There is only one city that can actually hold the banner of being the door to both Asia and Europe and that city is Istanbul. Sitting between two continents, it’s a city that has is split by Bosphorus, a narrow and well-known waterway. The city brings to life the combination of Asian and European around each corner that can will always keep visitors siting the differences. It would take months or even years to fully delve into and grasp the pizzazz and culture the city, but we’ve managed to select a few of our favorite things to do here.
With the brief time spent here, we have seen people of a young people with simple tastes, adopting modern world preferences, meanwhile some other rather stick to long embedded values of the Ottoman Empire and the Byzantium period. Although we can’t say that we left with a set idea as what is in store for the future of Istanbul, we can safely say it one of the most enchanting, divergent and enchanting cities that we have visited so far. A place where traditional meets contemporary and history meets the future. Yes, that is indeed Istanbul.
Hagia Sophia has been deemed as one of the world’s most beautiful buildings. Once home to a mosque and a church, it has become one the world’s most famous stopovers. It was held as a church for 916 years, the subsequent to Sultan Mehmed’s conquest; it was modified into a mosque and stood that way for more than 480 years. It was then transformed into a museum in 1935 that now allows visitors to come in daily to view the calligraphy, tiles, mosaics and the Sultans lodge.
A quick stroll along the street will bring to the place where you’re bound to have the best shopping experience of your life, the Grand Bazzar. With shops amounting to over 5,000 that stretch for 60 streets, it was once an important place of trading, as far back as the 15th century. I can only try to imagine what it was like back then, with African and Asian traders tugging along with various exquisite items to sell to European merchants. Take some time to get caught up in the large and fascinating maze that is home to cafes, hamams, jewellery booths and Mosques.
A trip to Istanbul could not be concluded if you didn’t get to visit the city’s most beautiful and renowned Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It is more commonly known by many as the Blue Mosque, based on the surrounding interior walls that are covered in in blue. It is a fully functioning mosque up to today and people are still allowed to enter, as long as they stick to the rules. Women should have their heads covered and long pants should be worn. It the good start to your day in the old city, before getting around to other nearby sights.
If you happen to cross the Galata Bridge, which crosses the mouth of The Bay of Istanbul, you will be able to see Galata Tower, Perched on the Northern Bank of the Golden Horn. It provides a convienient spot to look over into Istanbul, as well as an indescribable view of the city. It was once a lookout post for fires in the city up until the 1960s, but since recently it has become an attraction that’s open for tourists to have a stroll around its balcony, that sits near the peak 220 feet (67 meter) high building.
With a daily amount of 3 million vistors, Istiklal Avenue is considered to be the main vain of Istanbul. The walkway of 1.4km consists of everything from nightclubs to cinemas and cafes to boutiques. It is on the this same avenue that tried Turkish Delight treats for the first time and purchased necessary medication from nearby pharmacies. If it so happens to be an instance where you don’t want to walk, feel free to take the red-letter tram straight into Taskim Square where u can get a view of the republic’s monument.
Our tour guide informed us that lot of famous celebrities including Madonna love to rave and party in this area. This one-time fishing village is now converted into a place for upscale chic seeking a place to party. On the waterfront you will find several clubs and bars to choose from, where the city’s young hip professionals tend to hang out. Seeing clearly that Dave and myself are not so hip, not to mention young, we didn’t chill out there, but opted for a lazy walk through the city accompanied by a half-filled wine glass.
A Walking tour map of Istanbul
Having a feast in Istanbul is quite a welcome treat to some of the senses and in order to really appreciate the alluring cuisine of this city, you should join a local family to grasp the full experience. You can start things off with a variety of modest dishes called mezze, which includes cacick and tabbouleh salad as well as pita bread with hummus. The main dishes consist of kebabs and pizza. Yes, I said pizza! The feast is normally brought to end with sweet tea and Turkish delight.
Sip Turkish Coffee
One activity on our list that we most definitely had to try in Turkey and that was Turkish coffee. We have tried it various places internationally, but what I can say is that to taste it in its place of inception was beyond delicious. A lot of effort is put into making this small cup of coffee but it’s definitely worth it, seeing that it will be one the richest and most delicious types of coffee you will taste. Try not to drink every last drop, because coffee grinds fill the bottom of the cup.
Cruise the Bosphorus
When visiting Istanbul, you must visit the Asian section of the city. It’s not often that you can travel through two continents without having to worry about going through customs! After a cruise of the scenery of the Northern and Southern shores, we made a stop-over in Asian Istanbul. Kanlica is one a better rest places, that is well known for their thick yogurt.
While exploring the city, you will notice many of the older gents playing games. The most preferred game of these elderly fellows is Backgammon and you should take a shot at it. You find boards to play on in some local cafes, where you can order some tea or coffee, have a seat and play to your heart’s delight. The game is quite popular and goes back as much as 5,000 years into the Persian Empire and is still quite prominent today in Istanbul.
Smoke a Hookah
Commonly known as a waterpipe or Shisha, Hookahs are a very popular sight in the city. Dave and I are passionate non-smokers. However, it would be criminal not to try one before ending our visit. A hookah is simply flavored tobacco smoked via a waterpipe. This pastime became common in Turkey in the 17th century and was symbol of status for people in Istanbul.
Visit a Turkish Bath
If you visit Istanbul, it is a must that experience the craziness of a Turkish Bath, which is also called ahamam. Ensure that you are ready to get naked and allow strangers robustly bathe and rub your entire body subsequent to the hot bath. It feels strange, painful and wonderful all in one. Whether you like it or not, one thing is certain, you won’t ever forget it. Seeing that Istanbul is a very busy city, the best way to get around is by tram. It’s quick, easy and affordable. We stood close-by the Galata Tower and bailed onto one that will take us just about anywhere from the antiquatedcity into Taksim Square. However, in our view, the recommended way to experience the city is by walking. Tour the streets of Constantinople, get caught up in Sultanahmet and get distracted in the Grand Bazaar. There are so many activities to do in this great city and you will want to return. So the question is, what did we miss? We only stayed a week and I’m very sure that there’s lot more that we still haven’t done. I know that you have a few favorite activities to try out that we did not get the opportunity to try.