Istanbul is Turkey’s most populous city as well as its cultural and financial hub. Located on both sides of the Bosphours, the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul bridges Asia and Europe, both physically and culturally. Istanbul is divided in three by the north-south Bosphorus Strait, the dividing line between Europe and Asia, the estuary of the Golden Horn bisecting the western part and the Sea of Marmara forming a boundary to the south. Most sights are concentrated in the old city on the peninsula of Sultanahmet, to the west of the Bosphorus between the Horn and the Sea. Across the Horn to the north are Galata, Beyoğlu and Taksim, the heart of modern Istanbul. Here is the list of Istanbul Tourism (2020): Best of Istanbul scroll down to check it.
What to visit
- Galata Tower
- Hagia Sophia
- Basilica Cistern
- Topkapi palace
- Grand Bazar
- Taksem Square
- Balat Jewish colony
I could see it from the window of my hotel room. Visitors would queue up at dawn, and the queue would keep getting longer by the day. It was once the tallest structure of Istanbul and is still great to go up for a panoramic view of the city. But considering the rush either take a fast track ticket or go up a hotel rooftop restaurant nearby and you will get a similar look. It certainly is a landmark though and can be seen from a distance.
It is lit up beautifully at night and worth a selfie. The lanes leading up to the tower are steep, and you must be ready for a strenuous walk to take a taxi. It s surrounded by eateries and is a good hang out place.
Hagia Sofia is Stone’s throw away from the Blue Mosque is the Hagia Sofia. It’s all in one location. Hagia Sofia, a church turned mosque turned museum with changing times and regimes. The museum has a collection from the bygone era and is a must-visit to understand how Turkey is the meeting ground of Asia and Europe.
Basilica Cistern is also located in the same vicinity close to Hagia Sofia. If you have seen the James Bond film –To Russia, with Love or Marvel Comics Black Widow, you will recognise this monument instantly. The cistern dated back to 5th Century AD and was built for water filtration before it was used in the Great Palace and later Topkapi Palace. It is an underground structure with massive pillars and today has very little water around.
The Medusa head from the Greek legend is the base of two component. People believe that Medusa has evil-averting eyes. The cistern itself is dark and damp, but a ramp and adequate lighting have been put for visitors.
The peculiar sight inside the cistern was a sofa and customary Turkish dress of a Sultan and his Queen. Visitors could pay a fee and get themselves photographed as Turkish royalty in the middle of a cistern. There was a queue of enthusiastic couples waiting to be photographed!
Istanbul Tourism (2020): Topkapi palace
After the end of the ottoman Empire in 1923, a government decree dated April 3, 1924 transformed Topkapı into a museum. Turkey’s Ministry of the culture and tourism now administers the Topkapı Palace Museum. The palace complex has hundreds of rooms and chambers, but only the most important are accessible to the public as of 2020, including the Ottoman imperial harem and the treasury, called hazine. Where the Spoonmaker’s Diamond and the Topkapi Dagger are on display.
The museum collection also includes Ottoman clothing, weapons, armor, miniatures, religious relics, and illuminated manuscripts such as the Topkapi manuscript. Officials of the ministry as well as armed guards of the Turkish military guard the complex. The Topkapı Palace forms a part the Historic area of Istanbul, a group of sites in Istanbul that UNESCO recognised as a World heritage site in 1985.
Istanbul Tourism (2020): Grand Bazar
I have heard so much about the grand market from people who had already seen it that I almost rushed to see the place as I landed in Istanbul.The market is located right next to the Bosphorus river on which I took a ferry ride of 1 hour to see Istanbul from the river.
The ferry ride also crossed many landmarks and old palace. I was sipping hot coffee on the ferry sitting by the window and admire the beauty of the Turkey.
Istanbul Tourism (2020): Taksem Square
Taksim square it commemorates the making of the Republic of Turkey. The square leads up to many lanes and bylines dotted with posh shops; restaurants and dessert shops. The food to have is traditional Turkish food- rice; lentil soup; kebabs; vegetables and of course the fantastic variety of Turkish desserts.
If you are not in a mood to spend money, you can always taste for free! The famous Turkish chef Burak ‘s restaurant is also located in the vicinity, but a table has to be booked in advance considering the rush at the restaurant. I got into a party mood at the Taksim at it was Christmas but couldn’t find a pub or a bar, so I bought a bottle of whiskey from a shop and sneaked into a lane and enjoyed my drink.
Istanbul Tourism (2020): Balat Jewish colony
It is a Jewish settlement and the ruins of a synagogue. Every house has beautiful bright colours. The lanes are quiet with a few cafes. The one café I remember distinctly had 100s of umbrella over the entrance and courtyard.
I got to see some beautiful wall art. But the most amazing part was the healthy adorable cats lazing around. The whole of Turkey has these pretty little creatures. The Turkish people love cats so much that I could see kennels built for them at every corner and even I could buy cat food-the Turkish salami and leave it at the kennel.
How to Reach by Air
Many Direct flights are available from Indian and other countries directly to Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport. If you are travelling from India Turkish Airlines and Air India are the regular airlines serving this route of direct flights. Stopover flights by Oman Air, Etihad and Aeroflot.
Most of Asian and European roads lead to Istanbul. You can drive into the country from Asian side (through Iran or Syria) or through European countries like Greece, Bulgaria, Romania. Regular buses also run between these countries, or you can hire a car. A road trip from India to Istanbul is also possible but takes around 12 days of travel through countries like Pakistan and Tehran.