Istanbul is one of the world's great cities. Turkey might struggle with its identity, caught between Europe and the Middle East, but it is a boon for tourists: Istanbul is just as eclectic as one would expect from a city straddling two continents. Its history only adds to the charm. Two millenia of powerful empires have left their mark with an amazing collection of palaces, churches, mosques, and markets, but Turkey is also a modern city with gleaming towers and modern infrastructure.
Like Rome, Constantinople was originally built across seven hills on a peninsula. Known as the Eminönü district, this is the historic center of Istanbul. At its heart is Sultanahmet, home to Istanbul's most famous landmarks: the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. It's also crowded with tourists.
Across the Golden Horn lies the Beyoğlu district. It was first built up as a suburb of fifth century Constantinople. Eventually the area became a hub of trade and was the city's most cosmopolitan area before falling somewhat into disrepair in the early Republic. Today the cosmopolitan feel has largely returned as young Turks have taken advantage of the cheaper rents. Neighborhoods like Cihangir are filled with interesting shops, bars, and restaurants.
To the north lies Beşiktaş. One end of the Bosphorus Bridge terminates in the Ortaköy neighborhood, which also is home to night clubs, art galleries, cafes, and restaurants. The Levent area is home to one of Istanbul's two central business districts.
The Asian side of the city generally consists of suburbs. It's less densely populated, and there isn't as much for tourists to do. Kadıköy is another trendy area, with some of the city's best shopping. It's also home to Fenerbahçe, Turkey's most successful club football team.
It is just about impossible to not fall in love with Istanbul. The more than 13,000,000 residents are friendly, the architecture is unparalleled, and the culture is fascinating. As Turkey lurches into the 21st century, it will be interesting to see how Istanbul adapts.