Istanbul, old Constantinople, the Byzantine’s New Rome, the City of cities, is one of the most favorite destinations among tourists. A lovely, magical city placed on the crossroad of two continents, connects the East with the West and during the thousands of years of its existence, was at the epicenter of religious wars and conflicts as well the capital of great empires.Its an amazing, vivid city that i had the pleasure to visit twice, my last visit actually was half a month ago. To whoever i talk, obviously impressed, i tell the very best for Istanbul and when i am being asked why, i present them these 10 reasons. 10 reasons why someone should definitely visit the so called “City”.
1. The Hagia Sophia.
The monumental construction of emperor Justinian is for many the main reason of visiting Istanbul. During the 1500 years of its story it served as a religious place for both Christians and Muslims and today as a museum.A visit is necessary so that you can admire this marvelous sample of Byzantine architecture. Whether it’s a monument of the humanity, a place of worship or a architectural miracle one thing is for sure. When you enter the main temple look up to the dome. A feeling of awe will overwhelm you.
Entrance fee 30 Turkish Lira.
2. The tower of Galata.
Just before the end of the Istiklal pedestrians way, the tower of Galata is located. The medieval, cyclic tower, serves as one of the most important sights of the City and offers a panoramic view of Istanbul, the Bosporus and the Golden horn. Is open to public until 20:30, however there is usually a big line of people waiting to get over the top.
Entrance fee 25 Turkish Lira.
3. The Topkapi museum.
Today’s museum was once the the residence of the sultans of the Ottoman empire, until 1853 when the Dolmabache palace was constructed. Built in the old position of the Byzantine palaces, it has a view of the Bosporus and it architecture will impress the visitor. As a museum worth’s a visit as it contains important exhibits like samples of Islamic art, ceramics, gifts of foreign leaders to the sultans, religious artifacts as well as two interesting collections of old clocks and arms.
Entrance fee 30 Turkish Lira plus 15 Lira for the Harem.
4. Cruise in the Bosporus.
The Bosporus straits, served as a strategical spot to whoever controlled them since ever, due to the connection of the black sea with the sea of Marmara and consequently with the Mediterranean sea. Istanbul was constructed and spread around the straits, being a part of both Europe and Asia. A cruise in the Bosporus is the best way to understand the geography of the City and to admire its unique beauty. You will see the most of the landmarks from an different point of view and you will sail underneath the big bridge of Bosporus.
5. The Basilica cistern.
One of the largest constructions during the Byzantine era, the Basilica cistern for centuries provided with water the capital. Now away from the public view, beneath the roads in the Sultanahmet area, is open to public. A huge subterranean hall lies in front of the visitor’s eyes, while 336 big columns support the ceiling of the structure. The liquid element dominates along with the moisture its combined with the temperature of the place causes a heavy atmosphere. Wooden passageways placed in the water guide the visitors to the rest of the cistern while the low lights create a mystical place. A visit is highly recommended.
Entrance fee 25 Turkish Lira.
6. Visit to a Turkish Bath.
Personally i think that a visit to a Turkish Bath or Hamam is a unique, vivid experience that is highly unlikely to experience in a hotel’s SPA. Inside the hot, full of moisture halls, you will feel like traveling in time, as the process remains the same in centuries. The are Turkish baths that work since 1560, offering high quality services. On the hot marbles you will relax, calm down and feel reborn. I totally recommend it!
Prices start from 30 Euros and raise depending the Hamam.
7. The Turkish cuisine and sweets.
It’s impossible to travel to Istanbul and don’t be satisfied from the food and the sweets. The Turkish cuisine is a bit heavy with many spices, while the pork meat is absent since the Muslims don’t eat it. Beef and lamp meat, many vegetables, rice and a combination of spices will make you not knowing what to eat first. As for the sweets, a huge variety of syrupy desserts ( baklava ) and Turkish delights will sweeten your visit. Make sure you try the very known Kazan Dibi as well as the Ekmek ( Bread putting ) with kaymak ( clotted cream ) made out of Buffalo’s milk.
8. The City’s Mosques.
The Islamic mosques can be found anywhere in Istanbul, with their minarets dominating the urban horizon. Regardless of your religious beliefs, i recommend you visit some of them, so that you admire the Islamic religious art and architecture. During the pray the entrance to the mosque is forbidden, while the rest of the hours you can enter showing respect and being decently dressed. Two of the most important mosques you can visit, are those of the, so called, Blue Mosque in the area of Hagia Sophia and the mosque of Suleiman, near the Grand Bazaar.
9. The Grand Bazaars.
It’s not possible to travel to Istanbul and not to visit the known bazaars and the markets. Both Kapali Carci and the Egyptian market will travel you in the past and offer you a taste of eastern bazaars. A simple walk is enough, however if you wish to shop something, get ready for negotiations and bargains. You can find almost anything there whetehr you need it or not. Get lost in the endless corridors and alleys and enjoy the magical trip in the East.
10. Walking in Istiklal street.
Is the most popular street in the City and the same time one of the most commercial ones. The pedestrians way starts from the Taxim square and finishes just before the tower of Galata. Commercial stores, restaurants, fast foods, cafeterias and outdoor markets can be found all the way. Whether you want to grab something to eat, do your shopping, entertain your selves or simply walk, Istiklal is the right place for you. Full of people until late the street is extremely vivid and full of energy. The heart of nightlife beats here.
Living Istanbul i told myself that i am going to visit it again first chance given. Yes this city will provoke you that feeling, that need to visit it again. It’s history, the fact that is full of life, it’s dynamic all are calling you to explore it and discover it’s secrets. One time is not enough. Only by going again and again will manage to sense the magnitude of a unique city, the magnitude that the thousands of years that passed have degraded but not erased…