I had been planning to go to Istanbul for ages. Finally, my dream shaped into reality as I landed in Istanbul with 4 other girl friends from all over the globe.
Istanbul is the largest city of Turkey and often referred to as the historic, cultural and economic hub which connects Europe to Asia. The city is mesmerizing.
Here is a list of my favourite places in Istanbul that you definitely should include in your ‘things to do in Istanbul’ list!
Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmed Mosque
The mosque was built from 1609 – 1616 under the regime of Ahmed I. It is famously referred to as Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles on the walls of its interior. It is a popular tourist destination for both Muslims and non-muslims. It is open 24 hours a day there is no entry ticket. The magnificent architecture brings back memories of past glories and empires – the design is a combination of Ottoman and Byzantine eras.
Hagia Sophia is a gorgeous Church from the Byzantine regime. It was constructed in 5 years from 532 till 537. After the Turks conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, it was converted into a Mosque from a Church.
In 1935, it was converted into a museum – carpets from floor and white plaster from walls was removed thereby showing off the opulent mosaics and decorations.
The Sultans (Royal Turkish Family) lived in Topkapi Palace for around 400 years, before moving to the grand Dolmabache Palace in 1853. It is one of the oldest Palaces and enjoys views of Bosphorous, Marmara Sea and Golden Horn. Topaki was not just a royal residence but also the hub of all state functions and entertainment for the elite royals.
Topkapi was converted into a museum in 1924. It was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1985. Presently, Topkapi Palace is an eminent tourist attraction and contains holy relics such Prophet Muhammad’s (P.B.U.H) sword and cloak.
Grand Bazaar or Covered Bazaar is one of the largest covered markets of the world. With over 5000 shops, 60 streets – it is the focus of every tourist visiting Istanbul. It is populated with a wide variety of carpets, jewellery, antiques, hand-painted ceramics, painted glass lamps and fake branded hand-bags shops. The Bazaar was enlarged in 16th century and went a major restoration following an earthquake in 1894. Today, it still stands with a wide variety of stalls where all you hear is the loud roar of bargains….
Bosphorus Trip by Ferry
A brilliant sight-seeing tour where you see the connection between Europe and Asia. It is an experience that you can’t afford to miss if in Istanbul ever! You get to admire splendid views of European Side, Dolmabache Palace, Rumeli Fortress, the Bosphorus Bridge, Asian Side and more.
Taksim is a major tourist district and is located in the centre of European part of Istanbul. It is renowned for its restaurants, hotels, cafes, shopping outlets and night clubs. The street never sleeps! It is always bustling and is more active and vibrant after sunset.
This is the largest of the hundreds of cisterns that lie beneath Istanbul. It was built in 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justanian I.Cistern stored water for the royal palace and surrounding builidings.It was ignored and forgotten after the Ottoman conquest and it became a dumping store for corpses and other sorts of useless junk. It has been restored 3 times till date.
The cistern was used as a location for the 1963, James Bond film From Russia with Love . In the film, it is referred to as being constructed by the Emperor Constantine, with no reference to Justinian.
It is one of the most stunning Palaces in the world. It was the royal residence and administrative ground for the Sultans during the last years of Ottoman Empire. When the Turkish Republic was found, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk transferred all government functions to the youthful capital but on his visits to Istanbul Ataturk occupied only a small room at Dolmabahce Palace as his own. He entertained various state guests at the palace.
His room is still in the same way as it was when he passed away. Ataturk spent most of his illness period in the palace . After his death, on 10th of November 1938 at 9:05 AM, all the clocks in the palace are stopped at this time. It is now a museum and is symbol of great respect and reverence for Turkish people.
Spice Bazar was built in 1664 and is located at the south of Galata Bridge. It is a delicate reminder of the flavor of the east with fragrant spices adding a unique flavor to the ambiance around the area.
Apart from spices, nuts, jams, dried fruits are amongst the other edibles present in the market.
Turkish Hamam or Turkish Bath is a form of ancient Turkish ritual. It is a variant of sauna, Russian bath and steam bath.
It is a mode of cleansing and scrubbing the body and became extremely popular in the Victorian time. A Turkish bath is similar to a sauna but is more related to ancient Roman and Greek bathing practices The person taking the bath, relaxes in a warm room which is heated by hot air where he undergoes scrubbing and massage followed by a cooler room where the person is splashed with cold water. It is a highly relaxing experience and truly one of its kind…
And now something about the people of Istanbul…
People of Istanbul are extremely hard to categorize. If on one side we had people yelling at us in Trams in Turkish (literally) for just having a normal conversation then on the other hand, women were defending us and standing up for us by saying ‘they are on a holiday, let them enjoy!’
Another story that I would never forget is a random guy standing up for us and telling 2 teenage boys off when they started bumping into my friend in an extremely packed train. One more incident that I definitely have to mention is our visit to Cistern where at the end of the tour, you can dress up in traditional Turkish attire and get your photograph taken. We got the professional photographs taken. On request of one of my friends, I was about to take a photograph of her from her camera when suddenly a middle-aged person started yelling at me and held his arm high up in the air, in an attempt to scare me that he is about to slap me. This was the worst part of our trip. Obviously the threat had the complete opposite reaction and he got retaliation from 5 girls, almost his grand-daughters age doing the same.
Overall, it was extremely endearing to see strangers stand up for us in front of annoyed Turks.
Before going, we were told Turkish people are extremely vociferous. Little did we know, phrases like: ‘Cindrella, welcome to paradise!’ , ‘Annn-gelll’ , ‘Angelina’ , ‘You like flower’ would be the highlight of our trip.
Thats it folks! Pack your bags and head out to terrific turkey! It is awesome.Hope you enjoyed the post and definitely hoping you enjoy your trip as well 😉 xxx