Istanbul is a destination full of history, smells and gastronomic temptations.
There are many sightseeing and worth visiting places! Some of those are: the legendary Hagia Sophia, the historic aqueduct and hippodrome, the center of the Christian Orthodox Church (the Patriarchate), the blue mosque and the imposing Dolmabahce Palace. In the City, you see the past and the present, Byzantium, Ottoman era and today.
The city of 20 million people will not disappoint you. Beyond the attractions, the choices for a visitor are plenty! We visited the city and created for you a list of things to do on your first visit to the enchanting Constantinople.
The church of Hagia Sophia is the third consecutive temple built at this point. Its predecessors were burned down and plundered. The temple was built by Justinian’s command and was the symbol of Byzantium. After the fall of the city by the Ottomans, the temple was turned into a mosque (which is why the minarets are located around the main church). Today it is a museum. Admire the huge dome and take your walk both in the lower part of the temple and in the women’s dome.
Opposite to Hagia Sophia, is located the imposing Blue Mosque. It was built as a rival awe of Hagia Sophia. Nevertheless, it did not manage to overcome it. The 6 minarets and the numerous blue tiles make the mosque one of the most beautiful Islamic places of worship. Fan fact! The Sultan had ordered, before leaving for Mecca that the dome is made of pure gold. This of course could not happen because of the weight of gold. The architect then constructed the dome with simple materials, and in order to save his life he added 6 minarets around the Mosque, justifying the Sultan as a victim of misunderstanding (the number six and the word “gold” altin) pronounced almost the same in Turkish)!
Dolmabahce Palace and Topkapi Palace.
Dolmabahçe Palace was a Sultan’s residence and administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 until 1922. It was built with the Baroque technique and is visibly influenced by the European palaces. It is located on the banks of the Bosporus and its wealth will leave you speechless. The main sights of the palace are: a carpet that adorns the throne room which is considered to be the largest carpet in the world, as well as the chandelier that was given as a gift by Queen Victoria of England.
With a totally different architecture, Topkapi is built on the patterns of the East and highlights the richness and aristocracy of the Sultans who lived in it. Built on a hill overlooking the Bosporus, it was the Acropolis of ancient Byzantium, and it was the official residence of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire from the mid-15th century until the construction of the Dolmabahçe Palace in 1853. It is worth seeing the imperial treasures, the precious porcelain and the costumes of the Sultans.
Byzantine Hippodrome and Aqueduct
It’s time for some history! Specifically we go back to the Byzantine era. Hippodrome was a point of reference where many important events occurred. Nowadays, there is nothing left to remind the former Byzantine Hippodrome. It is considered to be an open museum, and it is essentially a pedestrian street in which the column of snakes (which is said to have been moved from Megas Constantinos from Delphi and is made of the shields and weapons of the Greeks who fought against the Persians), and an imposing obelisk (Obelisk of Theodosios) coming from Egypt.
The Aqueduct or Royal Kinstern is the largest underground water tank built in Istanbul, measuring approximately 141 × 66.5 m in the ground plan and having a capacity of 78,000 m3. Originally, it consisted of 336 marble columns of 8 meters high, placed in 12 rows with 28 columns each, 4 meters apart from each other. However, 60 of them, on the southwest side, were built and they are no longer visible. Since 1987 it has been open to the public and is one of the most important and oldest public spaces. It is a place with an excellent acoustic where musical concerts are taking place.
Boat ride on the Bosphorus
The Bosphorus connects the Marmara Sea with the Black Sea. It is a trade passage and you will see many cargo ships crossing it every day. Along the Bosporus Straits and ascending to the Black Sea, we see the European side of Constantinople on the left and the Asian side on the right. Three bridges unite the West with the East. Why should you take the Bosporus ride? To your right and left are located beautiful buildings, palaces, castles and mansions. Also, how many times will you be given the opportunity to sail between Europe and Asia?
Cruise to Princes.
Prince, Halki, Proti and Antigoni, are the 4 largest islands of the Princes, which are also inhabitable. The name Princessonissia originated from the time when the largest island was owned by the Byzantine prince Justin Kouropalati, in 569 AD, who also built a palace in it. Since then the island has been named “Island of the Prince” and by extension the surrounding islands “Princess”. Numerous princes and Byzantine officials fled to these idyllic islands for rest and reasoning.
Prigiponisia is a popular excursion destination from Constantinople. One can go there by regular ferry service from the main ferries of the city (Bostancı, Kartal, Sirkeci / Eminönü, Kabataş and Yenikapı). There are no cars on the islands, and the transports are made with traditional wagons and bicycles. This kind of transportation gives an extra tone of tradition and tranquility in the area.
Walking and shopping in Istiklal
For starters, this venue is huge!! It has countless shops…and people seem like ants!
If you are fan of shopping therapy, welcome to Istiklal. There, you will see big brands and many shops, café, etc. Istiklal crosses the historic red tram. If you are lucky you will see it crossing the street with swiftness!
Kapali Carci and Egyptian Market
Loukoumia, spices, narghile, souvenirs and whatever you can imagine, you will find them in the two central markets of the city. The Egyptian market is ideal for buying spices, loukoumia and tea varieties. Kapali Carci or Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. It has about 1500 shops and consists of more than 58 covered streets.
Here, you can find jewelry, rugs, leathers and souvenirs. The decks are many, and everywhere. Many of the products are good and worth your money. There are, of course, many imitations. Caution! Because of the large number of visitors that moves on the market, you must always mind your belongings.
Enjoy the sunset from the Galata Bridge.
For our romantic readers, we have this suggestion. The Galata Bridge connects the old city with the modern center of Istanbul. On the bridge, you will find many fishermen fishing while at the bottom level you will be glad to find café and restaurants where you can sit and enjoy the view. The sunset over the City is capable of stealing your heart. On the right side of the bridge you can see Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
Try the local delicacies.
Try kebab, doner, lahammadjou, gyüzleme, balmy, loukoumia, baklava and generally discover local delicacies! Excellent flavors with lots of spices and interesting gastronomic combinations! The restaurants are presenting their dishes in the showcase and thus attract more people. Try as much as you can and you will not miss!
End your day in a Hamam.
After a day full of walking, photos, tours, delicacies and smells, it’s time to relax in one of the many Turkish baths. The feel of the steam bath with the steam and the bubble bath that follows is perfect for closing your day relaxed and refreshed!