Best things to do in Istanbul

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Istanbul is a city located across Europe and Asia, offering a unique blend of history and modernity. There are countless reasons to visit Istanbul. With a history spanning thousands of years, the city offers a wealth of historical sites to explore.

Its stunning mosques decorated with colourful tiles and dramatic architecture, add to its allure. The city’s charm is enhanced by the warmth and friendliness of its people. Not to mention, Istanbul is home to the magnificent Hagia Sophia, a true architectural marvel and one of the Wonders of the World.

If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul, prepare to be amazed by the abundance of sights and experiences awaiting you. We will delve into some of the best things to do while in vibrant city of Istanbul.

Visit Hagia Sophia

Best things to do in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia is a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture and one of Istanbul’s most iconic landmarks. Originally built as a cathedral in 537 AD, it later became a mosque and now serves as a museum. Its immense dome and stunning mosaics draw visitors from around the world.

The interior features intricate Christian mosaics and Islamic calligraphy, reflecting its diverse history. Visitors can explore the vast main hall, where sunlight filters through large windows, creating a mesmerizing play of light and shadow. The upper galleries offer panoramic views of the interior and the intricate mosaics depicting Christ, the Virgin Mary, and various saints.

Each mosaic tells a story, blending art and history. The gardens outside provide a peaceful retreat with views of the imposing structure. Hagia Sophia’s history, architecture, and religious significance make it a must-visit.

Take a cruise on the Bosphorus

Best things to do in Istanbul

A cruise on the Bosphorus offers a unique perspective of Istanbul, showcasing its stunning skyline and historical landmarks. The canal separates Europe and Asia, providing breathtaking views of palaces, mosques, and ancient fortresses. Cruises vary from short tours to longer journeys that include meals and entertainment.

As you glide along the water, you’ll see iconic sites like the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Bosphorus Bridge, and the Maiden’s Tower. The European and Asian shores are dotted with colourful wooden houses and lush gardens, creating a picturesque backdrop. Sunset cruises are particularly popular, as the sky transforms into shades of orange and pink, casting a magical glow over the city.

Some cruises also offer traditional Turkish music and dance performances, adding to the experience. Whether you choose a private yacht or a public ferry, a Bosphorus cruise is a relaxing way to explore Istanbul’s beauty from the water.

Explore the Grand Bazaar

Best things to do in Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. With over 4,000 shops, it offers everything from carpets and textiles to spices and jewellery. Wandering through its intricate alleys is an adventure, with each corner revealing new treasures.

The bazaar is a hub of activity, with vendors calling out to attract customers and visitors haggling over prices. The vibrant atmosphere is enhanced by the rich scents of spices and the glint of gold and silver. It’s a perfect place to pick up souvenirs, whether it’s a Turkish carpet, handmade ceramics, or intricate jewellery.

Beyond shopping, the bazaar is an opportunity to experience Turkish culture and hospitality. Many vendors offer tea and conversation, sharing stories about their crafts. Make most of your time exploring different market sections.

Visit the Blue Mosque

Best things to do in Istanbul

The Blue Mosque is officially known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque and a stunning example of Ottoman architecture. Its distinctive blue tiles and six minarets make it a prominent feature of Istanbul’s skyline. Completed in 1616, it remains an active mosque and a popular tourist attraction.

Visitors are greeted by a spacious courtyard and a series of cascading domes. The inside of the mosque is decorated with thousands of blue Iznik tiles, creating a serene and ethereal atmosphere. The intricate patterns and calligraphy enhance the beauty of the interior.

During your visit, observe the elegant chandeliers and the impressive prayer area. Non-Muslim visitors are welcome outside of prayer times, and it’s important to dress modestly and respect the mosque’s customs. The Blue Mosque’s architectural beauty and spiritual ambiance make it a highlight of any trip to Istanbul.

The Basilica Cistern

Best things to do in Istanbul

The Basilica Cistern is located near Hagia Sophia. This attraction is a subterranean marvel built in the 6th century. This ancient water reservoir, supported by 336 columns, once provided water to the Great Palace of Constantinople.

Its dimly lit interior and mystical ambiance make it a captivating site. Visitors descend into the cistern via a staircase, entering a vast underground chamber filled with water. The columns, many repurposed from earlier structures, create an otherworldly atmosphere.

Two Medusa head sculptures, used as column bases, add an intriguing touch of mythology. The cool, damp environment, combined with the soft glow of lights reflecting off the water, creates a unique experience. Walk along the raised platform and appreciate the engineering prowess of the Byzantine Empire.

Discover the Topkapi Palace

Best things to do in Istanbul

Topkapi Palace was the former residence of Ottoman sultans and is filled with opulent architecture, lush courtyards, and fascinating artifacts. Built in the 15th century, it served as the administrative and royal center of the empire for centuries. You can explore various sections, including the Harem where the sultan’s family lived.

A Treasury which houses a dazzling collection of jewels and precious objects. The palace also offers stunning views of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn from its terraces. Each room is adorned with intricate tile work and rich decorations, reflecting the magnificence of the Ottoman era.

The Imperial Council Chamber, the Privy Chamber, and the gardens provide insight into the lavish lifestyle of the sultans. This Palace was used for 400 years until Dolmabahce Palace was constructed in the mid 1800’s. Topkapi Palace is a beautiful spot in Istanbul covered in exquisite tile work.

Head on to Istanbul

In conclusion, Istanbul offers a rich blend of experiences that blend history, culture, and culinary delights. The vibrant spirit of Istanbul, reflected in its architecture, cuisine, and warm hospitality, ensures you leave with lasting memories of a truly unforgettable city.

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