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Cruising to Istanbul

            Istanbul is the ancient city with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia: where East literally meets West to produce a wonderful, sprawling mixture of historic and modern attractions. Because Istanbul has so much to offer, many visiting cruise ships dock in the Golden Horn, the city’s famous harbor, for two days.


            Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, which dates back to the 15th century, is a souvenir hunter’s paradise. There are 5,000 shops selling an incredible variety of goods, from aromatic spices to classic Turkish rugs. Some shopkeepers will offer you a cup of tea, and it’s polite to accept, especially if you have serious intent to buy. After touring the bazaar, you should also visit Beyoglu, a part of the city known for fashionable boutiques.


            Istanbul is full of gorgeous mosques, churches and synagogues. The Hagia Sophia, which dates from the year 360, began as a church, became a mosque and is now a museum. It’s considered to be one the world’s finest examples of Byzantine architecture. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, or Blue Mosque, was completed in 1616 and is still used as a place of worship. The vast, stunning structure’s nickname comes from the blue tiles that cover some of its interior walls.


            Another incredible sight is the sprawling Topkapi Palace complex that overlooks the Golden Horn and the Bosporus River. Home to Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years, today it houses incredible collections of jewels, armor, porcelain and manuscripts. And, don’t miss the Basilica Cistern, or Sunken Palace, which once provided water to Topkapi and other palaces. The underground structure’s cathedral-style ceiling and supporting columns are amazing to see.


            If you do have two days in Istanbul, you may want to visit some sites just outside the city. Termal is a resort and spa with hot springs, waterfalls and a historic Turkish bath. The Prince’s Islands in the Sea of Marmara offer a peaceful contrast to the busy city, with churches, monasteries and mansions to tour.

            Istanbul is a mainstay of many Eastern Mediterranean cruise itineraries, which may also include Venice, Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kusadasi, Turkey; and various Greek Isles. Talk with a Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert to learn more about how you can cruise to exotic Istanbul.