Istanbul, Turkey has always been a city I wanted to visit. It’s been on my bucket list for a long time. Ironically, every time I want to visit, events out of my control prevent me. This is to show you all why Istanbul should be on your list. Or at least, it will give you a reason to revisit this historical city.
So here are the top 10 things to do in Istanbul!
1) Visit The Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) And Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque
Probably one of the most famous things to do in Istanbul. The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque are world-known landmarks. The history behind these buildings is so rich. The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque was once the largest church in the eastern Roman Empire. Built by the Roman emperor Justinian the Great, The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque has been a staple center in the city’s history. From the Romans to when the Ottomans took over, The Hagia Sophia has stood beautifully. It was converted to a mosque in 1453 by the ottomans. In 1935, Hagia Sophia was turned into a Museum to becoming a mosque again this year in 2020. Have a walk in history, where Islam and Christianity are deeply rooted in one building.
Now the Blue mosque should not be ignored. It was built by Sultan Ahmet I to reassert Ottoman power. The beauty of the Blue is hard to match. Not too far from Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, it is a must-have when visiting Istanbul. Be in awe with the blue tiles and architecture.
2) Have a taste of Two Continents
Where East meets West. Have a taste of Asia and Europe while drinking some Turkish Coffee. From what friends have told me, Turkey is surprising European. Most expected it to be more Middle Eastern or Arab. However, they learned it is a mixture of the two continents. Anywhere where cultures blend, the food tends to be amazing. Turkey definitely proves that statement right. I have eaten Turkish food in New York City. Yet, all my friends that have been to Turkey have told me there is a difference. It’s like having Italian food in Italy vs pizza hut. There is just no comparison. Try Etli ekmek, a Turkish pizza-like dish with a beer. Yes, a beer in a Muslim majority country. There are tons of bars in Istanbul. You can have Shish Kebab with middle eastern spices that can match anything in the Arab world. If you want something more European, Çiğ köfte which is the Turkish version of steak tartare. Turkey has a mixture of two beautiful continents and shows it in its cuisine. A Food tour is definitely one of the things to do in Istanbul.
3) Explore the less touristic neighborhood of Ortaköy
Ortaköy is a neighborhood in Istanbul that is not easy to get to. Unless you know about this area. You have to take a bus or a ferry from the Kabatas tram stop. At night you can have to use a taxi to get in or out of this area. Might be difficult to find this neighborhood. However, it is worth the trouble. During the day, you get breathtaking views of the Bosphorus bridge while sipping some Turkish coffee. At night time, this the club hub. You get a beautiful view of the bridge at night while hearing music blasting from the nightclubs. If you do end up going here, you need to know this. It is somewhat becoming the “hipster and yuppie” area. So, everything will become more expensive as time goes on.
4) Cross the Bosphorus bridge
The bridge that connects two continents together. Its beauty is breathtaking and will leave you in awe. Sadly, you are not allowed to walk across the bridge anymore. You have to drive or take a cruise. Yet, that shouldn’t stop you from seeing this bridge in person. You literally will be in another continent once you cross it. This is definitely should be on your list of things to do in Istanbul.
5) Visit the many museums of Instanbul
Instanbul is blessed to be a city with so much history. Everywhere you turn there is 1000’s of years worth of history just waiting to be found. You can stop by the Topkapi Palace Museum (Topkapi Sarayi Müzesi). It was once the home of the Ottoman Sultans. With only about 11 dollars, you get to see how the Sultans lived. Also, stop by the Istanbul Archaeological Museums. It has many artifacts like Islamic coins and a tomb that dates back to the 1st century. It is truly worth the trip if you are into history.
6) Visit the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici)
If you are in Istanbul, you have to visit this landmark. The Basilica Cistern is Istanbul’s largest surviving Byzantine cistern. For those who don’t know, a cistern is a place where rainwater is collected. This Cistern once supplied water to the Great Palace of Constantinople. The Great Place was once the home of many emperors for 100’s of years. There are statues of Medusa’s Head lurking about. I’m sure it must be a creepy place to visit at night. Imagine walking through here at midnight on Halloween. Tours can be very expensive. Make sure to watch out for the prices. It can range from 40 dollars to about 600!
7) Stop By the Dolmabahçe Palace
Near the Bosphorus Bridge, stands this beautiful building. Its mixtures of styles are the ultimate symbol of Istanbul’s history. It was built in the 1800s, for the last Ottman sultan. The building’s architecture is mixed with Arab and European designs. The tickets lines are long here and the ticketing offices close early. So, it is best to visit earlier in the day.
8) Check out the Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi)
To get a breathtaking view of the city, you must stop by the Galata Tower. It was once a jail. However, it was restored in the 1960s. They added an observation deck making this tower a tourist hot stop. There is also a nightclub and restaurant at the top of the tower. In case you haven’t noticed, Istanbul has a strong nightlife. If you are into those types of things.
9) Take a stroll at the Grand Bazaar (Kapaliçarsi)
Visiting Istanbul will not be complete if you do not stop by the Grand Bazaar. Get a feel of the Middle East while walking through the many shops of the Grand Bazaar. I have been to a few Bazaars throughout my trips. It is always filled with life and energy. Kind of reminds me of the wall street movies. From carpets to random artifacts, you can find almost anything here. From what friends and many other people say, this Bazaar is not pushy like the ones in the Middle East. In my past trips, one of the workers would follow you for a bit telling you all the deals. Here in Instanbul, that is not the case. The merchants are friendly. However, don’t let that fool you. They still want to get as much money from your pockets as they can. So, be prepared to bargain if you want to buy something. There also two Turkish bathhouses located here. Truly worth the trip!
10) Take a Coffee and Tea Tour
Turkish coffee is known throughout the world. If you are a coffee person, it would be a shame not to go on a coffee-sipping tour. There are many tour companies that take you to the best coffee shops in Istanbul. You can learn to make Turkish coffee! It is definitely worth the tour fee. A lot of coffee tour companies also offer tea tours. For those who don’t know, Turkish tea is pretty good. They add sugar to it. It’s similar to the teas of North Africa. Hint, they were once a part of the Ottoman Empire. Taking a Coffee and Tea tour is should be on your list of things to do in Istanbul.
Thank you so much for reading! Stay safe everyone! Wash your hands! Much Love!
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