Lives in Cambridge, United Kingdom
Since Apr 2012
18-24 year old female
Sacred & Religious Sites
Flea & Street Markets
Gift & Speciality Shops
Bodies of Water
Points of Interest & Landmarks
History Museums, Art Museums, Ancient Ruins
Flea & Street Markets
Architectural Buildings, Sacred & Religious Sites, History Museums, Historic Sites
Architectural Buildings, Historic Sites, Ancient Ruins
Sacred & Religious Sites, Architectural Buildings
Points of Interest & Landmarks
A world heritage site, you simply cannot visit Istanbul without visiting Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed). It is beautiful, both from the outside and within. I think it is especially spectacular at night time when it is lit up. Blue Mosque is located in the Sultanahmet district so is close by to many other popular sites. I suggest visiting here early on in your trip so that you have plenty of time to come and see it again before you leave. Allow yourself at least half an hour to visit inside. There are benches facing the mosque so you can spend limitless time here watching the world go by and admiring the beauty of the mosque. The Blue Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 and is known as the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles inside.
The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest covered markets in the world. It is huge, a maze of 61 streets and 3000 shops! Some guide books suggest spending several hours here, which you could, however we felt an hour was enough to walk around just some of the many streets. This gave us a flavour of the bazaar and we were able to enjoy the bustling atmosphere. The Bazaar is very busy with tourists exploring, as well as locals enjoying Turkish tea. There were lots of shops selling lamps and carpets as you might expect so it is the place to come if you are looking for a souvenir.
After visiting the Grand Bazaar we walked through the Spice Bazaar. The colours and smells are amazing and you can take some fabulous photos. There is so much food here from spices, Turkish delight and tea in so many flavours. It is much smaller than the Grand Bazaar and if anything I preferred it. The spice bazaar has been in Istanbul since the 1660s.
After walking through the Spice Bazaar we walked down to the Galata Bridge. To the right of the bridge you can purchase tickets for the river cruise. We went on the cruise that departed at 2pm which was a round two hour trip on a large boat. There are all day hop on hop off options however we decided that this suited us best. A river cruise is an excellent way to see the Bosphorus and the many sites along it such as: Dolmabahçe Palace; Ciragan Palace; mansions, Ortakoy Mosque, Beylerbeyi Palace, Küçüksu Kasri (a hunting lodge). At present they are constructing a new bridge to be called the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge. The round trip cost us 12TL each.
Famous for fish take a walk along the bridge following the river cruise. There are lots of fisherman fishing off the bridge and there is a constant flow of people crossing the water. If you walk along the bottom level of the bridge there are fish restaurants which I hear are some of the best - however I did not sample any. The original Galata bridge was constructed in 1845 however the one that stands today (the fifth) was completed in the 1990's.
We found this fantastic restaurant in the Sultanahmet district and during the five nights we stayed in Istanbul we ate here three times. The food is delicious and good value. The staff are polite, everything seems very clean and it is located just off the main street. It offers a good selection of Turkish foods. Two main courses and two rounds of drinks cost us about 100TL.
The fountain was constructed in Germany and transported to Istanbul before being assembled in 1901. The fountain was commissioned by German Emperor Wilhelm II following his visit to Istanbul in 1898. Be sure to take a look at this at night time when it is lit up! It is very beautiful and the golden mosaic underneath the dome is stunning. It is located in the Sultanahmet district, if you are not staying in the area you are likely to walk past it on the way to Blue Mosque.
On arrival at the hotel we were greeted by friendly staff who took time to mark on a map for us the main sites - most of which were very close to our hotel. It took less than five minutes to walk to the Blue Mosque and there were plenty of restaurants serving traditional Turkish food nearby. Throughout our stay the staff were helpful; in particular when arranging transport back to the airport. The staff really couldn't do enough for us and are an asset to this hotel. Stay here if you wish to be close to the major sites as it is located just five minutes from Blue Mosque. Note that there is a full review of this hotel on my profile.
I think this has to be the largest mosaic I have ever seen! You can walk around the mosaic on a platform at ground level and from above. The mosaic museum is not crowded and we did not have to wait in any queues. It dates from Byzantine times and was the floor of the Great Palace. Many scenes depict hunting and scenes from myths. Good for a rainy day!
This is next to the Mosaic museum and we walked through the bazaar on our way to the museum. There are a range of shops selling things such as carpets and jewellery. It is open air and much less crowded than the Grand Bazaar. The shops feature a number of handmade items that would provide many happy memories of your trip.
Construction completed on Hagia Sophia in 537AD. Initially Hagia Sophia was a church until 1453 when it became a mosque. Since 1935 Hagia Sophia has been a museum and today it is a world heritage site. According to the museum website the museum received 3.3 million visitors in 2013 so expect it to be crowded. This is somewhere not to miss and there are religious images on the walls and ceiling as well as Viking graffiti upstairs. The museum is undergoing renovation so there was a lot of scaffolding up in one area when we visited. Hagia Sophia stands opposite the Blue Mosque and the site of them together is breathtaking. There are benches and a fountain where you can sit and admire the view both during the day and at night time when the fountain changes colour.
This is five minutes from Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. This park is a peaceful escape from the bustling city and is the perfect place to sit and rest your feet after a busy morning. We visited late March and the hundreds of flowers were not quite in bloom, I imagine they look beautiful later in April.
If you follow the tram line around the corner and down the hill from the left of Hagia Sophia you will come to The Han Restaurant near the bottom of the hill on your right hand side. It is a large restaurant authentically decorated and in the window you will see fresh savoury pancakes being made to order. There are lots of dishes to choose from however as we wanted something fairly light we decided on the pancakes. They are good value and really yummy - ideal for lunch!
Located in the Sultanahmet district, over the road from Hagia Sophia, this Cistern constructed 527-565AD is unusual. Inside are 336 marble columns and 2 Medusa heads. It is certainly different, you won't need more than about half an hour inside.
Construction on the Suleymaniye Mosque completed in 1557. It is one of the most popular mosques in Istanbul and is beautiful. The ceiling is amazing so take plenty of time to admire this. This is less busy than the Blue Mosque however it is still definitely worth visiting.
This restaurant offers traditional Turkish food and in the middle is a huge grill. We sat next to this and watched the food cook. We opted for chicken dishes which were yummy! However we particularly enjoyed the mixed meze starter. Located just off the main street in the Sultanahmet district with great service and good food you can't go wrong.
This is an ancient bronze column and is something worth taking a look at if you are in the Sultanahmet district, we stayed nearby so walked past it every day. It is located in the Hippodrome area.
The Obelisk is well worth stopping to look at if you are in the area - it is in the hippodrome near to the Blue Mosque. It has been standing in Istanbul since 390AD! However, the Obelisk is somewhat shorter than it was originally as it is believed to have been damaged in transit. Some of the plinth on which it stands has been restored.
Topkapi Palace was one of the highlights of our trip. We were expecting to spend maybe a couple of hours here but surprised ourselves by spending most of the day here. Visiting on a sunny day which was a bonus as there are nice grounds to walk through. There are people offering guided trips when you queue to purchase tickets however we took our guide book in with us which provided us with enough information along with the signs in the museum. There are fantastic views of the Bosphorus and each room is different. For example there is a portrait room, Treasury and a clock room among many others. Don't miss Topkapi Palace - it will be a highlight of your trip.
We stayed in the Sultanahmet district and got the tram up to here and from the tram walked to Istiklal Street. It was such a contrast to where we were staying with so many European shops. It was like Istanbul's equivalent to Oxford Street. We had gone up here hoping to get dinner, however were disappointed as it was mainly fast food restaurants and not the traditional Turkish food we were after, we therefore did not eat here. Come to Istiklal Street if you fancy some shopping.