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Discover Istanbul: Top Sights and How to Reach Them

26 September 2017 Turkey No comment

02. Hagia Sophia

The iconic city of Istanbul needs no introduction, it is already known by most as the city split between two continents, linking Europe to Asia via the Bosphorus Strait, former capital of the Roman Empire and home to four UNESCO approved historic areas. In such an expansive city there are enough sights to see to keep your camera clicking for more than a few weeks, but if you only have a short time in this culturally diverse city then you’ll probably want to start by visiting the top sights.

Arriving To Istanbul

Your first challenge when you arrive to the city is to find your way from Ataturk Airport to Sultanahmet district where most hotels and hostels are located. The easiest way to reach the centre is to book an airport transfer in advance or hop in a Taxi, but if you’re up for a challenge you can try to travel like a local and negotiate Istanbul’s crowded public transport system. To reach Sultanahmet Square take the metro line 1 from Ataturk Airport to Zeytinburnu then switch to the tram. Heading the in Kabatas direction and get off at Sultanahmet to find yourself standing less than 100 metres from the famous Blue Mosque. Now you just need to navigate the busy cobbled lanes, duck under selfy sticks and dodge street sellers to find your accommodation.

 

Sultanahmet District

The Sultanahmet district is at the centre of tourism in Istanbul and at the heart of ancient Constantinople so even if you’re not staying in this area you’re sure to visit once or twice. Still surrounded on some sides by Theodosian walls from the Byzantine era on the edge of the Sea of Marmara, it’s in this area where you will find significant historical sights like the Underground Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace and Hurrem Sultan Hamam which was originally built for Roxalana, the wife and driving force of Ottoman Emperor Sultan Suleyman. As well as the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art and Archeological Museum, but the Sultanahmet district if most famous for the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia museum which sit opposite each other on a pigeon filled central square.

 

Grand Bazaar

While you can find plenty of souvenir and textile stores around the Sultanahmet district, for serious shopping you should head to the legendary Grand Bazaar. One of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, the Grand Bazaar was originally much smaller and almost exclusively for the sale of fine silks from the city of Bursa and other handwoven textiles and carpets. The Bazaar gradually grew and expanded to take up over 61 jam packed streets which now sell anything from textiles to fresh produce, spices, handicrafts, electronics and knock off designer goods and you can easily lose a few hours browsing through the maze of colourful streets and stalls. You can reach the Grand Bazaar by walking 10 minutes along the main boulevard from Sultanahmet square or take the tramway and disembark at Beyazit.

 

Taksim

Taksim is the centre of nightlife in Istanbul, you can take the tram from Sultanahmet Square or ride on the historical red tramline from Kabatas and spend the day looking at monuments to the founders of the Republic of Turkey in Taksim Square. As a site of cultural importance this is where city protest often take place but on most days you can enjoy a strolling about the area. Check out the street art and taste an authentic Turkish Doner Kebab before hitting the narrow streets of modern bars and clubs.

 

Galata Tower

It is assumed that this iconic tower was constructed by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian around 507 AD, however no exact record has been found. It was badly damaged by an earthquake and largely rebuilt during the reign of the Ottoman Empire when the tower was used as a prison. The observatory was added in the 16th century but it wasn’t until recently, and after the tower was damaged again, that the Galata Tower opened as a tourist attraction. You can walk across the Galata Bridge, stopping for lunch or dinner in one of the fish restaurants, and climb to the top of the Galata tower for fantastic 360 degree views over the centre of Istanbul.

 

Kadikoy

Before leaving Istanbul don’t forget to cross the Bosphorus Strait and visit the city’s Asian side. Ferries leave from Eminonu, by the spice market, to the harbour at Kadikoy where street vendors are waiting to sell you a classic Istanbul delicacy, grilled and breaded fish sandwich. In the harbour there is also a small market of traditional Turkish sweets and going beyond that you will arrive to the quaint streets of Kadikoy. A modern alternative to the European side, the centre of Kadikoy is filled with quirky cafes, boutique and designer clothing stores and artisan shops. On a sunny afternoon you can pick up ice cream and chill in the seaside park to watch the sunset on the Bosphorus.

 

Leaving Istanbul

Leaving Istanbul is something you will either be eager or reluctant to do after a few days in the busy city’s crowded streets. You might feel that you need a break from the hustle and bustle of city life and head to the seaside towns of southwest Turkey, or you might dive straight into Turkey’s second largest city, Izmir, on the Aegean Coast. Alaturka Turkey can help you plan your onward travel from Istanbul to all major cities and resorts around Turkey. Most buses leave from the main Otogar, west of the city centre and there is direct transport to most of Tukey’s top destinations, as well as a fast train service to Izmir and Ankara and national and international flights from Ataturk Airport.\

Istanbul

01. Sultanahmet

Sultanahmet mosque – in the historical center of Istanbul

02. Hagia Sophia

Next to it, the St. Sophia Cathedral, once the largest church in the world

03. Spices in Turkey

The worldwide famous Turkish spices

04. Istanbul Bazaar

Strolling in the Istanbul Bazaar

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