Istanbul Vacation - Deals & Packages!Istanbul is a metropolis of history, culture, architecture, commerce, beauty and culinary arts. Founded in 1000 BC, the city was known as Byzantium and later its name was changed to Constantinople in the honor of King Constantine who had rebuilt it. Today, Istanbul is the most populous city in Europe and is the financial centre of Turkey. In a nutshell, a visitor would find this city a precarious mix of the two most dominant religious ideologies in the world- Christianity and Islam- and coupled with an exquisite range of marvelous architecture and unforgettable culinary dishes.Places of Interest in Istanbul Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) The Hagia Sophia, or ‘the Holy Wisdom,’ is a sixth century domed monument in Istanbul, Turkey. This historical monument has seen quite a number of changes to its identity ever since it was built- it was a Christian cathedral for first thousand years, then was turned into a Muslim mosque for next 500 years and during last the eighty or so years has become a prominent museum that relates to the history of the old city. It was born from turbulent conditions of the reign of the then Byzantine king, Justinian 1 in 532 AD as an architectural masterpiece. The Hagia Sophia of today combines a majestic basilica with a centralized structure with a 105-foot main dome that was initially a failed and fallen structure but now comfortably lies rested entirely on some pendentives and two semi-domes. The most striking part of this architectural marvel are its windows that completely hide the support structures during the glare of daylight and lead one to believe that canopy is floating mid-airSultanahmet Camii or the Blue Mosque Simply put, Haghia Sophia was an Orthodox Cathedral and Sultanahmet Camii was its Islamic counterpart. The latter was built during the reign of Sultan Ahmet 1 in seventeenth century as a masterpiece of Islamic sculptural arts and beliefs. Strangely, it has six minarets as against four that you would find with most Islamic monuments around the world. It is exclusively known for its blue Iznik tiles that form the interiors and give an illusion of blue light percolating through the windows. Next up is the commendable latticework in the Mihrab (or the site of offering religious prayers) where a piece of sacred black stone from Mecca is kept.Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi) This stunning piece of art called the Topkapi Palace was constructed during the reign of Mehmed II. He had captured the Roman city of Constantinople in 1453 AD and had renamed it as Istanbul, the capital of Ottoman Empire. The ornate palace has a number of interconnected courtyards that have a range of different uses like gardens and private living area. Once you enter the Topkapi Palace, you would be offered a guided tour to the Harem (the room of the king’s concubines) and this is your best chance to see a glimpse of their extravagant lifestyle. Of special note in the palace are the sparkling jewels of the royal treasury, the armory and royal clothes and a collection of manuscripts. It is best advisable to keep at least four hours in reserve to explore this palace completely.