging impossibly to a sheer vertical cliff, high above evergreen forests, is the 1600-year-old ancient Greek Orthodox Sumela Monastery. Its construction seamlessly merges with the mountain surface to feel intrinsic to its natural surroundings. When early morning mists swirl around the treetops of the forest below, the monastery exudes an ethereal aura.
Situated on Melá Mountain on the northeast Black Sea Region of Turkey, the building was founded in 4th century A.D. It’s believed that two priests travelling from Athens found a painting of the Virgin Mary within a cave on the mountain. According to legend, Jesus’ disciple, St Luke, painted the icon which was sent to Athens after his death. It was later carried by angels from Athens to the cave in Melá Mountain for the Greek priests to find.
The main church was carved out of that cave and then adorned inside and out with colourful frescoes depicting a variety of biblical scenes. The earliest paintings date from the 9th century A.D., but many were more recently created in the 19th century. Other fascinating characteristics of the site are an aqueduct, a guards' room, a library with a fireplace, a kitchen, a bakery and a vaulted refectory. In addition, during restoration work in 2015, a secret tunnel was discovered which led to a hidden chapel.
14 Aphrodisias - A Fertile Valley
The Goddess of Love rests in Aphrodisias, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in southwest Turkey. In its time, it was a prosperous, ancient Greek city founded within a fertile valley, and it was dedicated entirely to Aphrodite. The main sanctuary and focal point of the metropolis was the goddess's temple, which dates back to the 3rd century B.C. The town itself was built one century later. Some large houses have been unearthed, often taking up a whole city block, which reveals an affluent and prosperous community. Their wealth was likely from the white and blue Carian marble quarries northeast of the city.
Inside Aphrodisias, the city streets are arranged around large civic structures such as temples, a theatre, an agora and two bath complexes. The ruins have been extremely well preserved, and some have been restored to give visitors a hint of Aphrodisias when it was alive and thriving. In September 2014, drones were used to create an incredible 3-D relief map of the site above ground.
As the region is an earthquake zone, the city suffered a great deal of damage at various times. An earthquake in the 7th century was catastrophic, and Aphrodisias never fully recovered from the ensuing death and destruction.
13 Bodrum- Party Scene
After a long day of trekking through dusty ruins and filling your brain with knowledge, you may want to do like the kids when school’s out and head to the beach. There are many stunning resorts to choose from on the Aegean coast, but if you’d rather not follow the herd to the Kusadasi and Marmaris party scenes, the chic seaside getaway of Bodrum is the perfect alternative to chill and recharge.
Located on a peninsula, the city features twin bays and a fine, sandy beach. Many of the hotels also have wooden wharfs comfortably furnished with umbrellas and cushioned loungers. Ladders curl over the edge and enable swimmers to elegantly dip into the clear blue waters below.
Bodrum was originally the ancient Greek city, Halicarnassus, famous for its construction of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today, the main historical landmark is Bodrum Castle which sits high on a promontory and is visible from all around. It was built in the early 1400s by the medieval Catholic military order, Knights Hospitaller, who sourced some of its building materials directly from the ruins of the Mausoleum.
Although Bodrum draws a healthy number of tourists to its trendy restaurants and clubs, little pockets of tranquillity can still be found at artisanal cafés and quiet archaeological ruins in and around the town. Development in the area is carefully monitored so that it can retain its local charm indefinitely.
12 Pergamon - Steepest Ancient Theatre In The World
Sitting in the nosebleed section of the massive theatre at Pergamon is a thrilling experience, more so than being courtside, because of the spectacular view that extends down to the valley.
It is said to be the steepest ancient theatre in the world, consisting of 80 rows of seats divided into three sections, with a capacity of 10,000 spectators. The Hellenistic theatre was first built in 3rd century B.C. Later renovations include additions of a marble stage house, a royal box and a colonnade.
Pergamon rests in the northern Aegean region of Turkey. It was the capital city of the Attalid dynasty, who were most likely people of Macedonian origin. The site is referred to as an acropolis or citadel because of its elevated ground and sharp, craggy slopes which enhance its defence capabilities.
During its height, the city was a major cultural centre full of temples, theatres, gymnasiums, altars and a library which were built into the sloping terrain and protected by city walls. The most extraordinary monument is the Pergamon Altar of Zeus which epitomizes the Hellenistic style of wild, dynamic movement within its scuptures. The 9-foot-high frieze is carved with high-relief sculptures, bringing to life the dramatic stories of gods and giants locked in mortal combat.
11 Trabzon, Black Sea - "It's Complicated"
“It’s complicated.” A sentiment often expressed by Turks trying to explain the history of the Black Sea Region. Greeks originally founded the colonies in the 8th century B.C. Then Romans, Mongols, Armenians, Georgians, Genoese and many other cultures came and went, leaving a curious mix of architecture, cuisine and technology in their wake.
This complexity only adds to the mystery and allure of the northern coastline. Ancient Greeks thought of it as the edge of the known world, which sparked mythological adventure stories involving Jason and the Argonauts, Queen Hippolyta and the Amazons, even Hercules. It was also here that Julius Caesar famously proclaimed, “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”) when he defeated the Pontus Kingdom.
The land itself is surprisingly subtropical in the summer, thanks to steady rainfall and a damp climate. This gives way to fertile mountainsides where tea and hazelnut plantations spread far and wide, and lush pastures ensure dairy cattle produce the sweetest, creamiest milk in the country.
The city of Trabzon is the largest city in the eastern part of the region. It still retains the charm of a valley community, but there’s a mosque, hospital, museum and plenty of modern conveniences including a reliable bus service. The city itself changed ownership numerous times over the centuries and was once the most important stop on the Silk Road. Today, it remains the Black Sea's busiest port and it’s the preferred jumping point for most visitors who have come to explore the region.
10 Gaziantep - Became Legendary For Pistachio Treats
Exploring an entire country works up an appetite, so it’s fortunate that Turkish cuisine just happens to be phenomenal. There’s no better way to sate your hunger than to take a food tour in a city that's been designated a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy.
Gaziantep is located in southeastern Turkey and is the country’s sixth most populous city. Its foodie status began as the main producer of pistachios in the country. 180 pastry shops flourished and became legendary for pistachio treats, paving the way for savoury dishes to emerge in order to complement the sweets.
At the Emine Göğüş Culinary Museum, visitors can get a comprehensive food history lesson. They can then walk away with plenty of inspiration on what to try and where to go for a gastronomic adventure within the city. While there’s a mix of traditional and contemporary restaurants, all seem to incorporate some aspect of their ancestral favourites, which is makes Gaziantep cuisine so unique.
Throughout the city, highly skilled chefs and domestic cooks alike take pride in their meticulous selection of fresh, local ingredients, as well as their adherence to the techniques perfected by their ancestors. They have been recognized internationally for their refined palates, balancing flavours and textures to provide the ultimate dining experience.
9 Noah's Ark, Mount Ararat - Where Noah’s Boat Came To Rest?
Ark sightings are as popular these days as Elvis sightings. When the Book of Genesis recounted the story of the Great Flood, it stated that Noah’s boat came to rest “in the mountains of Ararat.” This spawned countless expeditions into the northeast Turkish highlands in search of the ark ruins. Though the reference is to a region, many Christians believe the likely docking site would have to be Mount Ararat itself, since it’s the highest peak in Turkey.
Mount Ararat is now a dormant volcano, and it’s a popular tourist attraction for climbers and hikers. An established southern route typically takes three days to climb and one day to descend, stopping at two campsites and using mules to carry supplies. Additional excursions include a visit to Ishak Pasha Palace, a semi-ruined palace and administrative complex with Middle Eastern arches and domes, Lake Van, and the 9th century Van Castle, as well as, a carpet shop and hot springs.
The real kicker, however, is the Durupinar site on Mount Tendürek where purported ark ruins lay. It was named after a Turkish captain who noticed the boat-shaped rock formation in an aerial photo while on a NATO mapping mission in 1959. Heavy rains combined with three earthquakes exposed the outline. Near the site are apparent drogue stones, which were storm anchors used on ancient ships. They're essentially large, flat stones with a hole on one end for connecting a line, similar to those found in the Nile and Mediterranean.
8 Mount Nemrut - Stone Blocks Weighing Up To Nine Tons
High up in the Taurus Mountains of southwest Turkey is an early example of East-West fusion. The mausoleum on Mount Nemrut was built around 62 B.C. by Antiochus I of Commagene, whose kingdom was a buffer zone between Armenia, Parthia, Syria and Rome. Their rulers claimed lineage from Darius I and Alexander the Great, so the culture of their dynasty was a mix of Persian and Hellenistic traditions—essentially East and West.
Antiochus referred to himself as a god-king and boasted of a special relationship with deities, so he commissioned a tomb-sanctuary that would become one of the most ambitious construction projects of the Hellenistic period. Its most remarkable features are colossal 10-metre-tall statues of Greek and Persian gods.
The tumulus, or burial mound, sits on the summit and measures 50 metres high and 150 metres in diameter. On the east is a fire altar in the form of a stepped pyramid. Along the north and south are low walls of upright slabs, decorated with intricate relief carvings of ancient Persian and Greek royalty. Among them is Antiochus himself greasing the palms of Hercules and other gods.
Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nemrut is revered for the complexity of its construction which involved the positioning of stone blocks weighing up to nine tons. The inscriptions and pictorials also provide a rare record of the history of this bygone dynasty.
7 Pamukkale, Hierapolis - 17 Hot Springs
At first glance, it appears as though some drunken tourists let loose in icy waters on a snow-capped mountainside. In reality, the Cotton Palace of Pamukkale in southwest Turkey is a surreal landscape of bright white travertine terraces with warm, mineral-rich pools.
17 hot springs high up in the cliff trickle down into the waterfalls, creating both a picturesque and functional geological phenomenon.
At the end of the second century B.C., the Attalids established the thermal spa city of Hierapolis. It was later expanded by the Romans with colonnaded streets, temples, bath houses, a necropolis and theatre. The spa became a renowned healing centre where doctors used the thermal water in their treatment for patients who suffered from kidney stones, nervous and physical exhaustion, eye and skin diseases, circulatory problems and digestive ailments.
Today, Pamukkale is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where visitors can swim in the Roman pool amongst marble columns and on the travertine terraces. With over two million visitors each year, it’s now Turkey’s most popular tourist attraction.
6 Ankara - Sophisticated And Cosmopolitan
The elegant minarets of the Kocatepe Mosque pose a striking image against the city skyline from all directions. When the newly formed Turkish Republic was in the process of reinventing itself, the idea of a central mosque in the capital had been floated around. There was a need to demonstrate their country’s new forward direction into the 20th century. However, they wanted to strive for neither the ethereal cloud-city mosques of Dubai nor the crystal greenhouses of Televangelist Christian churches. The resulting architecture of Kocatepe is the conservative, neoclassical Ottoman style but with numerous modern structural improvements and design elements. Their architectural choice for such an important national icon is reflective of Turkey's comfort level with the pace of their development. It’s a careful balance of embracing the future while paying respect to their traditions.
Today’s Ankara is sophisticated and cosmopolitan. It’s home to a national symphony and opera company. There’s an observation tower with a shopping mall at its base. High on a hilltop is a mausoleum and town square dedicated to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of their republic.
What is most worthy of a visit to this northeastern city are its numerous astounding museums. It was an incredible feat of national will to transport and catalogue the sheer volume of artifacts from heritage sites around the country into modern facilities. In 1997, the Anatolian Civilizations Museum won the "European Museum of the Year". It’s a welcoming space that’s easily navigated. The artifacts are beautifully housed and presented chronologically.
5 Çatalhöyük - Oldest Mural Paintings
Going back even further in time than the tales of Noahs’s Ark or the Trojan War are the prehistoric stories told at Çatalhöyük. It’s an archaeological site consisting of two hills in south-central Turkey that, aside from Jericho, represents the oldest city in the world. Founded in 7500 B.C., the site derives its name from “fork mound” in Turkish, since it sits in what was once a river valley. Incredibly, it was inhabited for almost 2,000 years by thousands of people.
At least 18 levels of settlements have been found within the eastern mound. The clues left behind provide compelling insight into how humanity transitioned from hunting and gathering to a fully settled existence of herding and farming, while also developing fortifications and practicing religion.
Numerous artifacts have been uncovered including tools, food waste, wood ash, textiles, burial remains, sculptures and paintings. The mural paintings at Çatalhöyük are the oldest in the world on manmade structures. They’re found on all four interior sides of domestic buildings as well as outside. The vivid images include anatomical drawings, wild cattle and vultures. Many scenes depict men interacting with animals. Inside many homes, animal parts including skulls, teeth and horns were set into the walls as decorations.
This incredible site is open year-round to visitors, who are especially encouraged to take tours when it’s being actively excavated.
4 Konya - Islamic Hymns
“Whoever you may be, come.” So says Konya’s most famous philosopher, Jelaleddin Rumi. Each year during the first half of December, over a million people from all over the world make a pilgrimage to Konya, in central Turkey, to celebrate the 13th-century poet’s life, work and death. His poetry and religious writings are respected throughout the world for their spiritual guidance and inspiration.
Rumi’s devout followers call themselves the Mevlevi or Whirling Dervishes. After his death in 1273, the Mevlevi Order spread throughout the Seljuk and Ottoman empires. When the Turkish Republic formed, the Mevlevi were designated as a cultural organization and had the freedom to practice because they were not deemed harmful to the country’s political stability.
The Mevlevi’s worship service centres around the sema—a mesmerizing dance in which they whirl for 15 minutes at a time to the drone of Islamic hymns. It represents man's spiritual ascent towards God and the truth. Rumi is said to have inspired the ritual by often whirling with delight in the streets of Konya. The Mevlana Commemoration Festival takes place at the Mevlana Cultural Center in Konya. Even non-Muslims, “whoever you may be,” are invited to witness the sema in the belief that all people are equal in the sight of God.
3 Ölüdeniz Beach & Lagoon - Eternally Calm Waters Even During The Worst Storms
Ölüdeniz literally means “dead sea,” though it’s actually meant as a compliment. It’s a reference to the area’s eternally calm waters even during the worst storms. The colour of the seawater is more of a crisp blue shade, unlike the rest of the Turquoise Coast, which makes it even more unique.
Over the past few decades, the small village has transformed into a popular beach resort in southwestern Turkey, right where the Aegean and Mediterranean seas meet. There’s a long, crescent-shaped beach that’s big enough to accommodate all the vacationers who come to Ölüdeniz in droves. Next to the beach is a lagoon that’s a designated nature reserve where construction is prohibited. This, along with a mountainous enclosure, helps the area retain a sense of unspoiled paradise.
Ölüdeniz is also known as one of the best places in the world to go paragliding. Not only does it offer unobstructed panoramic views (as long as you’re not looking in the direction of the sunbathing hordes), the stable weather and Mount Babadağ's exceptional height make paragliding an exhilarating experience every time. Other activities on offer are scuba diving expeditions to underwater caves and shallow-water snorkelling.
As a popular beach destination, the surrounding area continues to thrive commercially. This means there are plenty of restaurants and accommodations in every price range for singles, couples, families and backpackers.
In the heart of central Turkey is a seemingly extraterrestrial landscape. The terrain of Cappadocia appears otherworldly with towering, narrow hills that rise out of the earth like stalagmites. 30 million years ago, three volcanoes frequently erupted, producing a thick sediment of ash and mud. It eventually developed into soft tuff rock which was easily carved by wind and rain. Topped with harder basalt, many conical boulders were left behind atop the columns which resulted in the famous “fairy chimneys”.
The ancient Cappadocians who lived there chiselled out their homes in the hills. During the Medieval era, Byzantine Christians took refuge in the hidden caves to escape the persecution of Romans and Muslims. Thus, the region is scattered with underground caverns, hilltop caves, ornate paintings, and even furniture sculpted out of the rock. The fusion of natural forces and human interaction tell the fantastic history of this open-air museum, providing endless fascination for tourists, historians and scientists alike.
For an immersive experience, there are numerous stunning hotels and restaurants that are actually set within restored historical caves. Some are underground and rustic, and others are elevated and lavishly decorated. Cycling is also an exciting option for those who want to explore the park by rushing over the undulating terrain and navigating around sharp towers. But by far, the most popular way to experience Cappadocia and truly appreciate its beauty and scope is with a bird’s-eye view in a hot-air balloon.
1 Istanbul & Bosphorus Strait
Cruising on the Bosphorus Strait, you will witness an astonishing sight: a mosque, a church and a synagogue all standing side by side in harmony along the shore. It’s a curious scene in this day and age. However, if you’ve already travelled to other parts of Turkey, or even if you’ve simply read through this list, it’s a little less bewildering. Once you’ve understood the Turks’ blended ancestral origins, their role in bridging trade, the pride in their hospitality, and a desire to embrace the modern world, it makes sense.
All of this is encapsulated in one great city: Istanbul. Here, the country joins Europe and Asia together with the Bosphorus Strait. Byzantium was founded in 7th century B.C. by Greeks who settled on the western shore of the Golden Horn. Later occupied by the Romans, Emperor Constantine I renamed it in 330 A.D. to Constantinople, converted it to Christianity, and established it as the new capital of Rome. The city grew, and served as the main hub of commerce between the East and the West. In 1453, it was occupied by the Islamic Ottoman Empire, and it became Istanbul in 1930 shortly after the Turkish Republic was formed.
Today, along with countless gastronomical delights and chic night clubs, visitors are wowed by historic attractions such as the Byzantine basilica Hagia Sophia, the underground Roman cistern, the iconic Blue Mosque with six pointed minarets, the classic Ottoman Topkapi Palace and, of course, the dizzying and dazzling Grand Bazaar.