Although Ankara is the formal capital of Turkey, it is in fact Istanbul that is the de facto capital of the nation. With a population of some 15 million people, it is one of the world’s great megacities. Istanbul has an incredible history, which is only rivaled by Rome in Italy.
Wherever you walk, you cannot escape the past. The city was formerly known as Constantinople and was the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires. It is a city on two continents, with one part in Asia and the other in Europe. The city has a whole array of world-famous sites.
There are grand mosques, such as the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. Then there are also remnants of Roman occupation, such as the underground cisterns. Perhaps the most impressive site has to be the 15th-century Grand Bazaar, which is the largest covered market in the world. It is also the most visited tourist attraction in the world and has a bustling atmosphere like nowhere else.
It is here that you can practice your haggling skills with the shopkeepers. Besides the main attractions, the city is known for its delicious street cuisine (kebabs), hookah (water pipe) bars, and cay (tea) drinking culture. With its location on the Bosphorus Strait, you can also take a boat to other parts of the city or destinations further afield.
A particular highlight is the mountainous region of Cappadocia and the Princes’ Islands. As a student, you can get considerable discounts on the public transport system's trams and buses. Living costs are also very low, with average costs running at about 400-500 euros a month.