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With over 25 centuries of uninterrupted history, including periods as the capital of two world empires – one Christian, the other Muslim – Istanbul is an undisputed cultural heavyweight. Castles, mosques, churches, seminaries, bazaars and palaces, plus some great museums: it has them all. Add to that a superb backdrop, cleaved by the waters of the Continent – dividing Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, with minarets and domes puncturing the skyline and the taste of salt in the air. The cosmopolitan human landscape is no less beguiling, as modernity and tradition, east and west rub shoulders and Istanbul finds its feet as a cool European city with a vibrant café culture and fancy restaurants. Be prepared – Istanbul will surprise, amaze, entertain and confound you, all in the space of an afternoon.