Before my trip to Istanbul, most of my closest friends had been there. And generally, the hype was overwhelming. It made me wonder, would I end up being equally thrilled with all the reviews or be in for a major disappointment due to the high expectations? Fortunately, I now have to agree with the former.
Istanbul, a city that embraces the two gigantic cultures of Asia and Europe over the Bosphorus River, is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. The city’s biggest attraction might be the historic center of Sultanahmet, where part of it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sultanahmet is the home of Istanbul’s top sights – Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace!
The Byzantine and Ottoman architecture is heavily reflected in almost all of the historic sites. Istanbul is also historically known as a cultural hub in between Asia and Europe. With countless charming museums to visit, you’ll need at least 2 days to do them justice and 4 days might be a good stretch. For historical geeks, weeks might not even be enough to explore.
Apart from the museums, mosques, churches and palaces, one should never miss the hustle and bustle of The Grand Bazaar. With thousands of shops to browse, it is always intriguing to haggle over spices, carpets, gold, lamps and a lot of Turkish delights. Morning might be the best time to avoid the crowd, which can be massive!
As the essential part of Turkey, a Hamam (Turkish Bath) is something to look forward to. There are many bathing houses around the neighborhood of Istanbul, which vary greatly in prices, cleanliness and services. Even though the massage might only be mediocre, experiencing the Turkish Bath is a truly memorable encounter.
When the sun is setting, the ferry cruise along Bosphorus Strait is perfect to view the silhouettes of hundreds of minarets across the historical peninsula. The beauty of Gatala Tower, Galata Bridge, Ortakoy Mosque Pier and Dolmabahçe Palace illuminates the city to its best!
When the night was still young, as part of the Turkish culture, I attended the 45-minute long Whirling Dervish, which can be either dull and boring or fascinating and mesmerizing. Honestly, though it was captivating, I briefly fell asleep during the show. But to witness men spinning in circles for 30 minutes, that is a feat that requires great skill and strength. Will I go back for a second time? Most probably not!
Istanbul’s local public transportation system is a complex network of trams, funiculars, metro lines, buses, and ferries. To conclude, roaming around Istanbul is very straightforward and painless. Happy traveling!