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Top 5 Things To Do In Istanbul

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Istanbul is a captivating Turkish city which has a rich historical past during which it was the epicenter of three great empires, namely the Roman, the Christian Byzantine and Islamic Ottoman. The influences of this rich cultural heritage continue to have a bearing on Istanbul until today.

Istanbul is that it is the only city in world that has a foot in two continents. Its old city is situated in Europe while it’s more modern sections are located within Asia. These two very distinct parts of Istanbul are separated by the strait of Bosphorus. Due to its strategic location, Istanbul also served as an important center of trade through the ages and the city continues to be an important center for finance and culture in Turkey until today.

Tourists who visit this magical city are fascinated by its unique culture which is a blend of the ancient and the modern and enjoy its considerable charms which consist of Byzantine ruins, lively bazaars, palaces, mosques and hammams (marble communal bath houses).

So what are the sights and sounds of Istanbul which are considered a must-see for any traveler who is visiting this mesmerizing city for the first time?

  • An Ottoman attraction -the Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque whose official name is the Sultan Ahmet Cammi is located in the main historical district of the city, an area called Sultanamet. This multi domed mosque is the prime exponent of Istanbul’s Islamic past. Built during the reign of the Ottoman Empire, the Blue mosque welcomes hundreds of worshippers every day into its elaborately decorated interiors. The mosque is called the ‘Blue mosque’ because it is decorated with hundreds of blue and white tiles which are arranged in intricate and exquisite floral patterns. While visiting the many mosques of Istanbul it is advisable to cover your head with a scarf or a cap.

  • An attraction from Byzantium times – Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia which is called ‘Aya Sofya’ in Turkish is one of Istanbul’s most popular attractions. This ochre colored domed monument served as a church during the Christian Byzantine empire and then as a mosque during the Islamic Ottoman empire and is perhaps the best symbol of this exciting city which was the center of three great empires. The interiors of the Hagia Sophia are adorned with elaborate Islamic calligraphic roundels as well as Christian mosaics which represent the religious contrast of this monument most effectively.

  • Topikapi Palace Museum

This museum which is located on one of the hills that surround Istanbul once served as a residential palace of one of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. The huge palace with its interconnecting courtyards, fountains, terraces, exquisitely designed rooms and elaborate gateways gives you an insight into the magnificently opulent lives of the fabulously wealthy Sultans of the Ottoman Empire.

  • Vibrant Bazaars of Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is one of the oldest and biggest covered bazaars in the world which is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of treasures. The Bazaar is a noisy and confusing maze of narrow streets which are full of stalls that sell carpets, bed spreads, textiles, leather goods, clothing, hookahs, souvenirs, hand crafted ceramics etc. Bargaining for your purchases is an accepted norm in the Bazaar where vendors enjoy haggling and chatting with you as they convince you to make a purchase. Another market worth visiting is the Egyptian market of Istanbul which is the spice market of Istanbul and the place to buy tea, spices, dried fruits, nuts and seeds and lokum ( the rich nut filled sweet Turkish delight)

  • A boat ride on the Bosphorus

Another must-do on any trip to Istanbul is to take a boat ride on the River Bosphorus. During the boat ride you get to cruise past the many interesting palaces, forts, traditional wooden Ottoman homes as well as the huge suspension bridges, the Bosphorus Bridge and the Faith Bridge which are the vital links between the two continents that are straddled by this awe-inspiring city.

Other Top Things to Do in Istanbul

Photo of Istanbul originally posted by Atilla1000

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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer anjeeta nayar

Anjeeta Nayar is a professional freelance writer and blogger based in New York City. She relocated to the Big Apple from Mumbai two years ago. She loves New York City for its incredible buzz and energy. It really is the city that never sleeps and there is always something to do and see here. In addition to being a writer and blogger, she is also an avid traveler with London and cities in S.E.Asia being the places she enjoys visiting the most!

One response to “Top 5 Things To Do In Istanbul”

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  1. Steve Slack says:
    August 18th, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Your article brought back all the amazing sights and sound of Istanbul, thanks Anjeeta. And the smells too!

    I definitely agree with your recommendation of a boat tour as a way of getting to see the city – it’s great to sail up the river with Europe on one side and Asia on the other.


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