Istanbul is the only city in the world to be located between two continents, Europe and Asia. Although it’s not the capital of Turkey its the largest city. Istanbul has the Istanbul International Airport which makes it easier for tourists to access the city. It is a very diverse city with a variety of activities for tourists. The city has high end hotels for their tourists to stay in all with picturesque views of the city. When in Istanbul you can chose to either go on guided tours or just hire a car and drive yourself around. Below I have put together a list of the must see places in Istanbul along with a few facts.
1) The Blue Mosque
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque gets the name Blue Mosque from the beautiful blue tiles found on the walls in its interior. It was built by Sultan Ahmed I who wanted to build a place of worship that will compete with Hagia Sophia which is next to it. Famous for its 6 minarets plus a large dome and 8 small domes, the Sultan instructed a 7th minaret to be added. The 7th minaret was added to differentiate it from Haram Mosque, the holiest Mosque, that also has 6. The interior of the Mosque is lit by 260 windows and over 20,000 blue tiles. It is indeed a spectacular site.
2) Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is found inside the Walled City of Istanbul and is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, many refer to it as the oldest Shopping Mall in the world. It was the heart of the Mediterranean Trade after the spread of the Ottoman Empire. There are about 40,000 shops in 60 covered streets. A sea of products can be purchased at the Grand Bazaar including Turkish Lamps, ceramics, leather, silk, ornaments, Kilim Rugs, Turkish Tea, spices and scents, silver and gold jewellery and Hammam Soap. Pazarlik (bargaining) is allowed at the market and in my opinion part of the experience. Due to the low cost of craftsmanship, it is said that the jewellery there is cheaper compared to other parts of the world. The Grand Bazaar doesn’t open on Sundays.
3) Galata Tower
The Galata Tower is in Galata District, which is in the European side of Istanbul. Built in the 14th century, it replaced an older tower that was destroyed during the Sack of Constantinople. Galata Tower was originally called Christea Turris meaning Tower of Christ and was the tallest building upon completion standing at 66.90 metres above the ground. The walls are 3.75 metres thick making them impossible to penetrate. The top part of the tower is used as an observation deck providing stunning views of the city.
4) Istiklal Caddesi
Istiklal Caddesi, also known as Independence Street, is a 1.4 kilometres long elegant pedestrian street. The street in some ways is similar to Oxford Street in London and Champs-Elysees in Paris. There are plenty of fun things that can be done on Istiklal Caddesi. You can try out the different types of street food or cure your sugar cravings by buying the numerous pastries like Baklava and Kunafa displayed through glass windows. As you walk down the street you will see lots of pubs and restaurants and it is for you to chose the one that catches your eye the most. Riding the tram is a must anytime you go to Istiklal Caddesi and it runs in the middle of the street a few times a day. You can also enjoy street performances and visit art galleries, museus and cinemas. Lastly be sure to shop till you drop while you are there.
5) Misir Çarsisi
Also known as the Spice Bazaar, Misir Çarsisi is located in the Eminönü quarter of the Fatih district and is a well known shopping complex. Though smaller than the Grand Bazaar many people still prefer to shop here. They sell an array of edible items like good quality spices, dried fruits, different types of nuts and sweets. The famous Pandeli Turkish Restaurant can also be found in the Bazaar so be sure to stop by and taste their delicious food.
6) Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia was built in 360 CE in Constantinople and was dedicated by Roman Emperor Constantius II but it was later destroyed by riots. The reconstruction was ordered by the first great Byzantine ruler and is a good reference for Byzantine art and culture. The church was later changed to a Mosque and plenty of Islamic of features were incorporated. The Wishing column or sweating column are part of the church and it is said that they have healing powers. Its interior has massive pillars and mosaics of Jesus, Mary, angels and saints. Dozens of chandeliers hang from the ceiling and placards with the names of Allah and Muhammed.
7) Isfanbul Theme Park
Also known as Vialand, Isfanbul is a big complex that consists of a theme park, exhibition centres and shopping areas. Being the largest amusement park in the country it is often compared to Disneyland. Isfanbul has many attractions for children like the fairytale castle, a chance to meet their favourite cartoon characters. There also activities for both adults and kids like riding the roller coaster which is 4th best in the world and going for an adventure in the crazy river. You can also go to the Justice Tower if you’re an adrenaline junkie, the viking water adventure, the 360 and hands of King Kong. Be sure to check out their site for tickets.
8) Istanbul Aquarium
Istanbul Aquarium is found in the Florya neighborhood of Bakirkoy district opened in April 2011. It is the largest thematic aquarium in the world. The aquarium has a 1.2 kilometre travelling route that originates in the Black Sea towards the Pacific with 1 rainforest, thousands of fish species, a gift shop, 3 cafeterias and 1 restaurant. Activities you can do at the aquarium include feeding the fish, diving with the fish, opening banner in the main tank, photoshoots and much more. The restaurant is a great place to dine in as it has a sea view on one side and a Panama Canal view on the other side. Check out their official page to purchase your tickets.
9) Dolmabahçe Palace
Dolmabahçe is the beautiful Palace of the Bosphorus and is the most elegant of the smybolic structures of the Ottoman Empire’s transformation in the 19th century. Around 14 tons of gold was used to decorate the ceilings in gold leaves. The crystal chandelier has 750 bulbs and weighs 4.5 tons and was a gift from England’s Queen Victoria. It has a crystal staircase and 131 silk carpets were handmade just for the palace. The palace has 285 rooms, 44 halls, 68 toilets and 6 baths with 202 magnificent oil paintings on display inside the palace. The only was you can enter is through a guided tours and not as an individual plus taking pictures inside the palace isn’t allowed.
10) Topkapi Palace Museum
Topkapi Palace Museum was built in 1478 and covers 400,000 square metres making it the biggest and oldest palace in the world. In 1985 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is directly behind Hagia Sophia. Until the 19th century, Sultans ruled the Ottoman Empire from the palace for 400 years. The Sultan kept his concubines in the Harem of the Palace as it has over 400 rooms. In 1924, the palace was converted into a museum. The museum houses an 86 carat diamond and many other treasures. A kitchen with over 10,000 porcelains is also found in the museum. Relics of the Prophet Muhammed are found on the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle.
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