Top 10 Things to See in Istanbul
Istanbul, previously known as Constantinople, is on everyone's travel list. Visiting the city with a private guide maximizes your time and enjoyment. It allows you to take in the major attractions at a relaxed pace and enjoy the ambiance. Istanbul's location, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, make it one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities; as well as one packed with a rich Byzantine history. Gourmet dining, interesting architecture along with one of a kind shopping bringing the discriminating traveler back time after time.
Your touring list should include:
(1) The Blue Mosque has become one of the most popular attractions in the city. It is the national mosque of Turkey and named after the blue tiles adorning the interior walls. It is the only imperial mosque with six minarets.
(2) The truly breathtaking Hagia Sophia was first a Byzantine Church, then an Ottoman Mosque and now a Turkish museum. Today the mosaic walls and vaulted chambers merely hint at its former glory. The incredible mosaics and frescos in the upper gallery are among the most visited in the city.
3 The Hippodrome was the center of events in ancient Istanbul. Imagine the centers of rowdy chariot races, gladiator fights and royal celebrations that took place on these grounds. During modern celebrations the trees above the park are strung with white lights and temporary tents, full of traditional food are along the perimeter. The Obelisk, near the center of the Hippodrome is a 13th century, solid block of granite, weighing over 60 tons, which was moved to Istanbul by Emperor Theodosius; from the temple of Luxor in Egypt.
(4) Topkapi Palace was once the seat of Ottoman power for 3 centuries. At least a half a day is required to explore the Palace. Insider's Tip: The must see's are The Harem, Imperial Treasury and the views of the innermost courtyard.
(5) Go loco for Lokum (Turkish Delights)! The Egyptian Spice Bazaar is a unique shopping experience; give yourself a couple of hours to wander through the alley ways and stops. Visit one of the finest deli's, known for its honeycomb and Turkish cheeses. Move through the market to sample excellent Turkish Delights (sugared candies in assorted flavors – including pistachio!), Honey covered mulberries, dried figs stuffed with walnuts, assorted spices and of course, Turkish coffee!
(6) Enjoy a favorite of guests, a half or full day Bosphorus River cruise. A relaxing way of getting across one of the world's busiest waterways and seeing some major sights along the way! See the beautiful waterside homes, lush parks and mansions while sitting back and enjoying your favorite drink. Get up close and sail under the Bosphorus bridge, view the Ottoman elite and the Sultan's beautiful gingerbread palaces and hunting lodges.
(7) The Grand Bazaar is one of the most famous markets in the world. The official name in Turkey is Kapali Carsi, and it is also known as the covered market. The Grand Bazaar was constructed shortly after the request of Constantinople. Today it houses over 4,000 shops, with an intense variety of goods. If you can not find it here; you do not need it!
(8) Be a sultan for an hour or two at the Dolmabahce Palace. The Palace, with its white marble facade is striking when viewed from the water; but it is trumped by the interior. The work of French decorator, Sechan, who worked on the Paris Opera House, is a must see. This historical building gives opulence a whole new meaning. Imagine a home with 285 rooms, 6 baths, 68 toilets and a ceiling made of 14 tons of gold! Dolmabahce Palace is one such remarkable structure. Insiders Tip: With your guided tour you will be sure to see the crystal chandelier, crystal staircase and original bearskin rug!
(9) Try the local cuisine. Authentic Turkish cuisine is a far cry from kebabs over rice. Prepare your palate for a mix of culinary effects. Expect grilled meats and fish, combinations mixed with rice, almonds and pistachios. Extensive menus with a fabulous selection of mezes (Read: appetizer size portions) include gourmet treasures with shrimp, octopus, lamb and eggplant. The wine selections from Turkey are 'award winning' good and available through the wine bars and restaurants in the city.
(10) Last but not least, the infamous Turkish carpets! Turkish handmade carpets and rugs are known worldwide for their rich colors, intricate designs and brilliant craftsmanship. They are the most sought after items by collectors and museums. One place in Istanbul where you can learn about the types and production is the Museum of Turkish Carpets, located across from the Ibrahim Pasha Palace.
Contemporary excitation makes Istanbul one of the hottest destinations around. It is the most eastern part of Europe and the most western part of Asia. Come and experience the historic, the unique and modern all in one fascinating city. Istanbul makes for a wonderful city stay and if you chose, use it as a base for which to start your touring through Turkey.
A short flight to Cappadocia to visit the chimney houses, cave hotels and take a hot air balloon ride over the unique landscape is amazing. Another short hop to visit Kusadasi, the port city, with an easy drive to visit Ephesus; to view other historic ruins is worth the trip. And finally a beach stay in Bodrum, to relax before your departure home.
All in all, Turkey is a one of a kind destination, offering so much to see and experience! Take your bite and savor it slowly.