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Laying claim to both sides of the Bosphorus — a channel where Europe reaches out to meet Asia — Istanbul is the gateway to the East. The city is home to 15 million people (that’s nearly double the population of New York’s five boroughs), and embraces a blend of cultures and religions that are unique to Turkey. For instance, the stunning Hagia Sophia, now a museum, has been both a Greek Orthodox church and an imperial mosque. And across from the museum, just off of Sultan Ahmet Square, is the 402-year-old Blue Mosque, which stands near the Hippodrome of Constantinople, the site of ancient Roman chariot races.

Steeped in history that spans continents and cultures, Istanbul has much to offer travellers (two Turkish Airlines programs make it possible to explore the city even if you’re just there for a layover). I went beyond the city’s most famous landmarks to uncover the things travellers should put at the top of their itineraries (don’t worry, I’ve included lots of snack stops). Here’s a list of 11 things you have to see, eat and do there: