Istanbul is the culmination of how cosmopolitan a city can be. It has been built by layers upon layers of history and different peoples and cultures meeting in the capital that today is the only one spread over two continents: Europe & Asia. If anything, Istanbul is a wonderful meeting point in every sense of the word.
The very best thing about Istanbul is the people. Locals are keen to interact and get to know you and even if there if you don’t speak the same language, they will invite you for a çay (tea).
Find out every other reason for which I love Istanbul and its locals in the video!
Where to get lost and find something wonderful in Istanbul:
- Sultanahmet area
The Aya Sophia or Blue Mosque is of course the most emblematic building in the historical city center (the Sultanahmet neighbourhood). However, the building has not always been a mosque and underwent many transformations. The name Hagia Sophia comes from the Greek language and means “holy wisdom”. It was originally built as an orthodox cathedral in the year 360 during the Byzantine rule, when Istanbul was still called Constantinopolis. When the Ottoman Empire ruled in 1453, the Aya Sophia became a mosque. Today the building no longer functions as a mosque, but it is a museum and UNESCO World Heritage site.
Next to the Aya Sophia is the Sultanahmet mosque. You should definitely go inside to see the ceiling and carpet. To visit a mosque inside, you need to take of your shoes (but don’t worry, there is always a soft and often wonderful carpet on the floor) and as a woman you are requested to cover your hair with a shawl. You can often loan a scarf from the mosque to visit it inside, yet I recommend you to buy a hand-crafted shawl and have it with you as you then won’t have to queue for one.
From Sultanahmet, you can walk to the Grand Bazaar in just 15 minutes. You will feast your eyeballs on the colourful carpets, lamps and spices in the Bazaar. Speaking about spices, the Egyptian Spice Bazaar near Galata Bridge is also only 10 minutes from the Grand Bazaar and the same distance from the Aya Sophia and is truly worth a visit as well.
A 10 minute walk from Grand Bazaar brings you more marvelous impressions. I visited many mosques in Istanbul, but the one that I found most beautiful is the Sulemanye mosque designed by architect Mimar Sinan. At first sight you may see the similarities between all the different mosques, but I recommend you to walk around and go inside to admire all the brilliant details.
Right next to the mosque, in a side street is the tomb of the architect Mimar Sinan and around the corner there’s a café that will lift your experience of the city to whole new level. The view from Mimar Sinan terrace is unbelievable as you can see from the pictures I took there!
From the terrace, you can easily spot the Galata Tower on the other side of the river bank.
- Galata area
When you climb the steps of the medieval Galata tower (or take the elevator), you get a 360 degree view on Istanbul, that will make you fall in love with this city 🙂
I really hope that you can experience Istanbul fully and inteact with locals, because you will find that it is a unique gem!
*The title of this blog post is a quote by Alphonse de Lamartine, a French poet, historian and politician who is the author of “Histoire de la Turquie” (1854). He also wrote the following quote: “There is no man more complete than the one who travelled a lot, who changed the shape of his thoughts and his life 20 times”.