With the recent news events casting Istanbul in somewhat of a menacing light, it’s important to remember what gorgeous, breath-taking city is Istanbul. Packed with history and culture, it is classified as a transcontinental city, which means that it is simultaneously part of Europe and Asia. In times of trouble, we should take extra measures in remembering the love that exists in this city, whose beauty cannot be trampled by the threat of terror. But before I tell you about the imperative activities and sights you must check off your list, here are a few points to note.
Where is Istanbul?
The most populous city in Turkey, the largest European city, historically known as Constantinople or Byzantium. European Capital of Culture.
Ideal time to visit?
April or September. If you want to gaze over the world-famous tulips, April is the month for you. If you’re seeking warmer weather, September would be more suitable.
Number of Days?
Depends on the stamina of the traveler but 3/4 days should be ideal in partaking in all the activities.
Day 1: Blue Mosque, Hippodome Square, Basilica Cistern, Grand Bazaar
Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, this Blue Mosque is known for its meticulously ornate ceilings and glass-stained windows, all adorned with patterns and artwork in blue. Dress modestly as it is a sacred station; girls are further required to wear a head scarf when inside the mosque.
Admission Fees: 30 Turkish Lira
Timings: 9:00-18:45 (closed every Tuesday)
After the wonders of the Blue Mosque, make sure to visit the Hippodrome Square that is nearby. It used to be a sporting center during the reign of the Byzantine empire. Now few of the original structures remain but its ambiance operates on a continual high, making it a pleasant stop for relaxing. For lunch, have authentic Turkish meatballs at the Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi, instilling in yourself the taste of Turkish cuisine.
After a delectable meal, walk along to the Basilica Cistern for a leisure tour. They are a set of underground cisterns or waterways. Brightly-lit and shiny, it is a treasure for the eyes and has been seen in many Hollywood movies. Also ask around if there are upcoming concerts, since the underground acoustics set for some interesting music experiences.
Admission Fees: 10 Turkish Lira
Either by taking the tram if you’re exhausted or by walking alongside, take an hour to stroll through the Spice Market in Eminonu. Here you will find the latest and the traditional elements of Turkish cuisine, aromatic ingredients that are unique to the city of Istanbul. A highlight among the stores is the Cankurtaran Gida where you can peruse through the most magnetic Turkish meats and cheeses. Speaking of shopping, you cannot miss the hustle and bustle of the vivacious Grand Bazaar. With some 4000 shops, you must be prepared for the eager hassling of the shop owners. Whether you choose to buy or not, it’s simply exciting to walk through this area and gander at the vivid shops. It is also one of the more famous gold markets in the world. Have yet another traditional Ottoman dinner at the Haci Abdullah, a restaurant famous for Turkish appetizers.
Day 2: Bosphorus Day Trip
Spend the majority of the day on a ferry trip from Sehir Hatlari. It will take you through the Bosphorus, show you around the islands and other attractive features that help define the beauty of the Bosphorus.
Admission Fees: 25 Turkish Lira
You should perhaps reserve an entire day for the short trip to Anadolu Kavagi through the Bosphorus. Catch a tram to Eminonu and inquire about the timings of the ferry ride. Among the water, you will be able to see the panorama of the regal city set against the blue of the Bosphorus waterway. When you reach Anadolu Kavagi, keep in mind of the timings of the return ferry before you begin to explore the area. The Yoros Castle, though most of it is in ruination, is an advantageous point in seeing the confluence of the Black Sea and the Bosphorus. There are many restaurants in Anadolu Kavagi but I’d advise you to go for seafood as the catch is fresh from the Bosphorus.
Day 3: Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkaki Palace, Gulhane Park
Turn back to the monuments within the city as you go for a tour of the Hagia Sophia Museum. It is not simply a museum displaying the ancient artifacts and relics belonging to the city but an architectural masterpiece of its own. Be sure to see every nook and cranny of the museum as it contains mosaics and exhibits of art. Consider purchasing the tickets online as the wait in the queue can be grueling.
Admission Fees: 40 Turkish Lira
Timings: 9:30 to 16:30
After you’ve properly plumbed through the majesty of the Hagia Sophia, mince along some of the other historical sites in the city, such as the Topkaki Palace. Once again, take the tram as it is the most convenient and get off at Sultanahmet station.
Admission Fees: 30 Turkish Lira
For snacks, there is a delightful, easy-going place by the name of Corlulu Ali Pasa Medressi. You may be wanting to try out the famous flavoured shishas, but in case you do not, there is always the option of Turkish Delights and tea.
Head to the famous Gunhane Park to recline and chill out by the greenery. There, within the environment of family and children, you might feel at home and in tune with the friendliness of the city. For dinner, I’d recommend yet another traditional Turkish feast at the restaurant Develi Kebap to indulge in the delicious Turkish style kebabs.