Seeing a great flight offer for Istanbul, and with fresh memories from trip to this great city, I started to have cravings for Istanbul / turkish sweets.
Istanbul has over 13,5 million people it is the biggest city of Turkey but not its capital (it is Ankara). I don`t know person that didn`t like Istanbul, so you`ll also be delighted.
I believe that some people think that it is an old city, maybe even undeveloped, something as arabic cities of Mediterranean. No, no, no! You`ll be surprised and get rid of all the bad thought that you might had. History, culture, sweets, meat delights, places for shopping, party and relax – Istanbul has everything.
Istanbul is a crossroad of two worlds, an important sea passage and port, a place where to continents meet (Europe and Asia) and a meeting place of merchant from all over the world. Istanbul has an oriental atmosphere but, personally, I see it as an European city, a metropolis, that even some of big and known European cities should be ashamed! Those who love Istanbul love it because it perfectly combines old and new, east and west, and even with all western influences and latest fashion it uses and takes care of oriental culture and traditions in its original form.
Like Rome or Pula (in Croatia), Istanbul is also one big archeological open air museum. When they start making new subway lines they always find something new from the past. Regardless don`t think that you will find ruins everywhere you walk, because history is pretty well-preserved and you will enjoy everything you see!
During my last visit I managed to walk 20 km in one day because we didn`t want to use public transportation just to get to know Istanbul as much as we could.
Where to stay?
It depends on your wishes. I prefer Taksim square (Beyoğlu) because here is the great place for shopping and going out as well you can find lots of great restaurants – everything down the Istiklal street. You guessed, Istiklal street is a must while visiting Istanbul. Through the Istiklal drives a red tram with only one wagon and it is an attraction for tourists. It is always full and quite slow because it goes down the walking zone.
Other options for stay is the Sultanahmet neighbourhood where are all the major attractions. Regardless my experience, where will you stay depends on the price you are willing to pay and how good deal you find. Anyway, the least time you will spend in the hotel room, right?
What to see in Istanbul
I won`t write too much of every attraction (you can find it all on the Internet, Wikipedia etc), but I will suggest what to see based on my experience. Believe me, Istanbul is big and you can explore it for days!
TOP 10 ISTANBUL
1. Taksim and Istiklal Caddesi (street) – I have already mentioned it. It is in newer part of the town called, and more or less you have enough information.
2. Galata Tower – You can not miss the tower in the newer part, north from the Golden horn. The first version of tower was built in 507 and in that time it was a lighthouse. During the history it was also a dungeon, a today it is a viewpoint and restaurant (must have reservation)
It is interesting that the first man who flew was Hezaref Ahmet Çelebi and he jumped from the Galata tower with wooden wing and flew all the way to Üsküdara (Asian part of Istanbul) (Entrance: 10 TL)
3. Galata Bridge– walk it! It is nice to fishermen that stand there all day trying to catch something. They do catch fish, but water is so filthy… Go walk under the bridge where you can find lots of restaurants and cafes. (Free)
4. Aya Sofia (Hagia Sofia)– master piece of byzantine architecture and art in general.It realy is! I love it, Aya is beautiful! I love the great door that you will pass while entering the central area. Some scientists say that the next big earthquake could knock it down entirely so go to Istanbul as soon as possible! (Entrance: 20 TL)
5. Blue mosque– Hippodrome – Theodosius obelisk – The Blue Mosque is more interesting from outside than inside although it is weird how may tiles (handmade) were used. All the tiles were made in Turkey to help out traditional (family) production.
6. Topkapi Palace – if you see a big cruiser in the harbor, expect crowd in the Palace as well as a line on entrance! Advice is to come as early as you can or do a stupid thing that my boyfriend and I did. We passed the line and went directly to the ticket desk, of course with a stupid expression on the face like we didn`t know that you have to go on the end of the line. (We have never done that before and it was not deliberately. But I must say this time it was justified!)
Don`t miss museums with jewelery inside the palace. (Entrance: 15 TL)
7. Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı) – if you are coming during the hot season, nice and cool temperatures in underground will be good for you. Anyway cistern looks interesting. It is near Aya Sofia and Sultanahmet park. (Entrance: 10 TL)
8. Grand Bazaar – the biggest and the oldest covered space for trade in the world. It has more than 60 streets with more than 300 shops, and in good day it is visited by 400,000 people! It is a MUST in Istanbul, particularly if you know how to bargain and buy cheap. I have never seen so much gold as here in Bazaar!
9. Egyptian Market – Spice Bazaar – This is my favorite place because it so vibrant and there a lots of different shops even out side of the market. Here you can buy all kind of turkish sweet and pastries. Of course if you prefer branded shop then look for KOSKA sign (you can find it also in Istiklal street) but really all other traditional shops are very good (I have tried it!) (Entrance: free)
10. Bosporus Cruise – When you decide you had enough of walking, go for a cruise. Take something to eat and drink and head down to harbour (under the Galata bridge, just under the Spice Bazaar). You can`t miss it because there will be for sure some guys that will call for a cruise. (I believe the price is around 10 TL, and cruise lasts for about 1,5 hour)
What more? There are more things to see, but I believe that this 10 tips are quite enough. I will leave you to discover other Istanbul delights like I did. I will for sure write more about Istanbul because every time I mentioned its name I can feel sweet taste of baklava and halva… It`s not so healthy but it doesn`t count when you go over the border :).
HRVATSKA VERZIJA: TOP 10 ISTANBULA
Ostali tekstovi na hrvatskom jeziku (Croatian texts):
Istanbul – kebab, kolači i dobra zabava
Istanbul – shopping, turska kupelj i noćni provod
(All photos – All rights reserved – Sandra Bortek)