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Why Istanbul? Because not only is it one of the most interesting and vibrant cities in the world, it is one of the most important cities in Western Civilization. It was twice the capital of Empires (Byzantine and Ottoman), and in the history of human travel you would be pressed to name another city that better embodies history’s meeting point between cultures and continents.

Why now? Because the city that still wears its history on its sleeve continues to reinvent itself. It is not only where East meets West, it is where old meets new. The restaurant scene is booming, neighbourhoods are being transformed and at the same time, Istanbul offers world renowned ancient architecture and museums, food fit for a sultan and enough sights and activities for a lifetime of visits.

Whether you are returning to Istanbul for another ladleful of its melting pot culture or you are planning a much-anticipated first taste, this week's stories on Istanbul will tell you what you want to know to enjoy the city to its fullest.

"A perfect day in Istanbul", by Virginia Maxwell, lays out an ambitious day of food, ferries, bazaars and rooftop cocktails. After all that running around you will deserve a scrub and soak at a Turkish bath house, an experience introduced in detail in Rose Mulready's "A guide to Istanbul bath houses". If you are a Turkish foodie, Ms. Maxwell's "Top five Istanbul cooking courses and food tours" will give options to discover markets and learn to make your own meals. "Uncover the secrets of Topkapi Palace" is her tour of the city's famous and infamous royal residence and harem. And finally, "Unmissable experiences in Istanbul" embraces the East meets West culture clash and offers nine different immersive ideas, ranging from art and architecture to where to eat and shop, all providing different routes into the heart of the city and its rewarding dualities. Come back each day for more.

Monday: A guide to Istanbul's bath houses

Tuesday: Uncover the secrets of Topkapi Palace

Wednesday: Unmissable experiences in Istanbul

Thursday: A perfect day in Istanbul

Friday: Top five Istanbul cooking courses and food tours

Links from elsewhere on the BBC:

Chronicle (Archaeology on television): The Fall of Constantinople (VIDEO)
Using monuments in Istanbul to show the formidable artistic and intellectual achievements of the Byzantines, the Empire is alive for a fleeting moment in Istanbul.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/chronicle/8612.shtml

BBC Languages: Tongue-tied in Turkey (VIDEO)
People share their faux pas and embarrassing moments in a foreign language.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/yoursay/dont_try/istanbul/tonguetied_in_turkey.shtml

BBC Religions: Ottoman Empire (1301-1922)
The Ottoman Empire was the one of the largest and longest lasting Empires in history.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/history/ottomanempire_1.shtml

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