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The only city in the world that spans two continents, for millennia, Istanbul has been a place for conquest, culture, and commerce. The city is split by water into three sections:

- Sultanahmet sits on the peninsula and is home to the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace.

- European Istanbul is where you'll find shops, restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife scene.

- Asian Istanbul is across the Bosphorus and is a much less tourist-heavy destination.

With its tolerant, secular society and stunning architecture, a trip to Istanbul is a rare opportunity to see the world in a new way.

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1. The Blue Mosque

From the outside, the Blue Mosque feels a little bit like false advertising - there's nothing blue to be found. But step inside the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, and you'll be blown away by the 20,000 blue tiles which make up the stunning ceiling.

Built in the early 1600s, while most mosques have two or four minarets, the Blue Mosque boasts six. While it is open daily for tourists, the Mosque is still practicing, and so there is a dress code, and you cannot visit during prayer time except to worship.

  • Fajr (İmsak): Two hours before dawn
  • Tulu (Güneş): Dawn
  • Zuhr (Öğle): Midday
  • Asr (İkindi): Afternoon
  • Maghrib (Akşam): Sunset
  • Isha (Yatsı): Last Light
  • Prayer times depend on sunrise and sunset. The best time to visit is between Tulu and Zuhr. Women should cover their arms, legs, and hair. Men should cover their legs.

    Yarygin / Getty Images
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