On New Realms Travel Blog

Things to do in Istanbul. Explore and discover the Turkish culture

Hagia-Sophia-Istanbul

Vibrant, colorful and intense city split on 2 continents. Merhaba Istanbul!

This colorful city, full of history and influences that integrates plenty of traditions, it’s hard not to be liked. Why is it so fascinating and impressive? Because of the mosques, bazaars, palaces and a strait that places the city on two continents. Being the country’s largest city and top visited tourist destination, Istanbul is so intense that you will need probably months to explore it. However, if you desire to visit this city make a list of places you want to see and start discovering the old Constantinople.

Topkapı Palace

Topkapi-Istanbul

This place was the Sultan’s residence for 400 years and was built after the conquest of Constantinople. Its locations is in one of the most crowded and touristic areas, Sultanahmet neighborhood.

The beauty of this place comes from the amazing architecture of the four gardens that offers you lovely city views. Also, Topkapı museum express very well the opulence through its 86 karat diamond, gold jewelries, sumptuous clothes and weapons.

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The additional buildings sections and pavilions are always ready to transpose yourself during the Ottoman Empire times. There was that era when sultans used to rule over the empire. The same era when female members of his family had to share the same place: the harem. Including wives and concubines too.

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Dolmabahçe Palace

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Dolmabahçe is the largest palace in the country. It was used as a presidential residence by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first President of the Republic of Turkey. It also served as diplomatic meetings point between the Sultan and the foreign powers.

The wonderful location designed in European style resides on the Bosphorus’s shore and offers amazing panorama over the Asian continent. The ceremonial rooms architecture, candelabras, furniture and paintings highlight the elegant, imposing and fascinating personality of the place.

Dolmabahce-Istanbul-2

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Hagia Sophia

One of the Istanbul’s symbols, Hagia Sophia mosque keeps inside its walls historical stories and events that happened long time ago. For more than 900 years it was an orthodox church, belonging to the Constantinople Patriarchy. But it was transformed into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest. In the present, it is one of the most visited tourist attractions, a museum where you need to find time to effectively look at the greatness interior walls.

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Sultan Ahmet Camii (Blue Mosque)

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The 21,000 blue tiles covering and designing the interior walls are the reason why this mosque is also known as Blue Mosque. The sultan Ahmet decided to build this structure in order to bear his name. This is not an ordinary mosque, it comprises 6 minarets with a height of 64 meters, a big inner courtyard and an amazing dome.

Blue-Mosque-Istanbul

Blue mosque is still an active mosque therefore remember that this place is closed to tourists during prayer time. There is no entrance fee to visit it but it is mandatory to wear suitable clothes.

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Basilica Cistern

Nearby Hagia Sophia, this place was built by Romans for collecting and distributing water in the city. The Basilica Cistern is famous due to its 336 marble columns that include the famous and mythical Medusa’s head. This water reservoir is also popular because of “Inferno” movie starring Tom Hanks in 2016.

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Galata Tower and Bridge

Galata Bridge attracts daily dozens of passionate fishermen, wonderful small boats full of fish and hundreds of tourists eager to admire the beauty of the area. Pretty close to this place there is one of Istanbul’s most famous and popular tourist attractions majestically rising on a hill, Galata Tower.

Galata-Tower-Istanbul

Thanks to the 66.90 meters height and the top terrace that surrounds the tower, this place is a perfect spot to admire the breathtaking panorama over Istanbul. There are two elevators that help you reach the top from where you can enjoy the city view. There is also a restaurant on top if you want to stop for a break but you need to be aware that you will probably be disturbed by the big number of tourists coming only for the view.

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Bosphorus cruise

This trip will give you the opportunity to experience the wonderful feeling of being between two continents while enjoying the city views. No more crowded streets, no more old buildings, no more merchants at every corner of the street. You will just encounter the sun, the breeze and the opulent palaces, together with modern bridges and luxury houses. Being encircled by the sea it will come to your attention the wonderful Dolmabahçe palace, the bridge that links the two continents, the Rumeli fortress that was used as a prison for many years and of course, the Asian side of Istanbul.

Bosphorus-Istanbul-2

If you want to book a cruise through the amazing strait that links the Black Sea to Marmara Sea then you have to reach Eminönü area where you will find lots of traders with different offers.

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Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar fascinates you with its special design and ambient. It is one of the largest covered markets in the world. The 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops offer everything that crosses your mind and have oriental influences: jewelries, clothes, Turkish ceramics, Turkish delight, sheesha, tea, spices.

Grand-Bazaar-Istanbul

This is an interesting and unique experience so we would definitely suggest you to include this old market in your itinerary. Besides your shopping sessions you should also pay attention to the atmosphere that surrounds the place: an agitation that is hard to describe, unmatched merchants, colors and fragrances of Oriental culture.

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Spice Bazzar

Ten minutes far from Grand Bazaar you will find one of the biggest markets in Istanbul. Much smaller than Grand Bazaar, I would describe Spice Bazaar as the perfect place for gourmands: spices, Turkish delight, sweets, dried fruits, honey, nuts, teas and many more, there are all in the same place: Spice Bazaar.

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Culinary delights on the streets

Istanbul-sweets

If you come to Istanbul don’t even think about being on a diet. The street food will welcome you at every spot. The very well known kebab tastes ten thousands better there than elsewhere. The delicious Börek pies or the sesame simit are perfect to grab while exploring the city. And not to forget about the Turkish sweets. They are very sweet but worth trying.

Hammam

As relaxation is mandatory during holidays, we suggest you to try Turkish baths, the precursors of SPA. We enjoyed our hammam experience at Süleymaniye Hamamı, which is more than 450 years old and it was built by Sinan, the architect of the Suleymaniye Mosque.

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I have to admit that the Turkish culture was sometimes too complex to understand it but in the same time very interesting. Thus, we still have a lot to discover here but till next time, keep it fantastic as you are, Istanbul!

Do you have other suggestions for an Istanbul escapade? We are more than happy to hear them!

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