Turkey has the distinction of bridging two continents – Europe and Asia – with one of the world’s great cities straddling the two. In Istanbul, discover a wealth of historical and religious structures, ancient ruins, and hospitable people. Marvel at the attractions you can find around its famous waterway, the Bosphorus, which flows to the majestic Black Sea.
With the opening of the new Istanbul Airport (the world’s new largest airport), the spotlight is once again on this incredible city. With the new airport make sure you check RideGuru, which lists rideshare services in cities around the world. Find out in advance if Uber, Lyft, Didi, Ola, and other rideshares are operating in Istanbul so you can be prepared.
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 classic Istanbul. 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 is somehow larger and brighter than you would think from the outside. Around the back you can visit the mausoleums of the tombs of Süleyman and his wife Rosseana.
Sultanahmet is the heart of Istanbul City. It’s the most historic area with the main mosques (Ayasofya and the Blue Mosque), and there shops and restaurants catering for the many tourists that go with it. It represents the spirit of Istanbul where stray cats sit lazily in city traffic, hawkers of Sahlep (a delicious concentrated milk that is served warm with cinnamon), antique stores, and the Grand Bazaar where the precious gold and jewelry shops never fails to fascinate tourists and locals alike.
The Topkap Palace is a place of great splendor. Visit this historic site to have a glimpse at how the great sultans once lived. The buildings are decorated with colorful tiles are very beautiful, and the grounds and pavilions are a great place to relax away from the hustle of the city. A visit to the sultan’s harem is highly recommended. The magnificence of this place will take your breath away while you learn about the Ottoman and Byzantine empires that once dominated this great land.
Seeing the Bosphorus Strait by a boat tour gives a good chance to view the city on the European and Asian side. The ship sails from the first pier to Galata bridge (Sultanahmet side) and cruises along the Bosphorus to the bridge of Euro-Asia, takes a quick pass to the shores of the Black Sea and then returns. A good guide can give a brief history of Istanbul and share detailed descriptions of the various buildings along the way during the one and a half hour cruise. Return to the port 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.