Oct 10, 2015
During my Masters in Istanbul for a year I explored the city quite a lot with my camera and here are the best ten things that are my recommendations for tourists.
1. Blue Mosque
Blue mosque is actually called Sultan Ahmet mosque. It was built between 1609 – 1616. The reason why I consider it the must visit on first place because of its beautiful architecture. It is really popular as one of the most beautiful mosques in the world. Most importantly, there is no any ticket to enter. But you can only enjoy its interior architecture when its not a prayer time.
Interestingly, the reason why it is called as blue mosque is because of the blue tiles used for the interior decoration on walls.
2. Hagia Sophia
The dome and minarets of Hagia Sophia are the symbols of Istanbul. This is the only building in the world to have served as a Catholic Cathedral and as the seat of two religions, Greek Orthodox Christianity and Sunni Islam.
The current Hagia Sophia is the third Hagia Sophia constructed at the exact same location. After the construction of the first two, this “great church” was constructed. It wasn’t called Hagia Sophia at first it was actually called the Great Church for a long time.
Its interior is decorated with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings of great artistic value. The temple itself was so richly and artistically decorated that Justinian proclaimed, “Solomon, I have outdone thee!”.
3. Top Kapi Museum
This is the entrance of Top Kapi Palace. It was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years (1465–1856) of their 624-year reign. It is now a Museum and holds some of the most precious Relics of Islam and Ottoman Sultanate. Including Belongings of Holy Prophet S.A.W and valuable ornaments of Ottomans. It was restricted to capture any photos or videos of these Priceless Relics. But somehow managed to take pictures with my cellphone. Dont try it! It is dangerous, because if you are caught doing it you will be banned to enter there ever again!
1. Staff of Hazrat Moosa A.S
2. The Cup which Prophet Muhammad S.A.W drank water from .
3. Shirt of Hazrat Imam Hussain A.S
4. Clothes of Bibi Fatima A.S
5. String from Beard of the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W.
This is why TopKapi Museum is a Must go for every Muslim who visits Istanbul, Turkey.
4. Taksim – Istaklal
İstiklal(Independence) Avenue is one of the most famous avenues in Istanbul, Turkey, visited by nearly 3 million people in a single day over the course of weekends.
It is an elegant pedestrian street, 1.4 kilometers long, which houses boutiques, music stores, bookstores, art galleries, cinemas, theaters, libraries, cafés, pubs, night clubs with live music, historical patisseries, chocolateries and restaurants.
5. Dolmabahce Palace
One of the most glamorous palaces in the world. The last ottoman Sultan resided in this royal palace and also Founder of the Republic of Turkey Mustafa Kemal used this palace as the presidential residence during the summers and enacted some of the important works. Ataturk spent some of the last days of his life in this palace too. Dolmabahce is most beautiful site of Istanbul according to me. It has 285 rooms, 86 halls, 6 baths and 68 toilets. Interior architecture is worth watching. My favorite was the ceremonial hall where there is a beautiful chandelier which was gifted by queen Victoria of United Kingdom.
6. Galata Tower
From this tower Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi attached wings and jumped off it and achieved sustained flight across the bosphorus to the Uskudar(Asian side) of Istanbul. Making him the worlds first man to fly in history. Dated back in (1630–1632)
You pay a ticket to enter and reach up there by a lift offcourse. Previously it was used as a fire rescue watch, but sadly caught fire once itself. Now it is used as a observation deck which gives a beautiful 360 view of Istanbul from where you can understand the maps and directions of most of the places which are discussed in this post.
This is the most exciting thing about Istanbul, every part of it makes you feel very different. Ortakoy is commonly a very romantic place at night times. Couples usually come over and enjoy the restaurants with the beautiful view of Euro-Asia bridge. It also has some small markets of women jewelry and some Turkish handicrafts. It has a mosque which is quite beautiful and has different architecture than rest of mosques around Istanbul. I would recommend to try a Turkish cuisine Kumpir, a delicious Baked potato with some salat.
8. Bosphorus Tour
You can find various agencies around Istanbul that can take you for a Bosphorus Tour. Usually it takes around 3 hours. It is a wonderful experience and you get to see all important attractions through the ferry with seagulls following you. The tour guides in the ferry also tells you some brief information and history of the places. The best moments of this tour is when you go under the Euro-Asia bridge and see the sunset of Bosphorus.
9. Maiden’s Tower
Istanbul is a city which is divided between continents, Asia and Europe. So you can practically travel from Europe to Asia in a ferry. You need to go to Bashiktash Iskelesi(Port) and get into Uskudar ferry. It will take you to the other side of the bosphorus which is Asia. This short ferry trip is quite beautiful at evening like 2 hours before sunset. When you get off in Asian side(Uskudar), You need to walk 15 minutes to get to the Maiden’s Tower, also known as Leander’s Tower since the medieval Byzantine period, is a tower lying on a small islet located at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus.
According to a legend of Leandros. A young man named Leandros falls in love with a nun named Hero who is faithful to Afrodit. However, as a nun, falling in love with someone is taboo for Hero. Hero lives in the Maiden’s Tower. Every night, Hero builds a fire in the tower so that Leandros may find his way to her by swimming to the tower. Thus, they meet every night. One night, the bonfire started by Hero is put out by a storm, that very night, Leandros loses his own way in the cold waters of the Bosphorus and dies. When Hero hears about what happened to Leandros, she cannot endure the pain and commits suicide.
There are some tea shops near maiden’s tower where you can either sit down on comfy couches and have Turkish tea and watch the amazing skyline of European side with a beautiful sunset along with Maiden’s tower or you can also hire a small boat and get on this tower.
10. Grand Bazar & Spice Bazar
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. Where as, Spice bazar is also worth going. You better learn to bargain like a pro when you are in one of these markets. You might be scammed on prices, be careful. I recommend you to always refer couple of shops before purchasing something. Three most important things that you would like to buy from these markets. Turkish sweets for your friends and family back home, souvenirs and stunning mosaic Turkish lamps to decorate your home with beautiful memories of Istanbul.
Link to my Photography Page: facebook.com/ArkamPhotography
This was my first attempt to write an article on tourism. Share it with someone that is planning or have been to Istanbul. I would like to know your thoughts, suggestions and comments using the comment box below.