THINGS TO DO IN ISTANBUL
From ornate Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) to architecturally fascinating Hagia Sophia to modest and humble Topkapı Palace, Istanbul provides its insatiable visitors with unforgettable historical voyage. The places just mentioned are only the beginnings for vistors of this amazing city. There are a lot of things to do and to see in Istanbul indeed. Insomuch that some can count 100 or more things to do in Istanbul. So, we tried hard to be able to prepare a to do list of the well-directed one. As a result, we assure you that you will not waste your precious or limited time.
Let me start the list in order not to waste your time 🙂
1- HAGIA SOPHIA, of course
Built in 537, in other words it is 15 hundred years old. In addition, it was the largest domed Cathedral for centuries, 900 years. Although it doesn’t look spledid from outside, incredible surprises are inside.
2- TOPKAPI PALACE
It served about 400 years for Ottoman Sultans (equivalent of Emperor), viziers (ministers) and their family members.
3- BLUE MOSQUE (SULTANAHMET CAMİİ)
Decorated with blue, green and white tiles. Europeans call it ‘‘Blue Mosque’’ because the blue tiles used mostly.
4- BASILICA CISTERN (YEREBATAN SARNICI)
The largest underground cistern found across Istanbul. Sight inside amazes the visitors.
5- GRAND BAZAAR (KAPALI ÇARŞI)
The oldest and the biggest bazaar in the world. It is a covered one like a modern day’s mall. With more than 3000 shops and around 60 streets, this place is highly worth a visit.
6- SULEYMANİYE MOSQUE
Although it is not so much famous as Blue Mosque, it is the largest one in Istanbul. Its acoustic feature and geometrical architecture have the architects admire itself.
7- GALATA TOWER
If you want to have a magnicient views of Istanbul which is possible from its balcony, you shouldn’t miss it.
8- DOLMABAHÇE PALACE
Ottomans built this palace in order to catch the luxury and changes of the new era, 19th century. Therefore they spent a lot for it, to give an example, 14 tones of gold used to decorate the ceilings. Thus this palace happened the main subject of disputes over decades. Because it is the symbol of splendor, it should have had the world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandlier and did.
9- CHORA MUSEUM (KARİYE MÜZESİ)
Dazzling mosaics and frescos. Although it is not a large building, its mosaics are spectacular indeed and still amaze visitors many centuries after they were made. Linguistically, ‘Chora’ is a Greek word and means ‘countryside’. Why was it called so? Because it was out of the city walls then.
10- SPICE BAZAAR (MISIR ÇARŞISI)
Don’t be mislead by its name. Not only will you see a broad array of spices but also dried fruit, Turkish coffee, Turkish delight (lokum), baklava, loose leaf tea, nuts and so forth. It is the second largest covered bazaar after the Grand Bazaar. Namely, it has 6 doors and 85 shops.
11- ISTANBUL ARCHEOLOGY MUSEUMS
Those who are interested in history should without doubt visit these museums. They are actually three museums gathered under one name, which are the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Islamic Art and the Museum of Ancient Orient.
If you don’t like travelling :), here is enough for you. Just go there and see all the historical things and tourist attractions across Turkey. Also, you feel like yourself a giant 🙂
13- MAIDEN’S TOWER
It is a tower on an islet near Uskudar shores in Bosphorus. Many fairy tales about it. You should learn them.
14- RUSTEMPASA MOSQUE
It is one of the samples of Ottoman tile art. Almost all the interior decorated with tiles.
15-LITTLE HAGIA SOPHIA
Want to see a building older than Hagia Sophia? Then run to the Little Hagia Sophia. Some believe that this was an experimental building in order to put up the Hagia Sophia because it was erected shortly before it.
16- ORTAKOY MOSQUE (BUYUK MECIDIYE MOSQUE)
One of the most beautiful buildings from the 19th century. It is a worldwide symbol of Istanbul. You can see it with the bridge over Bosphorus in the pictures representing Istanbul. A mosque that half of it is in the sea. Also, it is a mosque that is a sythesis of classical Ottoman architecture and neo-baroque.
17- BEYLERBEYI PALACE
”Beylerbeyi” means ”governor general”. Ottomans governmetally divided their territories into two: Anatolia and Rumeli (European), whose governors called ‘Beylerbeyi’. Although this palace built for them, it served the Sultans and some foreign ambassadors.
18- MUSEUM OF TURKISH AND ISLAMIC ART
With its more than 40 thousand pieces, it is home to the authentic, selected and every kind of works belonged to every period.
19- ISTIKLAL STREET (ISTIKLAL CADDESİ)
The most famous street in Istanbul. Many kinds of stores are along it and a nostalgic tram is in the middle. Experience the tram and watch the crowds wandering. One end is Taksim Square and the other one is the first station of the second oldest metro in the world called ”Tünel”.
20- BEYAZIT SQUARE
Here is the center of outcries and so witnessed many historical events. Around the square is Beyazıd Mosque, Historical Istanbul University and one of the gates of Grand Bazaar. Also, strolling from here to the Sultanahmet Square is exotic.
21- YILDIZ PALACE, PARK, MOSQUE AND CLOCK TOWER
Yıldız Palace was the fourth administrative center of Ottoman Empire. Its park, clock tower and mosque are tpycal symbols of the last age in Ottoman architecture.
22- VALENS AQUEDUCTS (BOZDOGAN SU KEMERİ)
In parallel with the growth of the city, Romans needed more fresh water. For this, they built aqueducts and water ran down these aqueducts. Then, they stored the water in the cisterns across Istanbul.
23- RUMELIAN FORTRESS (RUMELİ HİSARI)
Mehmet the Conqueror built this fortress in order to conquer Istanbul. A small hiking in and around and the Bosphorus views from the area are memorable. It has no exhibition rooms, so open displays held inside. Cannons, balls and chains that closed the Golden Horn during the siege are on the exhibition.
24- HAGIA EIRENE (AYA İRİNİ)
Hagia Eirene means ‘holy peace’. As a church, it is the first one in Istanbul and the second largest after Hagia Sophia. And it is in the courtyard of Topkapı Palace. So you shouldn’t miss it when you visit the palace.
25- CONSTANTINE MONUMENT (ÇEMBERLİTAŞ)
Constantine the Great brought it from Apollon temple in Rome. It is of 57 meters height and put up in the Forum Constantine. Now, called Çemberlitaş.
26- KUCUKSU MANSION (KÜÇÜKSU KASRI)
Built in 1751. It was a resting house for Ottoman Sultans.
27- BINBIR DIREK CISTERN
This is another cistern of East Roman Empire. Built in the 4th century and 224 columns are inside. It dried over time and used as a workshop after the 16th century.
28- ARASTA BAZAAR
It is just behind the Blue Mosque towards the Marmara Sea. Built in the 17th century but historians estimated that Ottomans built it on the remnants of the buildings belonged to Byzantine Empire.
29-PRINCES’ ISLANDS (ADALAR)
These are the islands close to the shores of Asian side in the Marmara Sea. The princes who fell out of favour could be sent to exile there. Therefore, this practice gave the name to the islands. Surprisingly, an exotic experience will be waiting for the visitors there: Transportation is through carts only
30- CIRAGAN PALACE (ÇIRAĞAN SARAYI)
Because it is a historical building, we added it to the list. It has a wonderful Bosphorus view and nice architecture. Today, it serves as a hotel and fairy tale wedding ceremonies take place there. Almost everyday, press conferences, meetings and conventions held at Ciragan Palace. It is not open to public.
31- BOSPHORUS TOUR
Bosphorus has become the essential part of city life throughout Ottoman Empire. Still indispensable and lost nothing from its importance. During Ottoman Empire, a lot of buildings like fortresses, palaces, mansions put up along the shores. In order to see them, the Bosphorus tour by boat is beautiful by itself. In addition, it gives you an overall idea about the city. Therefore, without the Bosphorus tour, Istanbul experience is incomplete! You have pretty many choices to have the tour. You can take the scheduled boat services and hop on and off the piers. Or, you can prefer the boats making the Bosphorus tours only.
32- GALATA BRIDGE
It has no historical or any other feature. Just walk across it in order to see locals who do the fishing in passion. And some sell the fish they caught with their rods. Also you will have a chance to know Turks closely by watching them. By the way, Istanbul residents absolutely eat fish if they come to the area.
33- EMIRGAN PARK
One of the several large public parks in Istanbul. Along the Bosphorus and on the European side. After you get tired due to the large city conditions, here is a relaxing effect on you. What is more for museum lovers that Sabancı Museum is on the one corner of the park. Entrance to the museum is 20 Turkish Liras.
34- WHIRLING DERVISH SHOW
Followers of Mevlana Rumi practice ‘’Sema’’ ceremony. That is spinning around and around in a trance-like state. Mevlana Rumi did this in order to close to Allah. Today, many do this ceremony just to make money. Even so, it is an exotic and unique religious ceremony to watch.
NOW IT IS TIME TO EAT SOMETHING
Sesame seeds covered pretzel or bagel whatever you call it. Sold everywhere in bakeries, in stands and even over the boys’ heads in trays. It has deep meanings in Turkish understanding about the way of life. There is a saying; one tea and two simits are enough to eat your fill. It means ‘’Don’t mind your stomach too much, human being can be full easily.’’ Hence, they cost totally around $1.
It is a potato-based snack. After a potato baked, it is mixed with butter and cheese until it becomes fluffy. Then, you have a wide array of toppings to choose like bulgur, corn, peas, olives, hotdog, pickles and more.
37- BOREK (BÖREK)
Made of very thin sheets of dough. The cook makes the pile of these sheets of dough stuffed with feta cheese or the like. Then bake it. It is a traditional food for Turks. They generally eat it with Turkish tea or ayran.
38- TURKISH TEA
Turkish tea is like the article ”the” in English language. In winter or summer, in the morning or evening. It is everywhere and every time in the lives of Turks. They make it with a teapot that has two separate parts. One is to boil the water and the other is to brew the tea. Then pour the tea into the glass and add hot water to dilute it to the degree you want. As mentioned before, drink it with simit or börek.
39- DOLMA and SARMA
When it comes to dishes and sweets, Turks are expert at the point. It is said that there were 250 types of dishes made from eggplant in the kitchen of Topkapı Palace. Beside eggplant, other vegetables used in many different dishes. Let me give two examples
Dolma is peppers stuffed with rice, minced meat and a few kinds of spices.
Sarma is that leaves of grape are rolled and get finger-like shapes stuffed with things the same as in dolma. You can find these dishes in some restaurants only. If you run into dolma or sarma, you should try them.
One of the foremost dishes, maybe the first dish, of Turkish cuisine. Let me explain how to make it. The cooking process takes a long time. Firstly the dough is mixed with egg in order not to come apart, then made to sheets of dough. Secondly, cut them into small rectangled shapes. Thirdly, spicy minced meat is put to these pieces and fold by keeping the spicy meat inside. Then cook it in the boiling water.
Top representative of Turkish dessert world is ‘’Baklava’’. Although the Greek argue that it is a Greek sweet, most sources agree that this is a Turkish origin dessert. It is made with many layers of paper-thin filo. There are many types of baklava in terms of the stuff added. Nuts, pistachios, almonds and so forth are put between the layers.
42- DESERTS MADE FROM MILK
Muhallebi, tavuk göğsü, kazandibi, sütlaç, güllaç and more. These are only beginnings. There are many sub-types of these desserts. Those who don’t like very sweety desserts like baklava can try these ones, because these are pretty light when compared to baklava. Let me a little talk about tavuk göğsü. Maybe you will be confused when you hear that ‘’tavuk göğsü’’ means ‘’chicken breast’’. Yes it is. Chicken breast is used to make this dessert.