27 reasons Istanbul is the best city on Earth

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If our city walls could talk, they’d recite hundreds of legends involving mythological gods, prophecies fulfilled, and tales of love lost and betrayal that make our city so enchanting. The Bosphorus itself — the strait between Asia and Europe — was born of the myth of the beautiful mortal Io. She was turned into a cow by Zeus to hide their tryst from his vengeful wife, Hera. Not to be fooled, Hera stung Io with a horsefly, sending Io crashing away, leaving behind the legendary strait — otherwise known as the “passage of the cow.”

Three empires fought to claim her as their capital. We’re not the first to be smitten with the city’s commanding views. The Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires all fought to claim the city’s real estate as their capital to dominate trade between the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

From Ancient Hellenic sites to modern-day architectural feats, our enduring monuments — the ancient Hippodrome, the 20th-century Bosphorus bridges, August Jasmund’s Sirkeci train station, Mimar Sinan’s Süleymaniye Mosque — are celebrated worldwide for their grandeur and style.

We’ve got World Heritage Sites above and below ground. Over 650 hectares of our old city is UNESCO World Heritage listed, preserving the likes of Topkapı Palace, Hagia Sophia, and the subterranean Basilica Cistern for generations to come.

Our monuments are made by the finest artisans. Late Byzantine restorations by the wealthy Theodore Metochites bejewel Chora Church with gilded mosaics and heavenly frescoes; Seyyid Kasim Gubari, considered the greatest calligrapher of his time, brushed the 17th-century Blue Mosque with golden verses of the Quran; artisans handcrafted 20,000 blue Iznik tiles to give the Blue Mosque its colour and name.

The days of sultans may have passed, but we can still live a life of opulence in their Bosphorus-side palaces. Çırağan Palace Kempinski and Four Season Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus are two such places that have lavish accommodations, gourmet restaurants, poolside pampering, and panoramic views.

We can play in the snow in winter… The seven hills of Istanbul transform into a winter wonderland when the temperatures drop towards zero from December. Snowball fights in Sultanahmet Park, surrounded by the Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque dusted in snow, is a favorite way to spend a winter’s day in the city. READ MORE…

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