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Weekend in Istanbul

Sights of Turkey: St. Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul


It is the only city in the world that spans two continents, much of its life served as capital of empires, it is where for centuries, the Caucasian, Balkan and Middle Eastern princes were going to negotiate the thrones of the Otoman Empire.It is the largest city in Europe, has tried several times to host the Olympic Games and in 2010, it was the Cultural Capital of Europe. Welcome to Istanbul!

Everyone who gets to Istanbul feels instantly better. It is a fascinating city that combines the best of East and West. It has grown fantastically in the last ten years and this is visible in the numerous new buildings, modern commercial centers and increasingly sophisticated cafés… The bazaars continued to exist especially for tourists, or on the outskirts of the city, for those who come to try their luck in the economic capital of Turkey. In addition, Istanbul benefits from 1600 years of being the capital of great empires – the Byzantine and Ottoman, having some exceptional monuments… Are there things to do during a weekend in Istanbul? I say there are things to do for a week, but let’s see what we can do in case we only have a weekend in the 2010 European Capital of Culture.And on top, it is one of the cheaper cities of Europe. And many of us are looking for cheap holidays in Turkey, isn’t it ?

Day 1
For the Christian world, Istanbul is Constantinople, the second Rome, capital of Orthodoxy and the Byzantine Empire. Although Byzantium fell under the attacks of the Ottoman Turks in 1453, many memorable buildings remind of the emperors of the Orthodox empire … So, perhaps the best place to start the tour in Istanbul is St. Sophia Cathedral. Built by Emperor Justinian in the sixth century (it was completed in 537), it was the largest Christian church until 1453, when Constantinople was occupied by the Ottomans and converted into a mosque. For 500 years, muezzins called the believers to pray, from minarets built next to the cathedral-mosque until 1935, when Ataturk decided to transform the building into the museum that it is today … If you enter the honoured building you will be impressed by its amplitude, by the Byzantine mosaics re-discovered under the walls built over by the Ottomans after the conquest (Muslim religion prohibits the reproduction of living things faces), but also by the vast quotes from the Koran. Across the street from St. Sophia lies the Blue Mosque built by Sultan Selim I in 1617 … the Sultan wanted to build something to rival the Hagia Sofia and it is the largest Turkish mosque, the only one having six minarets. The mosque is still functional, so take off your shoes at the entrance and be pious…

Near the Blue Mosque there is the old location of the Byzantine Hippodrome … Now it is a park with an Egyptian obelisk, a fountain built by German Kaiser Wilhelm when trying to approach the Ottoman Empire. Two steps away you can find Cistern Basilica … You will not be able to see it, as it is below ground, but is an extraordinary building, used to store up water for the Imperial Palace and the surrounding buildings … today it is a special place worth visiting… not far there is also the Binbirdirek tank, built by Roman Emperor Constantine the Great in 330, nowadays an excellent museum of Byzantium.

After you see all these places, maybe you’ll feel hungry so you can take it on the streets south of Cathedral Square … in the past years, here there were built some boutique hotels within traditional buildings, and restaurants full of local colour… Take something to eat, drink well and get on with your walk… for the sultans palace awaits you, the famous Topkapi, located behind Saint Sophia.

You walk through the various courts of the great palace visiting a real museum of the Ottoman era … perhaps the most interesting are various things that relate to the Prophet Muhammad (including hair of his beard!); this is the only room where you cannot take photos and where an imam is permanently reciting the Koran. To enter the “prohibited” area of the harem, you must pay extra, but do not miss the great view of Istanbul at the end of palace!

Maybe the evening is approaching, so take a quick tour of the bazaars. Misir Bazaar (or the Egyptian Bazaar) is not far away and from here you can buy super delicious stuff such as Turkish delight (lokum), and other souvenirs… If you feel like entering the large bazaar, you can go, but is quite touristic … anyway it’s worth buying jeans or a belly dancer costume (especially the ladies), or at least sitting for a glass of tea with the carpet merchant who, even if he is not a Galatasaray fan, will express his love for Gica Hagi.

Day 2
Take it to the other side of the Golden Horn, the bay which divides the European area in two. You can start from the hill, in Taksim Square, dominated by tall luxury hotels. From here, take it downhill, on the Istiklal Cadessi, the chic high street of Istanbul (formerly called Grand Rue de Pera), the first part in Istanbul which has known

Slowly go down towards to the Galata tower, tower built by Genoese colony, which received concession to settle in Constantinople during Byzantine times, and which still rises out of numerous small houses, and from where you can have a great view.

If you still have the mood for palaces, go to Besiktas neighbourhood, where right on the banks of the Bosporus, Dolmabahce Palace rises, the last Sultans Palace which looks more like the Paris Opera house, rather than like the much older Topkapi palace. It’s the palace built by Sultan Abdul Mecit, finished in 1856 in a very European style, but also very sumptuous (much more sumptuous than the more austere Topkapi palace).

Istanbul is truly Bosphorus’ child … therefore it wouldn’t be a bad idea to wander along the Bosphorus … No need to take any super expensive cruise… There is public transport through the strait which costs a few Turkish Lira…Take such a ferry and go up to the Anadolu Hisar, a small village dominated by an Ottoman citadel … if you get on top, you can see the Black Sea and the other end of the Bosphorus. On the road you can admire many palaces built on the shores of the Bosphorus, the two major intercontinental bridges, as well as Rumeli Hisar fortress, built by Mohammed the Conqueror during the siege of Byzantium. You can return by boat also, or somewhat faster, by bus.

How to get to Istanbul

Istanbul is one of the biggest air hubs of the world. East meets West not only in the city beat and architecture, but also in its 2 airports. The flag carrier, Turkish Airlines is one of the most important airlines of Europe, flying across 5 continents, while the low-carrier Fly Pegasus is a good choice for flights between Europe and ex-USSR and Middle East. Countless buses link Istanbul with Middle East, Caucasus and Eastern Europe, while the train network is a little less developed… except the high speed link with Ankara, the capital of Turkey

Where to stay in Istanbul

Accommodation fees in Istanbul have increased quite a lot, you cannot find $5 per night hotels anymore … but prices continue to be somewhat ok. South of Sultanahmet, quite a few boutique hotels using traditional Ottoman architecture have emerged. One of them is Ocean’s 7, but prices are easily over 100 Euros per night.
It’s good though there are still budget hotels for backpackers around the world who are drawn to Istanbul (there is a disproportionately large number of Australian, attracted by the ANZAC’s legend, the Austro-New Zealand troops defeated at Galipoli in World War I, by some Colonel Mustafa Kemal). I stayed in Mavi Guesthouse
  which is ok, but be careful, it’s not heated in the winter ! Another option is Istanbul Hostel  where you can share a room with others for a few Euros. Or just have a look on Agoda

What to do if you have more time

Lose yourself in Sultanahmet area, go in Fener, the Orthodox neighborhood where you can visit the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, go for a day to the Princesses Islands where auto traffic is prohibited (ah, that’s nice!), visit the great mosques, but also the archaeology museum located near St. Sophia… cross to the Asian part, taking a ferry from Beskitas or Eminonu and visit the large shopping malls, go to a football game, as well as to a belly dancing show… But above all, discover on the way what other things you can do, you can’t get bored of Istanbul even in a week … and millions of people say you wouldn’t grow tired of Istanbul even in a lifetime. 

Pictures of Istanbul:

Sights of Turkey: St. Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia

Sights of Turkey: St. Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul

Sights of Turkey: St. Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul

Byzantine mosaics in Hagia Sophia

Sights of Turkey: St. Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul

Sights of Turkey: Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Sights of Turkey: Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Sights of Turkey: Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Pomegranate juice in Istanbul

Pomegranate juice? or an orange one?

Sights of Turkey: The traditional architecture boutique hotels district

The traditional architecture boutique hotels district

Sights of Turkey: The traditional architecture boutique hotels district

Palaces of Istanbul: Topkapi entrance

Topkapi entrance

Sights of Turkey: Turks have a lot of cats


Sights of Istanbul: Around the Topkapi palace

Around the palace

Sights of Turkey: Around the Topkapi palace

Istanbul: Around the palace

Sights of Turkey: Panorama from Topkapi Istanbul

Panorama from Topkapi

Istanbul: Galata Tower

Galata Tower

Sights of Turkey: Blue Mosque

Istanbul: Golden Horn

Golden Horn

Istanbul: Taksim Square

Taksim Square – Marmara Hotel, Intercontinental Hotel…

Sights of Turkey: Bosphorus in Istanbul


Sights of Turkey:  Bosphorus and Galata Tower Istanbul

Istanbul: Around the Bazaar

Around the Bazaar

Sights of Istanbul: turkish delight in the Egyptian bazar

Lokum (Turkish delight), and

Istanbul: Egyptian bazar


Istanbul: Chandeliers shop

or chandeliers

Istanbul: Istiklal Caddesi, main shopping street of Istanbul

Istiklal Caddesi



Până acum există "3 comentarii" la acest articol:

  1. Niagara says:

    One word that I think can describe the beauty of Istanbul is ‘Marvelous’. I always love exploring countries that have preserved their heritage and culture for their next generation to see.

  2. […] is the place where you can get the perfect traditional Asian – modern Global mix and probably Istanbul where East really meets West […]

  3. […] Blaue Moschee, Istanbul. Finden Sie heraus, was Sie bei einer Städtereise in Istanbul sehen können: http://www.imperatortrav … […]

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