Turkey has played so many roles historically and geographically, such as serving as the capital for the Roman Empire, the East Roman Empire, Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire. In 1923 Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded theRepublic of Turkey and the country was liberated. Today, Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and the third largest in the world. Located on the Bosphorus Strait, it extends itself across Europe and Asia. It is the only metropolis in the world that is located between two continents.
My first trip to Istanbul was a ten-day crash course history lesson and while I hit all of the mandatory stops along the Mediterranean, I definitely didn’t have time to soak them all in. This time, we would have three glorious weeks to spend in Istanbul and loads of time to spend within it’s historic sites and must-do adventures. That being said, I give you our top ten…
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque
The Spice Bizaar
Top Ten Things To Do In Istanbul:
- The Kadiköy Passenger Ferry in Kadikoy. It is a twenty-minute journey accompanied by many cups of Çay (Turkish tea) and flocks of enthusiastic seagulls, that brought us across the Bosphorus and landed us on the European side of Istanbul. Take it at sunset for uninterrupted sunset views across the Bosphorus.
- Hagia Sophia, originally constructed as a Greek Orthodox Christian basilica between 532 and 537 A.D. on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, it was later transformed into a mosque and now serves as a museum.
- Yerebatan Cistern, a vast underground water storage tank originally built by Constantine the Great. Today it is a huge open space containing 336 columns and about 12 inches of water on the floor. Wooden planks have been laid down so that visitors can easily walk amongst its columns. The natural acoustics of the room make it ideal for concerts and performances.
- Topkapi Palace, the first Ottoman palace to be built. It began construction in 1466 and is located on the spot where the foundations of the city were first laid in ancient times. It is one of the most beautiful views of Istanbul, incorporating the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, the two shores and the sea of Marmara.
- Dolmabahçe Palace, built in neo-baroque style between 1843-1856. It consists of 285 rooms, 43 halls, and 6 Turkish baths. The decor is saturated within the rococo period- crystal chandeliers, decorative tapestries, and lots of gold. Due to all the “bling,” there is a steady armed watch just outside the palace. Dolmabahçe was built with the intention of replacing the Topkapi Palace. It housed Sultans and their families before the Republic and was then used by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk during his visits to Istanbul.
- The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the national mosque of Turkey. It is best known as The Blue Mosque for the hand-painted blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. The mosque is comprised of five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. It was built between 1609 and 1616 and continues to function as a mosque today. At night the mosque is bathed in blue lights.
- Getting Scrubbed At A Hamam, these Turkish baths are similar to the old Roman baths. The traditional bath usually starts with relaxation, where the bather is placed in a heated room with a continuous flow of hot, dry air. Bathers may then move to an even hotter room before they are then washed in cold water. After a full body wash and a massage, bathers then retire to a final room for a period of relaxation. It is a traditional Turkish experience that must be tried, at least once.
- The Grand Bazaar, constructed between 1455 and 1461, is one of the largest covered markets in the world. It covers more than 58 streets, contains over 1,200 shops, and has between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. It is well known for its jewelry, pottery, carpet shops and classicly cheesy souvenirs.
- The Spice Bazaar, one of the oldest bazaars in the city. It is the second largest covered shopping complex after the Grand Bazaar.The building itself is part of the Yeni Mosque. and, long ago, rents from the shops within were intended to help pay for the upkeep of the mosque. The structure was completed in 1660. Today, the bazaar still is the center for spice trade in Istanbul.
- Galata Tower, a medieval stone tower located in Kadiköy. The nine-story tower was built in 1348. It was the city’s tallest structure when it was built. Today there is a restaurant and cafe on the upper floors, while the observation deck provides picture perfect panoramic views.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque
The Grand Bazaar
The Kadikoy Passenger Ferry