“Istanbul cannot be described with a single word” This line cannot be more right, if you ask someone to describe the city of Istanbul, the answer is very wide, is impossible to describe the largest city in Turkey with few words.
The capital of Turkey is a chaotic, multicultural, modern, old but over all beautiful… Istanbul is an ideal place for a lovely mini break with your couple or why not? Discover this mysterious city alone.
The first impression of the Turkish capital is its chaos: Istanbul is a crowded city. It is true: the population of the city is more than 14 million of inhabitants; London has 8 million of inhabitants, however its surface is 3 times London’s surface.
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Istanbul: The Arabian Nights
Stroll through the old Jewish quarter or discover the picturesque Greek town and immerse yourself into the Malta neighborhood, or why not go and visit the fundamentalist area; mosques, synagogues and Orthodox Church all together in Istanbul, will make you realize that the Turkish Capital is a genuine multicultural city.
In order to visit the multicultural face of the city, you should visit the less touristy neighborhoods like Fatih, Fener and Balat. Don’t forget to stop by the Fatih Mosque (in the neighborhood with the same name) gives you the opportunity to visit a beautiful mosque and less crowded than the Blue Mosque or the Mosque of Suleyman.
The charm of Fatih Mosque begins before entering, on the outdoor patio where all the taps are aligned and men should wash their feet, head, face and arms before entering the mosque (women have a special area, away from prying eyes).
Before accessing the Mosque is necessary to remove shoes and women must cover their heads; as soon as you enter to the main area, a feeling of warmth will invade your body.
In fact in mosques you can read books or chat when no worships, we can say that mosques are also a social center, not only a place of worship, as in Catholic churches
The decoration invites to relax, also creates a cozy atmosphere with brightly colored carpets and huge lamps that creates a play of spiral lights.
Church of St. George
After visiting this beautiful mosque, you should go straight to the Church of St. George in the district of Fener, home of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is the seat of the Orthodox Church, indeed, for the Orthodox it is like the Vatican for Catholics. The church boasts a fantastic decoration with iconographic paintings, gold and sacred relics.
To finish the route in these neighborhoods is advisable to stop at one of the seven hills of Istanbul in the district of Balat, The Chora Museum, an ancient mosque and old church with beautiful mosaics and murals, that really worth the ticket price.
Now is time to visit the most touristic area of Istanbul: Sultanahmet. Hagia Sophia, also called “Saint Sophia” is neither church nor mosque. In fact was declared a museum for not displease Christians nor Muslims.
Hagia Sophia is impressive. Is a former Christian basilica conquered by Muslim troops, but due to its stunning beauty, the Muslims troops decided not to destroy it. Muslims converted it into a mosque; Islamic features were added such as minarets, which today still characterize its shape.
Inside is truly spectacular: the massive dome, Christian mosaics, Arabic characters… Hagia Sophia is certainly the best examples of the fusion of the overlap of two cultures, Christian and Muslim. Hagia Sophia is a must visit place, you cannot come to Istanbul and don’t visit Hagia Sophia.
Now is time to visit another famous building of Istanbul: the Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque is magnificent and imposing. As you enter the Blue Mosque you will feel the welcoming atmosphere typical feature of mosques.
Inside the Blue Mosque, the architecture and details will leave you speechless: the blue tiles that give the name to the mosque also provide a special light to the mosque, the columns with palm shapes go up to the ceiling replicating the forms of nature. Near the mosque there are two obelisks, one Roman and another Egyptian.
After religious visits is time to visit a typical Arab Palace: Topkapi Palace. Topkapi Palace with its gardens, the harem and various rooms. Certainly, the Palace seems to be taken out of the histories of the Arabian Nights.
The palace is decorated with thousands of colored tiles, pillows, colorful carpets and white ceilings decorated with gold; the views from the terrace overlooking the Golden Horn, provides you a fantastic panorama.
The Basilica Cistern
Few meters from Hagia Sophia you will find another tourist attractions in Istanbul: The Basilica Cistern. Basilica Cistern is an ancient reservoir of underground water (one of many in Istanbul) whose appeal are the columns aligned in water and illuminated by red lights that creates a terrifying effect. This area makes you think you are in hell.
The famous writer Dan Brown, decided to acclimate here his book “Hell “, after visiting this place.
Despite of being a large city the main attractions of Istanbul are very close; you will find most attractions in the Sultanahmet area.
Shopping in Istanbul
If you like shopping, Istanbul is also your city. Istanbul offers endless possibilities for shopping, but the most typical is to visit the Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar. The scents and colors will capture your senses.
Stroll across the areas, you will find wedding dresses stores, the shoes area, teas and spices… Everything is separated on sectors, based on the products that are being sold. The shiner, the little stops of tobacco and the kebab shop will be present in each corner.
If you don’t have enough with these markets, you can always cross the road from Taksim Square to the Galata Tower. Here you will find clothing stores, pubs, souvenir shops, vendors of roasted chestnuts … When you reach the Galata Tower you have to climb to the top, especially at sunset, where you will have a breathtaking 360 degrees view of Istanbul.
Are you planning to visit Istanbul for your next holidays? Have you ever been to Istanbul? Do you know where to stay on a budget in Istanbul? Tell us what do you think about our post!