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Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is a city of contrasts: ancient and modern, palatial but also rag-a-muffin, steeped in history, traditional, yet innovative. It all works together somehow, creating an eclectic place unlike anywhere else. History buffs will think they’ve died and gone to heaven; among the many ancient sites open to the public are the Basilica Cistern, dating back to 532 CE. The underground site, which originally held water for the Great Palace, is surreal with its 336 columns, including two featuring the head of Medusa on their bases. More must-sees are the Egyptian Obelisk, Serpentine Column, Constantine Column, remains from the original Hippodrome, one of the largest chariot race grounds of the Byzantine Empire, dating back to 330 CE. The 600-year-old Grand Bazaar and Spice Market should also be on your list, along with the Sultan Ahmed (Blue Mosque), built in 1616, with its striking blue Iznik Tiles covering the walls.

Take a cruise down the Bosphorus, also known as the Strait of Istanbul, the narrow body of water separating the Asian and European continents. You’ll feast your eyes on palaces, restored Ottoman villas, and waterside homes of Istanbul’s power brokers.