The city of Istanbul is probably unlike anywhere you have ever visited. Whether it’s your first visit or your tenth time, this amazing city is full of surprising destination gems for you to experience. It’s a place where you can delve into its culture and heritage or just a bit of me-time. After all, it is the only city in the world that straddles two continents divided by Bosphorus Strait. Indeed, Istanbul is the melting spot of Asia and Europe.
Sometimes the greatest experiences takes a lot of planning. However, this time I just wanted to wander randomly and get lost in this fascinating city where every corner gives a story of its rich culture and heritage.
Strolling within Galata Kulesi, you will find an important unique architectural landmark in the skyline of Istanbul. “Galata Tower,” a medieval stone tower with a cone-capped structure that was built in 1348. It is very popular for its top cafe and resto where you can see the whole of Istanbul in aerial view at 360 degrees. Because of its popularity, the line to go up is tremendously long.
Immerse yourself in the fascinating past with a visit to Sultanahmet where historical structures made this city popular. Undoubtedly the best place to see the many amazing and impressive buildings that sprung up in Istanbul.
“Topkaki Palace” is one of those important and historically significant that is within Sultanahmet. A visit to the palace’s opulent pavilions, jewel-filled Treasury and sprawling Harem gives a fascinating glimpse into how the rulers of Turkey live as early as 15th century especially during the Ottoman Empire. Now it is a museum.
“Sultanahmet Imperial Mosque or Blue Mosque,” is just within across Sultanahmet Square facing Aya Sofia. Perhaps the most popular mosque in Istanbul. The tremendous symmetry of Islamic art and calligraphy from wall to ceiling is spectacular. Another religious architecture that will make you stop and reflect.
“Aya Sofia or Hagia Sofia,” was built in 537 as a Church, it later became a mosque in 1453 and finally a museum in 1935. It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture. I can’t get enough in trying to fathom the intricate details that made this structure exquisitely beautiful.
“Hippodrome of Constantinople,” another structure located in Sultanahmet was a public arena mainly for chariot races during the Byzantine Empire. The Hippodrome of Constantinople was also home to gladiatorial games, official ceremonies, celebrations, protests, torture to the convicts and so on. Hippodrome functioned all in Roman (203-330 CE), Byzantine (330-1453 CE), and Ottoman (1453-1922) periods.
“Grand Bazaar” & “Egypt or Spice Bazaar,” are among the oldest covered market place in the region. It both houses hundreds of shops and vendors that sell a wide array of products. Food stalls of spices, Turkish cafe and Turkish delights are scattered all around the market place, contributing to the wafting delicious smells hanging in the air. The availability of souvenirs and gift items are also perfect to take back home for many visitors.
Amble around “Taksim Square or Independent Monument,” where the Republic Monument is located. Popular among tourist who caters to culinary and night life adventures. It is also the gathering place for locals to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and not to mention the place where many demonstrations in the past was held.
Oh and not to mention, the street food is something to try. From my favorite Turkish Shawarma, Turkish delight and Baklava taken with a Turkish Coffee or tea to name a few.
Take a cruise along the Bosphorus Strait, a significant waterway in Istanbul that forms part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia. It makes Istanbul the only city that straddles two continents. During the cruise you’ll see old palaces and mansions within the shores of the Bosphorus. The cold winter weather adds to the excitement while admiring Istanbul during sunset.
Istanbul is one of those city that taking pictures while getting loss aimlessly is like capturing the spirit of the place in another dimension with a story to tell.
Despite the development and progress of Istanbul for the past years, the local population remains firmly conscious of their heritage, legacy and culture. They are extremely proud of their history and therefore it is a solid base on which to build their future. Turkish qualities of traditional family values and respect, hospitality and pride in their ancestral traditions remains among the most prized assets among local people in all spheres of Turkish society.
Travelers visiting Istanbul cannot fail to be other than impressed with the overwhelming beauty of the city with so much to offer to everyone. Istanbul is truly one of a kind!