Istanbul, the city that never sleeps, is an incredible city built on two Continents – Asia and Europe, divided by the Bosphorus Strait. It’s one of the greatest cities in the world which offers a wealth of historic and religious places to take in, ancient monuments, dating back to Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods and different people. This surpsising city hides many magical places, here you have some tips how you can spend your holidays in Istanbul, and also I recommend you to get lost and see what you can discover yourself, I’m sure that Istanbul will surprise you in many ways.
What to experience in Istanbul
Visit the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia – the magical moment is when you are sitting at one of the park benches and listen to the call of prayer between them.
Try hamam – Turkish bath, where you can relax and enjoy the body scrub and massage.
Take a boat tour down the Bosphorus – if you have only few days in Istanbul, it’s the best way how to see the main attractions. You’ll ride past Dolmabahçe Palace, the Rumeli Ruins, the Maiden’s Tower, and many mosques, mansions, and gardens along the way.
Go underground at the Basilica Cistern – the largest of the ancient underground water cisterns found across Istanbul.
Smoke hookah (nargile) – there are lots of hookah bars in Istanbul where you can lounge around while you smoke the water pipe and sip on a class of Turkish tea or coffee.
Take a day trip to the Princes’ Islands –it’s a very romantic and popular place with quiet ambience, no private motor vehicles are allowed on any of the islands, everyone walks, rides bicycles, or takes horse-drawn carriages.
Hop over to the Asian continent – take the ferry to Kadikoy and walk around the market areas and then go to Uskudar, where you can walk along the seaside with the magnificent views of Istanbul and Maiden tower.
Visit the Topkapi Palace – the largest royal residence in Istanbul which served as the main residence to the Ottoman Sultans for almost 400 years. Top attractions at Topkapi Palace are the Harem and the treasury storing the crown jewels.
There are lots of modern shopping malls, where you will find all the world’s famous brands. But for me the real experience was the shopping in the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar is the largest covered market in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3000 shops. Many of the stalls in the bazaar are grouped by type of goods, with special areas for leather, gold jewellery, clothes, ceramics, beautiful carpets, bags and much more. Don’t miss to buy your own Nargile (the Turkish water pipe), it’s beautifully painted and very cheap. There is a wide selection of wonderful cashmere scarves for women. The second largest covered market is the Spice Bazaar, for me one the most charming places in Istanbul, the air is filled with the smell of various fresh spices, Turkish delights – Lokum, Turkish coffee, tea or dried fruit.
Döner is always a good option for having fast and cheap food, small döner restaurant are almost everywhere. Be sure to try Ayran, a local drink based on yoghurt with salt.
Balik-Ekmek (literally “fish and bread”) is a local favourite fish sandwich served in small boats and little buffets. A regular sandwich consists of one small fried fish, slices of tomatoes and onion.
One thing not to be missed is the local ice cream sold at the street stands, called dondurma. The ice cream usually incorporates orchid root extract, which gives it an incredible taste.
Try Lahmacun – Turkish pizza, this thin dough is topped with minced meat, vegetables and herbs.
Mercimek çorbası – this classic Turkish red lentil soup is a handful of lentils, a carrot, a potato and an onion.
İskender kebab, a plate of döner laying on a cut flatbread doused with tomato sauce and butter and served with a scoop of cool yogurt on the side.
Try lokum – Turkish delight, it is a popular gummy treat. You can choose from flavours that include rose, cinnamon, mint, strawberry, lemon, orange, kiwi, pomegranate or apple.
text and photos by Michaela Kawanova