Istanbul is a prime destination for travelers with a passion for history and ancient culture. This historic city is the largest in Turkey and is the home of some of the world’s greatest architectural wonders.

Following are some of the most stunning attractions in Istanbul – from historic buildings to modern-day experiences.

What to see and do in Istanbul

The Aya Sofya: Known as Hagia Sofia to much of the world, this basilica is the most famous monument in Istanbul, drawing visitors from all over the globe. The site was used by the Byzantium and Ottoman empires. It has been a church, a mosque and since 1935, has been a museum.

The Hippodrome: Once the site of chariot races during the Byzantine Empire, the Hippodrome today is a public plaza featuring many of its original architectural elements. And near the Hippodrome are several other notable sites: The Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain, the Obelisk of Theodosius and the Tripod of Plataea.

Bosphorus Night Cruise: For an enjoyable night out that offers a uniquely Turkish experience, travelers to Istanbul should take the Bosphorus Night Cruise. While relaxing on a ferry that crosses the Istanbul Strait – or Bosphorus –guests view the romantic lights of the old city. Ferries depart approximately every 30 minutes and the fee of a few dollars buys riders an unparalleled view of Istanbul. On the other side of the strait, passengers debark in Karakoy where they can explore markets, tea gardens and local sites before riding the ferry back to Istanbul.

Health, safety and logistics

No special immunizations are required to visit Turkey; however, visit your doctor before your trip to ask about any vaccinations you should consider. Turkey doesn’t currently recognize reciprocal health-care arrangements with the U.S., so you should purchase international travel insurance to ensure you’ll be covered in case of illness or injury.

Istanbul shares borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran which can present some concerns for travelers. The U.S. State Department provides warnings and advice for citizens planning international travel anywhere in the world. The latest information regarding potential threats is available on the Travel State website. The Turkish government has strong penalties for drug trafficking, insulting the state and removing antiquities from the country. Visitors to Istanbul should have a clear understanding of Turkish laws and contact the U.S. Embassy with any concerns.

Flight times from the U.S. to Istanbul are long; it takes approximately 11 flight hours to reach Ataturk Airport from New York City. With layovers and connections, actual travel time can vary widely, but the chance to experience one of the world’s most important locations is well worth the extended travel time.

Overseas travel can be an enlightening and enriching experience. Visiting a city like Istanbul is like taking a trip through time. Even though the city is ancient, lodging, dining and other amenities are sophisticated enough to please any traveler. Your trip to Istanbul can be the highlight of your travels as long as you take reasonable precautions and plan to see the city’s most exciting sites.