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The latest news coming out of Turkey highlight the country’s ongoing tensions across the border with Syria and the nation’s current debate about how far separate church and state need to be, but a visit to Istanbul paints a fuller picture than these agita-inducing headlines.

Turkey’s largest city offers many opportunities to chill, reflect, and self-improve. Seaside parks come kitted out with exercise equipment for public use, while recreational fishermen can cast their hooks into the Bosphorus Sea, visually sipping on a postcard view of a bridge that leads to Asia.

Studded with ancient mosques, ruins, museums, and old universities, newer constructions reflect the nation’s overall respect for the past, not clashing with but complementing the older structures. Shopaholics will appreciate the winding cobblestone alleys that act as points of discovery for textile and crafts shops, while budget hounds will love the ability to haggle at markets and the exchange rate which currently favors the American traveler (as of the publication of this post, $1 nets you 1.81 Turkish Lira). Oh, and the food’s good too!

With many still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it’s nice to imagine a tranquil place far away. Click through for our guide to the city’s must-visit sights.

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