Turkey’s biggest city is filled with cultural and historical wonders, as well as modern amusements, all just waiting to be discovered.
With so much to see and do, it’s difficult knowing where to begin when trying to describe all the things Istanbul has to offer. This gleaming mega-city is packed with adventures and attractions from top to toe, which are sure to give you a memorable stay. Should you only have a few days to spare for sightseeing, some of them are better than the others. This is a taste of what you can immerse in when visiting Istanbul.
A Royal Glimpse of the Past
Istanbul is a gem among gems for anyone who enjoys a glimpse into the past. With a history dating back thousands of years this city is packed with architectural highlights and cultural traditions. Amongst the many marvels is the Topkapi Palace. Pictures do not do it justice as to how great this place really is. They are unable to capture the magnitude and overload of colours, breath-taking views or the flowery grounds.
Start the day with putting on good walking shoes, as there’s a lot of ground to cover with everything you can view here. This is a must-see when in Istanbul. Intricate carvings and details on walls, panels and ceilings make it easy to see why this was a popular Sultan seat. This, combined with its beautiful location makes time fly, where you will just be impressed at what stands before you. Make sure to also take your time to see the incredible harem. This area gives a wonderful insight into how the life was for the royals growing up within the walls of the palace. Being a very popular attraction, the best thing is to try to get here early in order to avoid waiting time.
An ‘architectural marvel’ is about the best way to describe the Hagia Sophia Museum. Like something straight from Arabian Nights this building stands crowned by a wide flat dome and surrounded by speared towers. As you walk up the stoned pathways to the second floor, worn smooth by centuries of feet, it’s like walking straight into the past. At the time it was built, the dome was a bold engineering feat. Having survived earthquakes, renovations and extensions, there’s no other structure like it in the whole of Istanbul. Walk slowly to make sure you absorb all the details, and maybe you’ll even find the runes once scratched by a Viking into one of the ornate marble rails.
From the Past to the Present
It’s easy to get lost in Istanbul’s history. Not far from the Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Pera in the Tepebaşı quarter, you will find Pera Museum which takes you back into the time of the Ottoman Empire. This is another gem which shows of a different time in this large city. But there are also exhibitions that belong to more modern times in Istanbul.
The city’s many bazars have survived through modernity, offering the same items as they have done for centuries. Here the delicious scents and aromas of dried fruit, spices and traditional foods will make your senses tingle. The Egyptian Bazar carries the self-explanatory nickname ‘the Spice Market’, whilst the Grand Bazar, Kapali Carsi, is great for buying clothes, cashmere scarves and the likes. Remember to bargain when shopping here, as that is half the fun and prices can be lowered quite a bit. After a long day, head to Itsikal Street to people watch, enjoy street performers and a taste of the famous Turkish coffee in one of the many cafés lining the street.
Turkish Baths, Boat Tours and much more
Finally, a visit to Turkey won’t be complete without a visit to a traditional hamam, a Turkish bath. Many of the hamams segregate men and women but at the Suleymaniye Hamam this is not the case. The traditional bath offers both family and couple experiences where you can relax and recharge in fantastic surroundings, made up dramatic archways and domes decorated with elaborate marble inlay.
Still not content with this agenda? Consider a day trip on the Bosphorus strait with Europe on one side and Asia on the other. Or maybe explore miniature Turkey in Miniaturk before a visit to Istanbul Modern Museum with its many exhibitions and artworks? The possibilities are endless, and the challenge is to take your pick.
What would you include in a visit to Istanbul?