This much I can tell you right away: Istanbul is a city you absolutely must see for yourself. The pulsating vibes of Metropoli is hard to put into words – this city exudes life like no other.
Istanbul is famous for its Mosques and Ottoman architecture.
As the capital of the Ottoman Empire since 1543 and the largest city in Turkey, Istanbul is home to over 3000 mosques which makes it overwhelming to decide which one to visit.
Sultanahmet (The Blue Mosque) is my favorite. It was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed. Is considered to be the last great mosque of the Ottoman classical period and its six slim minarets distinguish it from other mosques, which normally have two o four minarets.
The Turkish city is divided in two parts. There’s two sides, two cultures, two continents!? YES! It’s literally a collision of two worlds – the European continent meets the Asian continent and creates a fusion, that is Istanbul. The only Metropoli in the world that encompasses two continents.
Long ago, in the early middle ages it was the largest city in the world and one of the most important cities throughout its history.
Due to the proximity of the Anatolian line, the pressure on both tectonic plates of Africa and Eurasia, Istanbul throughout history has been exposed to several devastating earthquakes that destroyed a great part of the cultural and material heritage of the city and the region.
This enhancing ancient metropolis with a modern twist is packed full of indulgent cuisine, exceptional architecture, rich culture, friendly locals, and a great vibe.
One of my favorite places is the Basilica Cistern, one of Istanbul’s most surprising tourist attractions. This huge, palace-like underground hall, supported by 336 columns in 12 rows, once stored the imperial water supply for Byzantine emperors. The project was begun by Constantine the Great but finished by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century.
For many visitors, sightseeing in Istanbul is as much about shopping as museums and monumental attractions, and the Grand Bazaar is where everyone comes.
This massive covered market is basically the world’s first shopping mall, taking up a whole city quarter, surrounded by thick walls, between the Nuruomaniye Mosque and Beyazit Mosque.
The various trades are still mostly segregated into particular sections, which makes browsing easier.
The Spice Bazaar is the place to get your foodie fix of lokum (Turkish delight), dried fruit, herbs, nuts and of course spices. Much of the money that helped construct it came from the taxes the Ottoman government levied on Egyptian-made products, which is why its name in Turkish (Misir Çarsisi) means ”Egyptian Market”.
The Spice Bazaar is one of the most popular things to do, and at certain times of the day gets ridiculously crowded with huge tour groups from the docked cruise ships. Best times are before 11am and after 4pm.
Istanbul is the perfect place to enjoy the rich diversity of Turkish cuisine. From tasty kebabs and apple tea, to honey, fish sandwiches and pickles, a food tour of Istanbul is a perfect way to get into the tasty of this city.
From the humble baked potato to the fish restaurants of Ortakoy or the highly overpriced gourmet establishments, you can have what you want. In Istanbul, when thinking about food, there is no need to comprise on taste.
A very common dish at Istanbul’s many esnaf (tradesmen) restaurants, karnıyarık is made from whole baked eggplants filled with seasoned minced meat and parsley, then covered in a tomato sauce. Goes great with rice with tomatoes.
The infamous ‘wet burgers’ being steamed near Taksim Square are naughty but, so worthy!
Turkish treats and Ottoman-style home decoration, in Besiktas is where modern malls and many specialty shops will delight you.
Besiktas is commonly considered to be one of the Istanbul’s safest entertainment and hotel hubs. Is the home of Besiktas JK soccer team and you can cheer them on in Vodafone Park. This is an ultra-modern, multi-purpose stadium, but it’s the Dolmabahçe Palace next door that really stands out.
There is an old Turkish adage that goes “A single cup of Turkish coffee is remembered for 40 years”.
Besides its thick and intense flavor that startles first-timers, the art of preparing frothy Turkish coffee is a true phenomenon. Specially made with finely ground beans in a long-handled cezve (metal pot), Turkish coffee has a uniquely strong yummy taste.
I really couldn’t choose my favorite place in Istanbul as everywhere is full of details and so many interesting things to see and taste! It’s definitely one of my favorites cities in the world!
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