Istanbul Sights, The Charms Of The East

 Istanbul is with almost 15 million inhabitants the largest and most touristic city in Turkey. Furthermore, the former capital of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires is, despite its turbulent political situation, one of the most visited cities on the planet. All thanks to the great heritage to see in Istanbul and its great contrasts, being the only city in the world to be found between two continents, Europe and Asia, and one of the few located between two seas, the Sea of ​​Marmara and the Black Sea.



Hagia Sophia is not only one of the most important places to see in Istanbul but also one of the wonders of the world. It is an impressive mosque of which we can highlight some curiosities:

  • This beautiful building was inaugurated in the year 360 and has been an old Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque and currently a museum, despite the fact that from there prayer is called in alternation with the Blue Mosque, located in front of Hagia Sophia, being a unique sound show.

  • This building is known for its huge dome, which is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture, and is said to have  "changed the history of architecture." 

  • Hagia Sophia has endured several earthquakes.

  • It was the largest cathedral in the world for almost a thousand years, until the work on the Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.

  • It is the most visited monument in Turkey and a symbol of the country.

The interior of Hagia Sophia is one of the most amazing places to see in Istanbul, and it will certainly leave you speechless. The dimensions of the main hall are colossal 70 by 74 meters, with a dome 56.6 meters high and 31.87 in diameter. On the walls and the magnificent monolithic columns are huge decorative medallions. The second floor is accessed through an endless ramp created by the emperor to go up on horseback. In it you will find, in addition to some formidable views, several of the most important mosaics on the planet, among them that of the Emperor Constantine and the Empress Zoe worshiping Christ.



Another of the symbols of the city and one of the main buildings to see in Istanbul is the Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmed Mosque , built by Sultan Ahmed I between 1609 and 1616 and inaugurated in 1617 during the mandate of Mustafa I. The pride of the Sultan, who wanted a more impressive mosque than Hagia Sophia, led him to build a mosque with six minarets, something that caused much controversy since Mecca also had six. The controversy was resolved by adding one more minaret to the Saudi mosque. Despite this rivalry and the apparent equality of dimensions with Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque is smaller with a large central dome 23.5 m in diameter and 43 m high. Inside there are more than 20,000 blue tiles that adorn the dome and the top of the mosque.  



The Topkapi Palace is among all the most representative buildings to see in Istanbul. It was the main residence of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire and the seat of their government from 1465 to 1853 when Sultan Abdulmecid decided to move his residence to the Dolmabahçe Palace, a western court palace. The Topkapi Palace has more than 700,000 square meters spread over several buildings located around four beautiful courtyards that are accessed through large portals.



Of all the cisterns to see in Istanbul, the best known is the Basilica Cistern, located very close to Hagia Sophia . It was built in the time of Justinian I (527-565) to supply the Byzantine Palace in case the city was attacked. Some of the aqueducts that led the water to the cistern are still standing, what is not preserved is the basilica in which the cistern was located underground. The cistern measures 140 by 70 meters and it is estimated that it could store 100,000 m3 of water. Formerly it was visited by boat, however today the visit is made through enabled walkways.

The Basilica Cistern has 336 columns of 9 meters in height, among which two stand out that are based on a head of Medusa and although this may give rise to myths and legends, the truth is that they were placed only with practical fixes. This place is, especially after its appearance in films like "Inferno", one of the most important and visited to see in Istanbul.



Located in Eminönü, very close to the Galata Bridge , the Spice Bazaar or Egyptian Bazaar is another of the oldest and most important markets to see in Istanbul . Here you can buy typical products such as spices, sweets or nuts, at a more affordable price than in the Grand Bazaar. The name of the Egyptian Bazaar has its origins in when Istanbul was the end of the Silk Road and the distribution center for all of Europe. Although less known than the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar is in my opinion much more beautiful. Upon entering you will find a burst of smell and color, a delight for the senses.



The Dolmabahce Palace replaced the Topkapi Palace in 1853 as the residence of the sultans until 1923, when the caliphate was abolished. After the Republic, in 1923, the palace was assigned to Ataturk's service, becoming his summer residence. When he passed away, it was transformed into a museum. It is located in the European part of Istanbul, on the banks of the  Bosphorus. With its 15,000 square meters spread over 285 rooms, 43 halls, 6 Turkish baths and approximately 2,700 windows, it is the largest building in Turkey. Among all the rooms, the most striking is the Throne Room with 2000 square meters and 36 meters high and a spectacular chandelier.  This palace is divided into two sections, the official part, where the Sultan received his guests and the  Harem, where he lived with his family, his mother and his wives.

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  1. If you are going to walk around the areas near the Bosphorus, you will find many candy stores, where you will be able to buy traditional products of the country.

  1. There are many sweets with pistachio, for example.

  1. There are many meat-based dishes, particularly lamb. You can find kebabs , and different starter dishes with ingredients such as hummus or yogurt .

  1. In the busiest streets of Sultanahmet and Taksim you will find restaurants that serve food by weight, and that are a good opportunity to try various dishes.

  1. Tea overlooking the Bosphorus, Istanbul is recommended to try.

A Modern City...

What is most striking as soon as you arrive at the modern Istanbul airport is the fact that you do not have the feeling of having left Europe. That same perception continues as you approach the center of the modern city, Taksim Square. Here ends one of the most important arteries of Istanbul, Istiklal Street, a two-kilometer road where you can find all kinds of shops, bars and restaurants. A tram like those of yesteryear runs along this pedestrianized street that is undoubtedly one of the greatest symbols of modernity in the Turkish capital. 

Today, Istiklal Street is a landmark of the social and recreational life of the inhabitants of Istanbul, just as it was in the past, in the middle of the 20th century, when no one could walk through it without a tie, as it was said by that so. This is an ideal place to have lunch or dinner and thus taste the delights of Turkish cuisine.

There are plenty of high end hotels in Istanbul, you may also want to look at Clickstay rentals for all your holiday home needs.

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