Sandwiched between Europe and Asia, Turkey and, in turn, Istanbul, have so much to offer a traveler. Istanbul is the country’s largest city and dates back centuries. It served as the capital to many empires and played a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity – it became an Islamic country after the Ottomans took over in 1453. Not only did it play a strategic part in the trade as part of the Silk Route, but more people are also flocking to this beautiful city, which is a tourist’s paradise. It has many heritage sites and can also boast that it is one of a few metros that are growing fast economically.
Located in the northwest, the city is divided into different quarters by history and economics. Visitors can take in the Asian, European and Anatolian aspects of culture and see how the city has evolved over centuries. Istanbul is blessed with a Mediterranean climate and plenty of micro-climates due to its unique location.
Tips for first-time visitors to Istanbul:
There is so much to see and do for first-time visitors that there are a few absolutely must do tourist attractions. Here are a few:
• The most famous mosque in the world is the Blue Mosque. It has six minarets, and the main chamber is beautifully designed as well. Visitors are barred during prayer hours.
• The Topkapi Palace is another place to visit for the simple reason that it has religious relics like the staff carried by Moses, David’s Sword and treasures like jewelry to name a few. It is also one of the largest palace complexes in the world.
• The Hagia Sophia Church built in the 6th Century is a must to visit – the building has an interesting architectural history.
• Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar has so much to offer that people can get lost in it for hours. This supermarket has been the locale for many movies and even if one is not an avid shopper, there is much to see and do – even just to soak in the atmosphere is a pleasure.
• The Underground Cistern is close to the Hagia Sophia Church and built at the same time. Check out the columns holding up the ceiling and also the upside down Medusa carved at the base of a column.
• The Istanbul Modern Museum is another must visit spot – located in a warehouse that is situated on the Bosporus River, the Museum houses some works by Turkish artists over a span of 200+ years.
• The Great Palace Mosaic Museum is located right behind the Blue Mosque and is yet another must see. It has many mosaics from the 6th Century displayed here and offers a lot of information about restorations done in different eras.
• The Sadberk Hanim Museum is one which houses the private collection of a prominent Turkish family. One-half of the museum is located in a restored mansion and has a magnificent collection of tapestries, Islamic art, Ottoman costumes and much more. The other half houses and archeological collection of artifacts from different times – Roman, Hellenic, and Byzantine, some dating as far back as the 5th Century.
• The Corlulu Ali Pasa Medresesi is a great spot to unwind and drink some Turkish coffee and tea. Adventurous souls can try smoking flavored tobacco in hookahs, and one shouldn’t miss the antiques and décor of the courtyard.
• The Spice Bazaar is another spot to visit and take in the ambiance. It is another important stop on the Silk Route – where spices and other items were bought and sold. Must see and one shouldn’t miss all the wonderful aromas.
• Istiklal Street can rightly be considered the microcosm of this city’s diversity and cosmopolitan nature. Check out the place.
One more spot that has to be included on the itinerary is a tour of Prince’s Islands. If you plan traveling to Istanbul, visit World Arab travel agency’s website for tour details and prices.
This little chain of islands in the Sea of Marmara offers the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Only four are open to the public and provide a peaceful and quiet retreat. There are no motorized vehicles, and visitors can enjoy the pine forests and old Victorian cottages. There are many private princess island tours in Istanbul; ideal companies in Istanbul who can help with a stay or just a day trip.