Literally straddled between Europe and Asia, Istanbul, the city formerly known as Constantinople and Byzantium, is a big blend of east and west. It’s enchanting, intoxicating, mysterious and just plain interesting. Below are some things that you can do should you come here.
Historical Ottoman SitesThough the city’s history goes back several thousands of years, its most prominent structures are from the Ottoman rule of the city. After all, it was their capital for over 400 years, so naturally they would leave a heavy imprint on the city.
First up are the various palaces of the Ottoman sultans, two of the more famous ones being the Topkapı and Dolmabahçe Palaces. All of them can be explored and contain museums that display priceless works of art and one-of-a-kind exhibits on Turkish and Ottoman history. Another honorable mention is the Beylerbeyi Palace.
There are also several mosques that are architectural wonders of the Islamic world. The two most notable are the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque) and the Haghia Sophia, once one of the grandest churches/cathedrals in the world. It was converted into a mosque but now is a museum which displays both its Greek and Ottoman past. Another is the Süleymaniye Mosque, the second-largest in the city.
Amazing CuisineWhether its food in one of the pricier restaurants or kebabs grilled on makeshift skewers on the street, food in Istanbul is INCREDIBLE! Of course, it’s a hard place to be if you’re a vegetarian and don’t like eggplant, but if you love grilled meat, it’s practically heaven on Earth.
Some of the best restaurants according to visitors are as follows:
Istanbul’s Grand BazaarIstanbul has many bazaars, but the grand bazaar (Kapalıçarşı) is legendary. It is possibly the largest in the world. It’s here that you’ll find everything. Like seriously, everything. Spices, auto parts, clothes, fruits, fish, candy, cheeses, vegetables, appliances, antiques, intricately-woven carpets, shoes, designer handbags (both real and fake) and pretty much anything that you can carry with you. It’s truly an exotic shopping experience.
Probably the most enjoyable thing to do when in a bazaar is to simply walk around and explore it. People watch, take in its sights and smells, but always watch your wallet. Not just for bargains, but for the pickpockets that often walk through its corridors.
Museums and Art GalleriesGod, there are so many of them. And most of them, especially if you’re a history buff, are pretty awesome.
Some of the best are contained in the Topkapı Palace, but others include the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, a museum in the Hagia Sophia, the Tiled Kiosk Museum, The Basilica Cistern, the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art (Karaköy, Beyoğlu), the Museum of Turkish Calligraphic Art and many others.
Others include lesser-known art museums such as the Sakıp Sabancı Museum and the Pera Museum.
Sailing along BosphorusThe Bosphorus is the narrow strait of water that separates East from West, Asia from Europe. It also in a sense cuts Istanbul in two. Taking a cruise along this waterway that has seen countless ships containing ancient colonists, the armies of emperors, traders and all sorts of goods, is really the best way to experience it, especially around sunset.
And there you have it, a quick list of things to do while in Istanbul. Whatever you do, be safe and have fun!
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