What to see when in Istanbul?

Istanbul is such a diverse and unique city, being the only one lying on two different continents. The only city in the world where you can jump from Europe to Asia as easily as crossing the bridge.  It has been on my bucket list for quite some time and I have been putting off the visit due to some safety questions, but let me say this, I have felt very safe when in Istanbul. And right now Istanbul is just as safe, if not even more, as any European capital. I have been very positively surprised by the cleanliness of the city itself. Streets of some southern European countries, such as Italy or Portugal can be covered in trash, so I was pretty much expecting something like that. But, as I already said, cleanliness of the city was a very pleasant surprise.

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Birds in the sky above Istanbul

The city offers many sights worth uncovering, however the ones that impressed us the most were definitely two mosques – Blue mosque and Suleymaniye mosque. Blue is probably the most famous one in the city, standing opposite of the most unique sight of Hagia Sophia. Entries to Blue and Suleymaniye mosque are free of charge so I would strongly encourage you to go ahead, especially if you have not been to a mosque before.

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Blue mosque
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Blue mosque at night
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Suleymaniye mosque

Hagia Sophia is definitely one of the most unique buildings in the entire Europe. It is standing in the same place since Byzantine Empire when it was built as a church. However, during the history this building has undergone many conversions the last one being the conversion to mosque. Right now Hagia Sophia serves as museum and is definitely more than worth a visit. We were deeply impressed by the fact that some Christian mosaics still remain in the building and were not destroyed by Muslims.

 

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Hagia Sophia
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Inside – Hagia Sophia

Near the Hagia Sophia and Blue mosque lies another very interesting sight called Basilica Cistern. I have to admit, the first time I have heard of that was in Dan Brown’s book Inferno. Basilica Cistern is the largest of many ancient cisterns. Cistern provided a water filtration system that served mostly royalties. The name originates from the fact, that when the cistern was build it lied under the Basilica. The most known feature of the cistern is definitely the Medusa head which is also the most crowded sight in the cistern.

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Basilica cistern

If you are a shopaholic Istanbul is definitely the right place for you. It offers the conventional shops as well as many Bazaars that you definitely must visit when in Istanbul. Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar are the most famous ones and even if you do not plan to buy anything you should visit them since they are important sights that should not be missed. In Grand Bazaar you can buy anything from jewellery, cashmere scarfs, and bags to lampions and teas. For Spice Bazaar, its name speaks for what can be bought there – pomegranate and apple tea as well as some sweets being the most Turkish.

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Grand Bazaar
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Lampions

As the weather was not the best when we were in Istanbul we decided to go on a guided tour as this way transportation was provided and we did not have to worry about rain when getting from one sight to another. The tour covered some interesting sights the most impressive being Dolmabahce palace and cruise to the Black sea and back. During this trip we also went over to the Asian side and checked that off our list. Dolmabahce Palace is such a nice place, lying along Bosphorus it offers magnificent views.

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Dolmabahce Palace
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View of the Bosphorus

The palace itself is huge as the entire extended Sultan’s family used to live here. This palace was built to impress and it certainly does. Fake gold and marble, world’s largest chandelier and the largest room in any palace in the world do leave you speechless. Cruise to the Black Sea was nice and we could observe all the interesting buildings lying near the shore. But the best thing on this cruise was magnificent sunset when we were returning to the city. Sun was setting behind the city of Istanbul and the sky was stunning. It was the perfect end of a very interesting day.

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Sunset

The last day we crossed the Galata Bridge and climbed up the Galata Tower. On bridge there are many fishermen and fish in the buckets so watch your step. Weather was much nicer so the views from the tower were fabulous.

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Galata tower
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View from the Galata tower

Another sight that, we sadly did not manage to see due to its odd opening hours (it closes at 4 pm) is Topkapi Palace. If you do get/did get to visit it write your opinion in the comment below. 🙂

If I look back to everything, Istanbul pleasantly surprised and impressed me. It is very high on the List of cities I have been to. My loved Barcelona is still firmly in first place, but Istanbul is running not far behind.

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