As soon as you arrive in Istanbul, you’ll discover a world of magical colors, a blend of East and West, a very impressive Turkish city that will make you remember the Arabian Nights. Istanbul is divided into West and East by the Bosphorus, as well as by Golden Horn, where the Old City is located, place where we will focus most of our interest.
1. The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque also known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is located in the Old City and has the largest and most spectacular courtyard anywhere in Turkey. Decorated with 20,000 handmade blue tiles, the Mosque has six minarets. When coming to the Mosque, remember to take off your shoes; women will also have to cover their head and shoulders. The sultan ordered the construction of this Mosque in front of the Hagia Sophia with the intention of outshine this Christian building.
2. Hagia Sophia Museum
Right after the Hippodrome of Constantinople you’ll find the Hagia Sophia Museum, which is a formerly Byzantine basilica that was transformed into a Mosque during the Ottoman Empire time. Nowadays the building is a museum declared a World Heritage Site. It features several domes, the largest in the world, a Mihrab and several minarets.
3. Yerebatan Cisterns
Do not forget to visit the Yerebatan Cisterns, which were built to supply water to the Great Palace of Constantinople.
4. Topkapi Palace
After having a Turkish bath, you should go ahead and visit the Topkapi Palace, which is a walled Imperial Palace that illustrates the life of former sultans and their harems, as well as some of the Ottoman history.
5. The Grand Bazaar
It is a good idea to spend an afternoon in the Grand Bazaar. The Bazaar features 1,000 shops in 60 streets, in which you’ll find great products as rugs, scarves, jewelry, antiques, leather goods and delicacies. There is also a covered bazaar with some designer boutiques. Keep in mind that the Bazzar is closed on Sundays.
6. Egyptian Bazaar
Walking through the Bazaar streets you’ll get to the Egyptian Bazaar, which features a many colorful stalls specialized in spices, teas, candies and cereals. You must try the Chai tea with some Baklava sweets. Come to the popular Eminönü Market, which opens on Saturday, it is not packed with tourists and you can get cheap, local products.
7. Süleymaniye Mosque
The Süleymaniye Mosque is certainly the largest of the city. Right next to this Mosque, you’ll find the cemetery and mausoleum of Suleymaniye and his wife, Roxelana. You’ll have lovely views of the Golden Horn from the Beyazit Tower at Istanbul University. It is a watchtower of 85 meters high with 256 wooden steps.
8. Galata Tower
Crossing the Golden Horn on the Galata Bridge you’ll find the Galata Tower, which is a great restaurant worth visiting for the beautiful views of Turkey it offers. On the Istikkal Caddesi Avenue, you’ll find plenty of luxury shops, boutiques and art galleries that will guide you to Taksim Square, the largest square in Turkey. Do not miss the show of gelato.
9. Dolmabahçe Palace
The Dolmabahçe Palace was the refuge of the sultans who moved from the Topkapi Palace. Atatürk, the first president and founder of modern Turkey, passed here. Dolmabahçe Palace is the largest building in Istanbul and has 285 rooms. The most important rooms are: the Harem, the Clock Museum, the Crystal Palace and Selamlik.
Uskudar is located in the eastern part of the city, after crossing the Bosphorus Bridge. I recommend you to walk along the shore and take pictures of the other side of Turkey; sunsets here are simply beautiful. It is a good idea to dine in Taksim neighborhood and enjoy a belly dance show. Enjoy a lentil soup, Beef Kebab, Iahmacun, Turkish beer and a water pipe, also known as Nargile. Remember that Turkey’s cuisine tends to be very spicy.
Don’t forget to visit the old city walls and take a boat ride around the Golden Horn. To get to Eyup take a cable car up to Pierre Loti and capture the spectacular panoramic views of the city.
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