Istanbul is truly one of the world’s great metropolises. With a vibrant culture, great food, fantastic nightlife and a rich history, you will gain a unique perspective and rewarding insight into Turkish life. Let’s take a look at the top 10 places you should visit.
- Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Commonly referred to as the Blue Mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque was built in the early 1600’s and is widely considered the last great mosque of the classical period. Featuring over 20,000 handmade blue tiles and over 200 stained glass windows, it’s truly an inspiring work of art. All are welcome to visit. Modest dress is required and women must cover their heads.
- Hagia Sophia. Built in 537, this now museum has been home to Orthodox, Catholic and Islamic religions in its checkered past, reflecting much about humanity itself. Gazing upon the walls you might find early Christian art covered by Islamic calligraphy, converted altars and spires. A very unique piece of history that is representative of Turkey itself. To avoid the crowds, go early.
3.Topkapi Palace. One of the major residences of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 400 years, this museum features a huge collection of weapons, shields, Islamic art, jewelry and other historic artifacts. Strolling through the gardens is a great way to spend an afternoon.
- The Bosphorus Strait. A natural strait separates Istanbul into two sides; Europe and Asia. The waters make a great place to hang out during sunset with the locals. Cross over by ferry and be officially in Asia.
- Karakoy Gulluoglu. Turkish residents take their food seriously. A debate about the origins of baklava (sweet pasty with honey and pistachios) is sure to conjure up a nationalistic fervor. This family owned sweet shop has been in the baklava business since 1820. Best baklava in the world.
- Grand Bazaar. One of the world’s oldest and largest covered bazaars in the world, you can find just about anything. From Western style clothing, to Turkish goods and souvenirs, no visit to Istanbul is complete without a visit. Sharper your haggling skills before visiting. It’s advisable to go with a local, but if not, a rule of thumb is to offer one third the asking price and meet somewhere in the middle.
- Taps Bebek. Taps is a local brewery serving up fantastic craft beer in a relaxed atmosphere. Try the sampler for an overall experience.
- Hafiz Mustafa. No visit to Istanbul is complete without visiting a tea shop. There is something iconic about the tulip glasses and tea kettles that can be seen on just about every corner. Hafiz Mustafa serves up some of the best chai in town and is a great place to meet locals.
- Taksim Square. Taksim is the area for nightlife. Filled with pubs and night clubs, it’s the pulse of Istanbul’s youth scene.
- Valens Aqueduct. Completed in the late 4th century, it is one of the most important landmarks in the city.