Istanbul, one of the epic cradles of civilization, is a city possibly like no other in the world. Istanbul straddles two great continents – Asia and Europe. The Bosphorus, which cleaves Istanbul into two, has invariably caused a perceptible split in the culture of this highly unique city as well.
There is the multicultural section of the city whose leanings are totally European, and then there is the more traditional quarter of the city, which is completely Asian in its mindset. Once you land in Istanbul, you are caught up in a veritable whirlwind of activities to do, and things to see. The energetic atmosphere of Istanbul is sure to get to you. Istanbul can best be described as a great city which links the past to the present. Some of the ‘not-to-miss’ experiences as well as the multitude of attractions this city has to offer are mentioned below.
10 Things To Do In Istanbul
Marvel At The Blue Mosque
One of the great and defining features of Istanbul skyline is the 400 year old Sultan Ahmet mosque which is located in the old quarter of the city. The Sultan Ahmet Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque – because of the tens of thousands of beautiful blue ceramic tiles which adorn the walls of its interiors – is one of the three famous mosques of Istanbul.
The mosaic filled Sultan Ahmet Mosque with its six slender minarets, elephantine columns and great cascade of voluptuous domes, was built between 1609 and 1617 by Mehmet Aga for Sultan Ahmed I. The elegance of this mosque is further augmented by beautiful stained glass windows; mother of pearl door frames, as well as the extensive usage of finely carved and sculpted marble.
Gaze At The Golden Tiles Of Aya Sofya
Aya Sofya, one of the most visited museums and prominent monuments in the world, is called Haghia Sophia in Greek and the Church of Divine Wisdom in English. Aya Sofya or Haghia Sofia was regarded as an important monument by both the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires. Emperor Justinian built the Aya Sofya as part of this endeavor to restore the greatness of the Roman Empire.
From the time of its construction in 537 AD to 1453 AD, the Hagia Sophia served as an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral. This grand building, later served as a mosque from 1453 AD to 1931. On 1st February 1935 Aya Sofya was re-opened as a museum.
Tour The Harem At Topkapi Palace
Topkapi palace in Istanbul, is one of the oldest and largest palaces to exist in the world. Topkapi palace which was once the primary residence of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire (for nearly 400 years) is an opulent palace complex filled with a vast treasury of Islamic culture. Nearly two million people visit the Topkapi palace every single year.
A tour of the grand Topkapi palace is incomplete without visiting the treasury, seeing the harem’s quarters and the numerous treasure filled rooms around the Iftariye Baldachin. The Topkapi palace also houses a beautiful collection of priceless Far Eastern and Chinese porcelain.
Catch The Sunset From The Galata Bridge
What better way to catch a beautiful sunset than from the Galata Bridge. This iron bridge also affords panoramic views of the Bosphorus and new mosque. The Galata Bridge, also known as the Cisr-i Cedid, is a bridge that spans the Golden Horn, and connects the old city of Beyoglu with the northern districts of Istanbul. The first Galata Bridge was built by Valide Sultan the mother of Sultan Abdulmecid in 1845. The construction of the current Galata Bridge was completed in 1994.
Indulge In Some Serious Bargaining At The Grand Bazaar
If you are keen to buy an authentic Turkish carpet or rug then this is the place to visit. The Grand Bazaar which is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world has been around since 1461. The sheer magnitude of this Bazaar is such that it covers 60 blocks and has over 5000 shops. Besides the shops, there are numerous restaurants, workshops, banks and even a police station inside the premises of the Grand Bazaar. Ardent shoppers can purchase gold, silver, jewelry, ceramics and carpets at extremely nominal prices after some hard bargaining.
Relax In The Steamy Surroundings Of Suleymaniye Hamam
After a tiring day of shopping and sight seeing, there is nothing like relaxing in the steamy environs of the Suleymaniye Hammam. Suleiymaniye Hammam was built in 1557 by architect Mimar Sinan – one of the best engineers of the Ottoman Empire. A part of the Suleymaniye mosque complex, the Suleymaniye Hammam, is situated in a magnificent 450 year old building which faces the Golden Horn. The Suleymaniye Hammam was closed for nearly eighty years from 1924 to 2004.
Admire Priceless Works Of Art At The Turkish Islamic And Arts Museum
Turkish Islamic and Arts Museum founded in 1914, is home to magnificent collection of artifacts, including priceless Islamic calligraphy, tiles, metalwork, woodwork, glassware, ceramics, manuscripts, rugs and even ethnographic displays of the many cultures of Turkey. The Turkish Islamic and Arts Museum is housed in the Ottoman Palace which stands at the western edge of the Hippodrome. One of the most important exhibits of this museum is the priceless collection of carpets from around the world. The museum also hosts numerous national and international exhibitions around the year.
Enjoy A Ferry Ride On The Bosphorus
One of the relaxing ways to see the city is to take a ferry ride along the Bosphorus. A long ferry ride along the Bosphorus River is also a novel way to escape the hustle and bustle of Istanbul. Opting for a ferry ride along the Bosphorus River is a wonderful way to experience both the European and Asian sides of this amazing city. You can choose between the intercontinental ferry ride (which lasts for 1 hour), the short and frequent ferry ride (which lasts between 1.5 to 2 hours), or the full day ferry boat cruise.
See The Whirling Dervish Dancers
For a truly magical experience in Istanbul watch the whirling dervish dancers in action. The Cultural Center located in Istanbul is the best place to watch one of these magical performances. Whirling dervishes spin in a ritual ceremony and are generally accompanied by chanters and musicians. These fascinating and often dizzying performances last for nearly forty five minutes. Defying all laws of gravity and equilibrium, a performance by Whirling Dervishes is a spiritual experience not to be missed.
Eat Authentic Turkish Food
Since Istanbul is a melting pot of cultures, you can get to taste all kinds of exotic cuisine in this marvelous city. The best places to taste authentic Turkish cuisine is at one of the numerous restaurants in the Grand Bazaar. With its bold flavors which can entice any food lover Istanbul owes its rich cuisine to its proximity to the Anatolian heartlands as well as to the Aegean and Black Seas. Some local foods you should definitely try while visiting Istanbul include Kunefe, Kuyu Kebabi, Lufer, Manti and Adana Kebap (to name a few).