Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city, and one with a very rich and long history. Turkey itself sits between two continents, Europe and Western Asia. Istanbul, which used to be known as Constantinople, served as the imperial capital for more than six centuries, covering the Byzantine and Ottoman empires.
As a city that’s a melting pot of cultures and attractions, you can look forward to the enjoying the following attractions:
The Hagia Sophia is such an unmistakable landmark in Istanbul that it is the first on the list of ‘must sees’ for any visitor here.
This outstanding building was first constructed in 537 A.D. and served as a church, as well as the seat of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople until the 1450s when the city fell to the Ottomans. Since then, it has served as a mosque and more recently as a museum.
Today, it has been reconverted back into a functioning mosque, but still welcomes visitors. The Hagia Sophia is a classic example of Byzantine architecture, as has influences from Greek, Roman, Eastern Christianity, Western Christianity and Islam.
Many of the mosaics, pillars and marbles from that era still exist and are a wonderful testament to centuries-old beauty and design.
Source: Zen zeee @Unsplash
The Grand Bazaar is perfect for a day of shopping and is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. It is home to more than 4000 shops over 61 streets.
It’s the place to go if you’re looking for arts and crafts to bring home as souvenirs. The bazaar is home to traders selling traditional lamps, metal goods, decorative lamps, jewellery, clothing, and so much more.
Source: Svetlana Gumerova@Unsplash
This sprawling palace complex in the Fatih District of Istanbul was built in the 15th century and served as the main residential and administrative centre for the Ottoman Sultans for hundreds of years, until the 1800s.
The palace contains many areas of interest, and some of the places you have to see include the Imperial Council, the Palace Kitchens, the Imperial Harem, and the Grand Throne Room.
Walking through Topkapi Palace, you’ll pass through four different courtyards, each with its own unique layout and signature architecture from the different Ottoman eras.
Istanbul is located just next to the body of water dividing the continents of Europe and Asia. This long and thin body of water is known as the Bosphorus. In ancient times, the Bosphorus played an important role in the trade and economic growth of Istanbul and its neighbouring cities.
Today you can enjoy the scenic routes of the Bosphorus in several ways. Firstly, there will be day cruises available at Eminonu that goes upwards, north towards the Black Sea.
Secondly, you can enjoy a shorter and more affordable trip by ferry also from Eminonu, travelling to Kardikoy in the East. This short round trip takes about an hour plus and you’ll be able to enjoy the breeze from the Sea of Marmara.
Source:Süheyl Burak @Unsplash
Istanbul is full of beautifully constructed mosques that were built by the Ottomans, and chief among these is the Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent.
As its name suggests, this mosque was built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the late 1600s, during the height of the Ottoman Empire. It showcases the best in Ottoman art and architecture and is the perfect example of art in the Islamic world.
Source: Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz @ Unsplash
Construction of the Dolmabahçe Palace was ordered by Sultan Abdulmecid I and began in the mid-1840s. It was built as a more modern replacement to the Topkapi and Yildiz palaces.
This elegant palace combines more western elements of the Baroque, Classical and Rococo eras, with subtle Turkish influences. As you walk through the palace, you’ll be beguiled by its breathtaking ceiling art, frescoes as well as the many sumptuous chandeliers.
Source: Mert Kahveci @ Unsplash
Just next to Topkapi palace is this luscious, green park that’s great for some mental relaxation. It used to be part of the Topkapi palace complex but is now open to the public for free.
You’ll be able to walk along pedestrian lanes and enjoy well-executed landscapes, full of colourful flowers, fishponds, art installations, sculptures, bridges and more. There are many benches for resting when you get tired, and coffee shops where you can get some refreshments.
Source: Jorge Franganillo@Flickr
Istanbul is a city that promises rich experiences, and the good news is that you can fly there with many affordable deals available. Check out Mayflower’s flight deals, offering the best flight tickets for your dream destination, including Istanbul.