Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, as well as its major cultural center. Istanbul is playing a big role in the life of the country that’s why many tourists often forget that the capital of Turkey is Ankara.
Over its history, Istanbul was the capital of four great empires: Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman. For this fact alone is enough to have a desire to look at such an interesting historical phenomenon.
Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople, named in honor of the Roman emperor Constantine, who moved the Roman capital to Byzantium, and gave him the name of “New Rome.” But the name did not stick and soon “New Rome” (Istanbul) became known as Constantinople. Incidentally, Istanbul, was built on seven hills, like Rome‘s hills.
The first time I visited Istanbul three years ago and fell in love with him at first sight. It is a city with a furious energy. I have always been fascinated by the endless flow of people, vehicles, transport, stunning smells of lovely Turkish food.
I watched with bated breath to everything that surrounds me, because in Istanbul is so many interesting and historical places. Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan), Taksim Square, Grand Bazaar, Galata Tower, the famous Bosphorus Bridge, which connects the European and Asian parts of the city, and that I have listed just a few of the most famous attractions. It should be noted that Istanbul is one of the few cities in the world, located in two parts of the world: Europe and Asia.
A few days ago, held the premiere of the movie “Inferno” directed by Ron Howard, shot on the eponymous book by Dan Brown. In this film, events take place in Florence, Venice and Istanbul. It is no wonder that Istanbul has become one of the cities, the secrets of which, referred into the movie. Because it keeps a lot of mysteries and interesting historical facts.
As I said, the first time I visited Istanbul three years ago, since then I have been there many times, at different times of the year. And even when I have visited most of its famous attractions, I would like to go back to Istanbul again. Because this city attracts with its frenzied energy. It is a city in which you can spent only weekend, relax and enjoy the gastronomic and cultural part.
Nevertheless, for those who still have never been in Istanbul I recommend to visit the following attractions.
1. Hagia Sophia. It is world-famous monument of Byzantine architecture, the symbol of the “golden age” of Byzantium. The official name of the monument today Hagia Sophia Museum (tour. Ayasofya Müzesi). The museum is located in the heart of historic center of Istanbul in the Sultanahmet district. All the monuments, which are located in this area are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Sultanahmet area is home to several major attractions of Istanbul. For example, two of the most famous mosque in the city, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, located opposite each other.
I have never seen the inside Hagia Sophia, but I’ve heard that it is enough beautiful. So if you have a desire, check it inside.
In order not to stand in line for tickets, I recommend using the service – Hagia Sophia Museum Skip the line!
2. Another and no less interesting attraction is the Blue Mosque or Sultanahmet Mosque (tour. Sultanahmet Camii), is the largest in terms of the size of the building and the first in importance of the city mosque. The Blue Mosque is also one of the symbols of the city, because in many postcards, posters, books, movies you can see it was her.
Sultanahmet Mosque is beautiful both outside and inside. The name “Blue Mosque”, the mosque received thanks to the huge number of (more than 20 ths.) blue and white ceramic tiles handmade, used in interior decoration.
I was at the Blue Mosque in the summer, and of course, only shorts and T-shirt I was wearing. But as we all know, the mosque – a Muslim temple of God, therefore, during a visit is required to comply with the customs of a Muslim country. At the entrance, we were asked to take off our shoes and I, because I am a female, was given a special outfit. And my hero, let in with the jeans and a t-shirt, only asked to take off his shoes. Gender mosque with carpeted floors, so on it is very nice and warm to go.
In order not to stand in line for tickets I recommend using the service – Blue Mosque Skip the line. If you are going to visit both mosques, then you can use the service – Hagia Sophia & Blue Mosque Tour (Skip the line).
3. Topkapi Palace (tour. Topkapı). Topkapi Palace nearly 400 years was the main palace of the Ottoman Empire. Today, it is open to visitors as a museum.
In order not to stand in line for tickets I recommend using the service – Topkapi Palace – Skip the line.
4. The Obelisk of Theodosius (Egyptian obelisk) (tour. Dikilitaş). This obelisk was erected by the Emperor Theodosius the Great Roman Empire in 390 AD and brought from Egypt to Constantinople. The obelisk is located on the famous Hippodrome Square (tour. At Meydanı). The area is in close proximity to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, a five minute walk.
5. One of the most famous sights of Istanbul is the Grand Bazaar (tour. Kapalıçarşı). The Grand Bazaar is the largest and oldest covered market in the world, under the arch which housed more than 3,000 stores. Walking through the Grand Bazaar you can get acquainted with oriental culture. Their markets are different from the European. You can just walk on it, but I recommend you to remember where you go, because it is easy to get lost.
In 2014, it was listed No.1 among world’s most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors. The Grand Bazar at Istanbul is often regarded as one of the first shopping malls of the world. (Wikipedia).
If you decide to buy something in one of the shops, you will be pleasantly surprised by the hospitality of the Eastern people. They will invite you to seat at the table, offer tea or coffee. If you suddenly want to buy something, what they don’t have in this store, enterprising Turks will find a way out. They will offer you tea, in the mean time they will escape into another shop and bring you everything you want. But be careful on the market, as well as elsewhere in the crowds. Keep your bags and purses under supervision.
Also, beware of those guys who will meet you in the Sultanahmet district and offer you to make a tour in the Grand Bazaar. As a general rule, if you agree, they will lead you in those shops in which they have an agreement with the owners of these shops, where of course they will ask you to pay more. And of course, bargain! It’s in the blood of the Eastern guys. They are always happy to wind the price, so that later you started talking about discounts.
Frankly, my photos are very poorly convey the atmosphere of the Grand Bazaar, and certainly do not convey its size. Take a walk there for yourself, you will enjoy it.
6. The Galata Tower (tour. Galata Kulesi). Galata Tower is one of the main symbols of the Turkish capital and is located in the European part of Istanbul. From Sultanahmet you can take a tram and you can get to the Taksim Square. And from there walk along the main shopping street, Istiklal up to the Galata Tower.
Originally called the Tower of Jesus, Galata Tower was built in 1348 on top of the fortress walls, and served as a prison for prisoners of war. Later this building became an astronomical observatory, and now it is a museum. If you climb the stairs, you find yourself at the top of the tower, which offers an amazing panoramic view of the city. Opposite the entrance to the tower is a cute restaurant Galata Cafe, where you can enjoy Turkish cuisine.
7. Taksim Square (tour. Taksim Meydanı). You’ve heard about it many times on the news, because this area is the main site of various demonstrations Istanbul. In addition, many hotels located in this area, bars and restaurants. And also, on the corner of one of the houses on the left, in front of the Istiklal Avenue, located a few pastry shops in which sell delicious Turkish sweets. By the way, if I have not written about it before, you should know, that Istanbul is not a place where you get to sit on a diet. Because Turkish cuisine is incredibly delicious and abundant. Especially in Istanbul, because among other Turkish delicacies there is added, and all sorts of variations of cooking fish. It is important to note that Istanbul has incorporated the kitchen all the individual regions of Turkey. You do not need to go to the Ottomans, to try something typical of the region, enough to visit Istanbul. Very, very difficult to give up the food in this city.
8. Istiklal Street (tour. İstiklâl Caddesi). I have already mentioned several times this street. It takes its beginning at Taksim Square and continues until Galata Tower. Throughout the streets you can see the various brands shops, restaurants, cafes and bars. Istiklal Street is one of the most famous places in Istanbul for tourists. It is this street made me the most memorable moment during my first visit to Istanbul. An endless stream of people from different countries, street vendors, the historic tram cars, scooters and all this endless stream moves up and down the street from the morning until late at night. And in general, to be honest, it seems that life on the street does not subside ever.
9. Basilica Cistern. One of the largest and best preserved ancient underground reservoirs of Constantinople, which has some resemblance to the palace complex. Basilica Cistern is located near the Blue Mosque, it is enough just cross the road. In this Cistern is located the head of Medusa. And about this place in Istanbul talked Dan Brown in his famous book “Inferno”.
I don’t have any photos from this place because was dark inside. And any way on Basilica Cistern more interesting to see by yourself.
10. Another pearl of Istanbul is its Asian part. About this know little inexperienced tourists, because if you come to Istanbul for the first time or even the second, take my word, in the European part of the city, there are so many interesting, historic and exciting things to do and to visit. You will have no time to think about his Asian part.
But when you visit Istanbul several times and you will want to look at it from a new angle, I recommend you to visit its Asian part. It is something amazing and incredible. So different from the European part of Istanbul.
The Asian part also has famous street, which is full of shops, restaurants, bars, etc. and it’s name is Bagdat Awenue (tour. Bagdat Caddesi). But the shops in this part of town have very different level to Europr part, because almost all are of luxury class. Modern house, huge malls, all so different from the European part of what gives the impression that you are in another city. It is like to live in Manhattan and in Brooklyn, you live in New York, but you see two completely different picture of the city.
I have listed here only a small part of all that you can see in Istanbul, so that a more detailed study of the attractions of the city, I advise you to ask Google.
And now, I will tell you a little-known but very beautiful fact about Istanbul. Many believe that the tulips, a symbol of the Netherlands, has its origins in the Netherlands. In fact, these beautiful flowers have been delivered to the Netherlands from Istanbul.
According to history, the first to appreciate tulips Ottoman sultans and brought them from Persia to Turkey. Sultans so much loved that flowers that organized in their gardens entire flower gardens. Confirmation about what I said before, you can find in all around Istanbul. Pictures of tulips on weapons, utensils, carpets, clothes, and even on the walls of mosques. So, for example on the walls of the Blue Mosque, you can see many pictures of tulips. Also, during the dawn of the Ottoman Empire had called “Age of tulips.”
To this day, every spring in Istanbul held the famous festival of the world “Istanbul Tulip Festival” (Istanbul Lale Festivali). This magnificent festival is held every spring and lasts about a month. Every year in April, Istanbul turns into a floral masterpiece and becomes tulip capital of the world.
Have you ever been in this city? Share your impressions?