Istanbul, the city where west meets east, has captured the fancy of the world through millennia. Built and sacked, bit by bit across centuries of being conquered by Greeks, Persians, Romans and Venetians and Ottomans, it stands today as an anthology of their history and culture. Straddling Europe and Asia over the strait of Bosphorus, Istanbul thrives as the melting pot of heritage, religion, language, and food.

Özgür Yılmaz, a native Istanbulian, uses his phone as tool of relaxation and distraction from the ever day routine of life. Clicking pictures is his favorite pleasure and so is sharing his snapshots with the world. You can find him on Instagram as galaksi.rehberi. This is his take on the gorgeous Istanbul.

Taksim, in the heart of the European side of Istanbul, is a modern city center and a major tourist haunt, famed for being the culture, entertainment, and leisure district of Istanbul. Home to the Taksim square, Atatürk Cultural Center and Opera house, and countless narrow streets and passageways offering outstanding culinary, shopping and relaxation options, Taksim is a top destination.

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Turkish Tea at Hazzopulo passage in Taksim

Istikal street, a 3 km long pedestrian only avenue is lined with several boutiques, music and bookstores, markets, art galleries, cinemas, theaters. A mélange of various ethnic groups in the neighborhood add to its unique charm. Another delight, the red old tram still rattles along Istikal street, running from Taksim Square to Tünel Square just as it did in its 19th-century heyday.

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The Tram on Istiklal street in Taksim in winter

With tiny passageways around every corner harboring an endless variety of local and international stores, tea houses, sheesha cafes, lively streetside restaurants, bars, patisseries, chocolateries, you could spend your day here, enjoying amazing treats and the general splendor.

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Cezayir- An algerian-french street in Taksim

In the heart of old Istanbul, lies Sultanahmet, home to the historic monuments of Topkapı Palace, Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), Sultanahmet (the Blue Mosque)and the Istanbul Archeological Museum, among many others.

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On Sultanahmet square in old Istanbul

The most visited site in Turkey, the Church of the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia in Greek) reigns supreme among ancient structures in Istanbul. The Hagia Sophia was built by East Roman Emperor Justinian in 537 AD to be the greatest church in Christendom. Over a hundred feet across, and one hundred and eighty feet above the ground, it was by far the largest dome ever constructed at the time and an architectural and engineering marvel.

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The Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia remained the largest church ever built until St Peter’s Basilica was constructed in Rome a 1000 years later. Following Fatih Sultan Mehmed’s conquer in 1453, Hagia Sophia served as a mosque, until in 1935 it was finally declared a museum. With such history and beauty, the Hagia Sophia remains a must-see sight in Istanbul.

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The view from a cafe in Beyazıt

Two tram stops from Sultanehmat in old Istanbul, lies the Beyazit Square — the spacious plaza outside the gates of Istanbul University. The Mosque of Sultan Süleyman (Süleymaniye Camii),  Istanbul’s largest and grandest mosque, is just behind the university enclosure. Beyazit is also where you’ll find the Grand Bazaar, the old Book bazaar and walking along the Longmarket street through Tahtakale, the Egyptian Spice Bazaar.

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The Süleymaniye Mosque from Istanbul University Economics library in Beyazıt

The Bosphorus or Bogazici in Turkish is a 20 mile long north-south strait that joins the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea in Istanbul, and separates the continents of Europe and Asia. Running right through the heart of Istanbul, the Bosphorus is surrounded by outstanding historic sites, Ottoman palaces, fortresses and museums.

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Bridge over Bosphorus strait

Ortakoy, an Istanbul suburb, sits rights under the Bosphurus bridge on the banks of European side of Istanbul. With several restaurants, cafes, tea houses, markets and street shows, Ortakoy is sure to keep its visitors entertained.

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View of bridge on Bosphorus from Ortaköy

The best way to enjoy the Bosphorus is to take a cruise on the waters, soaking up the history and charm of the city of Istanbul. Or take a leisurely walk along the banks and sip a relaxing cup of turkish tea at one of the many restaurants along the shore. Your Istanbul journey will be incomplete without an encounter with romance and charm of the Bosphorus.

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Bosphorus-On the water