This extraordinarily incomparable and dynamic city has an endless supply of attractions for every type of tourist. One can’t help but gravitate towards the energy of the people, the warmth and and the vibrancy of this cosmopolitan city.
I thrive on the organised chaos so with my morning coffee I am set for a day of exploring and adventure. Sometimes I enjoy people watching at one of the quaint restaurants dotted around around the city and listening to the excited conversations of locals and tourists.
These are some of my “ go to “ spots that I find irresistible and visit whenever I can in Istanbul.
Topkapi Palace – located in the heart of Istanbul, and serving as the residence of the Ottoman
sultans for nearly 400 years, it has two additional claims to fame: it is the only palace surviving
from that period, and it is the first museum of the modern Turkish Republic. One can wonder in
the gardens or else pay the entrance fee to enjoy the the palace that housed 24 sultans until
the mid 19th century.
Hagia Sophia Museum – In terms of art and architecture, this museum located in the heart of the
historical peninsula between the palace and Blue Mosque, is one of the most important
structures in the world. With its astounding dome that seems to float in the air, its carved
marble columns and beautiful mosaics, this architectural masterpiece has served 2 great
Pelit Chocolate Museum – The city has a chocolate museum and to top it all, its the only one in
Turkiye. Found in Esenyurt, it opened its doors in 2013 and takes visitors on an adventure
starting with the history of chocolate making.Many world famous buildings and historical figures have been made from chocolate, it is said that more than 3 tons of chocolate were used in making the museum.
Moda – This nostalgic neighbourhood with its theatres, cafes, street musicians, second hand
book stores, and tram that circles the main area with 10 stops one can be forgiven for loosing
track of time in the calm streets .This cosmopolitan corner of Kadikoy is gaining popularity. The Sureyya Opera House built during the 1930’s is found on the main road.
Balat – This neighbourhood is a mixture of Jewish, Armenian and Orthodox communities. The
houses are painted in a myriad of colours, washing lines strung between buildings, kids play
in the streets and quaint coffee shops and antique stores are hidden around corners. Be sure
to visit the Hobbit House, where local children cook for you and Merdivenli Metkep street, one
of the steepest slopes in Istanbul with the colourful stairs leading to Fener Greek Orthodox
College opened in 1881( known as Red School amongst the locals because of the red bricks)
Eyüp Sultan Mosque – Found in the Eyüp district of Istanbul, outside the city walls and near the Golden Horn. On a much older site, the present building dates from the beginning of the 19th century. The mosque complex includes a mausoleum marking the spot where Ebu Eyup el-Ansari, who was a companion of the Prophet Muhammad and his tomb, built in the place he died in 684, came to provide the sanctification of Istanbul and its ruling Ottoman dynasty following the conquest of the city in 1453.
Grand Bazaar – Built in 1461 this amazing complex , the worlds oldest shopping centre , is a
colossal maze taking in 66 streets and around 4000 stores which are all covered. Each street
in the bazaar is named after the specific guild that once inhabited it such as the Kalpak Makers,
Mirror Makers etc. One can buy souvenirs from all over Turkiye here and bargaining is the norm.
Cemberlitas Hamam – Dating back to 1584, designed by the great architect Sinan it is one of the
most beautiful in the city. The Turkish bath includes the standard bath package and extras like
the oil massage and other treatments are available. It stays open until midnight and is easy to
find in the Sultanahamet region.
Taksim – Situated in Beyoglu in the European part of Istanbul, this major tourist attraction is
famed for its restaurants , shops , hotels and night life. Take a ride on the heritage tram line,
on Istiklal street look out for Madame Tussaud’s wax museum , take an evening stroll and listen
to the various musicians that play on the street. Before heading back to your hotel be sure to
try a dondurma ( ice cream ) this thick and chewy ice cream is delicious and the juggling show
that accompanies it will put a smile on everyones face.
Miniaturk – covering an area of 60 000 square metres, it is the largest model park in the world.
displaying 120 1/25 scale models of major structures in the Turkish and former Ottoman region.
Found at the north eastern shore of the Golden Horn, its the best way to see all of Turkey’s
historical sites. Its fun for the entire family.
Cruise on the Bosphorus – The best time for this is between May and September. With an
abundance of sightseeing spots in Istanbul, a cruise is one of the best ways to soak it in while
relaxing on the deck. There are cruise by night tours which include a 2 hour stop at the fish
restaurants on the shore. This unique experience allows you to enjoy the lights of the city . Full
Bosphorus cruises include digital guides that explain over 70 points of interest in 10 different
languages. If you have time take a full day trip out to the Princes Islands, there are no cars on the island , only horse and carriage is used for local transport.
Istanbul is the epitome of what a holiday should be. Its easy to move around and affordable for everyone. Your lasting impression will be of great people, great food and great memories.
By Marion Kate