A metropolis with an authentic historic spirit that goes back thousands of years carries the remnants gloriously into the present. It sets an example for the modernistic and futuristic development of the country. Yes, this is Istanbul, a vibrant city that embodies the chicness of today and the power of the past. In its heart lies the Bosphorus natural strait and internationally important waterway that connect the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. It is a place with lots of historical mosques and monuments and trendy and design-savvy boutique hotels. Here is what you must see when you visit Istanbul.
Kapali Carsi (Grand Bazaar)
Do what you got to do, but don’t miss the chance to visit the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It is a place like no other on the planet. It is a huge market and, safe to say, the world’s first shopping mall (probably!), which takes up a whole city quarter and is surrounded by thick walls. It has 11 gates to enter through and a maze of shops and stalls all selling everything Turkish- from souvenirs to clothes and handmade crafts. There are sections so you can browse more quickly, but there are also high chances to get lost or lose track of time. You can bargain and have a shopping experience like never before. Plus, you get to try the delicious Doner kebab sandwiches.
The most monumental Christian church in Turkey, converted into a mosque after the Ottoman armies conquered Istanbul (then called Constantinople), is a magnificent masterpiece designed by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It is recorded that when he finished it in AD 536, he said: “Glory to God that I have been judged worthy of such a work. Oh, Solomon, I have outdone you!”. Today it is a museum which is visited by more than 3 million people a year. You must visit Istanbul and be one of these people, for sure.
Since it was first built in the 15th Century by Mehmet the Conqueror, this palace is the epitome of luxury for the sultans who had the best view in town – the Bosphorus. There is a mesmerizing display Islamic art all over the opulent courtyards where hand-painted tiles are breathtakingly designed and lots of walls and towers that stand as pillars to the regency. The Harem is probably the most notable highlight where all the Sultan’s wives would spend the days while the children were playing. Another essential part is the Third Court, which has a glorious collection of relics od the prophet Muhammad in the Sacred Safekeeping Room. Plan to spend half a day if you want to visit this unbelievable landmark of Istanbul.
Misit Carsisi (The Spice Bazaar)
Oh, the Heaven of Spices! There is no better place to shop for different flavours than in the Spice Bazaar, where you can find various Turkish food delights such as lokum and lots of dried fruit, nuts, herbs, and spices. It was built thanks to the money that the Ottoman government took as taxes from the Egyptian-made products, which is why its name is Misir Carsisi – meaning Egyptian Market. This can be a rather crowded place because many people visit it a day, so try avoiding the noon hours.
A fortress like in the fairy-tales, the Yedikule Fortress, is well worth visiting. It was built in the 5th Century to serve as the city’s defensive walls; today has been restored to give you the chance to climb the walls and enjoy the magnificent views across the sea of Marmara. It might take you a while to get there as it is located in Yedikule, which is about 40 minutes away from the centre of the city if you travel by train.