Turkey has the sole distinction of bridging two continents, Europe and Asia, with one of the worlds great cities straddling the two. In Istanbul, discover a wealth of historical and religious structures, ancient ruins, volcanic cliffs, and hospitable people. Marvel at the attractions you can find around its famous waterway, the Bosphorus flows straight to the majestic Black Sea.
Here are are some of must see highlights when in Istanbul, Turkey.
Hagia Sophia Museum / Church of Ayasofya
Hagia Sophia is a museum and one of Istanbul’s famous landmarks. It was built as a cathedral in the A.D. 500’s and was converted into a mosque towards the end of the 1400’s. It has a long history behind it as it served as the first seat of the Greek orthodox religion. Afterwards, it became a Catholic cathedral, then a mosque and now a museum. This is reflected in its architecture which is a great mix of all styles. The interior is lavish yet elegant. You have to go early in the morning to attend the holy mass and to avoid the long line of tourists that explore its religious importance and history.
The humble and beautiful mosque is impressive both inside and outside. You have to walk a bit from the center of Sultanahmet to get to this mosque where the view is really amazing. At the exit there is a terrace from which to admire the Golden Horn. The location of this mosque is right on the Bosporus and the view from the Galata Bridge at sunset is amazing. Inside, it is very large and bright and stands outside the city. On the back you can visit the mausoleums of the tombs of Süleyman and his wife Rosseana.
Sultanahmet is the heart of Istanbul City. It is a cluster of shops, kebab diners, mosques (Ayasofya and the Blue Mosque) and friendly people. It represents the spirit of Istanbul restaurateurs who are stationed outside their restaurants and invite you to come and walk while stray cats stroll lazily in city traffic, voices, tourists, hawkers of Sahlep (a delicious concentrated milk that is served warm with cinnamon) antique stores, lamps of colored glass, the tram that runs and the Grand Bazaar of luxury where the precious gold and jewelry shops never fails to fascinate tourists and locals alike.
The Topkap Palace is a place of great splendor where every guest is welcomed with an entry to the tower like castle and a glimpse at how the great sultans once lived. The various buildings decorated with colorful tiles are very beautiful as well as the grounds and pavilions. A section is dedicated to jade jewelry, daggers of gold, the cradle of gold and large diamond. A visit to the sultan’s harem is highly recommended. The greatness of this place will take your breath away and learn to understand all about the Turkish and Byzantine empires that once dominated this great nation.
The scenery along the Bosphorus Strait and the boat tour gives a good chance to evaluate the colors of the city lights in both the European side and the Asian horizon. The ship sails from the first pier to Galata bridge (Sultanahmet side) and drove along the Bosphorus to the bridge of Euro-Asia, take a quick pass to the shores of the Black Sea and then return. A good guide can give a brief history of Istanbul and share a detailed description of the various buildings to see during the one and a half hour cruise. The return to the port is fabulous with a view of the mosques getting silhouetted against the horizon at sunset.
Turkey is a mix of charm and a unique aesthetic beauty. From a historical point of view, it represents a wealth of ancient history that must not be missed.