Top 10 Things To Do In Istanbul
Istanbul is, without doubt, one of the most interesting and exciting cities in the world. It is a true global city. Its 14 million people sit at the junction of the east and the west, the Silk Road came here and, as Constantinople, it was the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman empires.
Areas of the old city are World Heritage Listed and there are historical sites everywhere that will amaze you. Across the harbour in the Beyoglu district you will find the very latest of everything.
Named the European Capital of Culture in 2010 and the fifth most popular tourist destination in the world, Istanbul is a city you have to see.
10. Use Public Transport
Istanbul has a great network of trains, trams and buses that will take you to all corners of the city. If you spend a few hours or even a whole day travelling around the city you will get a perspective of the city and its people that you could never do by sticking to the main tourist attractions. Make sure you get a good map of the various lines, in English, before heading off.
9. Princes’ Islands
Nine islands about 20 kilometres south east of Istanbul comprise the Princes’ Islands group, historically used by the wealthy for their summer holidays. You can get a ferry from the city to any of the four main islands and enjoy a day of relaxation with no cars and less of the hustle and bustle of the mainland. With a wealthy past these islands feature grand homes and architecture, postcard pretty bays, plenty of restaurants and cafes and a romantic getaway if you feel like spending a few days here.
8. Bosphorus Ferry Cruise
The Bosphorus, also known as the Istanbul Strait (part of the larger Turkish Straits), dissects Istanbul and is the point at which Europe and Asia meet. Ferry’s run up and down the Bosphorus providing a great way to get around the city and see the sights from a different perspective. Hop over to the Asian side of the city and explore the Kadıköy district with it’s restaurants and bars. Watching the sun set from a ferry on the Bosphorus on a hot summers day is unforgettable.
7. Spice Bazaar
For anyone interested in spices, herbs, oils, incenses and food in general, the Spice Bazaar, also known as the Egyptian Bazaar, is a must. Second only to the Grand Bazaar in size, this place will keep you entranced for hours as you walk where traders have plied their goods since the 1600’s.
6. Süleymaniye Mosque
The Süleymaniye Mosque was built by Sultan Süleyman in the 1550’s. It is a beautiful example of Byzantine architecture (the famous Mimar Sinan was the chief architect and engineer for Süleyman) and one of the largest mosques in Istanbul. This is often less crowded than the Blue Mosque and equally ornate and can be a good alternative destination.
5. Galata Tower
The history of the Galata Tower is thought to date back to the 6th Century when the original structure was probably used as a jail and observatory. Today the tower rises almost 67 metres into the air with walls that are more than 3 metres thick. It is now used purely as a tourist attraction, providing great views of the city and the surrounding areas.
4. Topkapi Palace
The Topkapi Palace was built in the 1470’s by Sultan Mehmet and served as home to the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire for more than 400 years. With 5 kilometres of walls and an enclosed area of 700,000 square metres, this is also one of the largest palaces in the world. In addition to the architecture and palace grounds, there are vast collections of all manner of artefacts that represent life in the Ottoman empire across the centuries.
3. Blue Mosque
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (commonly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles used in the interior), was built in the early 1600’s combining Ottoman and Byzantine design elements. It continues to be used as a practicing mosque. The architect, Sedefkar Mehmed Aga, specifically designed the mosque to be grand and statuesque in proportions and in this he succeeded magnificently. The interior is lined with handmade ceramic tiles and several hundred stained glass windows provide illumination. Just beautiful.
2. Hagia Sofia
The Hagia Sofia was built in the 6th Century, originally as a Catholic church and more recently being used as a Mosque. In the 1930’s it was converted into a museum. The architecture, stunning use of materials and sheer scale of the building is breathtaking. Leave plenty of time to meander through this magical place.
1. Grand Bazaar
Istanbul was the trading hub of the world for centuries. The place where east meets west. Traders have been buying and selling goods in this location since the 1400’s. In addition to being one of the oldest markets in the world it is also one of the largest, covering over 50,000 square metres and containing more than 3,000 shops. Most of the market is under cover, providing a great environment regardless of the weather.
If you love history and culture you will find it here aplenty. If you also love shopping you may well never leave.