Must See Places in Istanbul (Part 1)

Istanbul is a city that fascinated me since I was young. It’s the only country that straddles two continent – Europe and Asia. It’s been made capital of 4 empires:  Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire. It’s richness in culture and history easily rivals that of Athens in Greece and Rome in Italy!

Just last week, I can happily say that I’ve visited this beautiful city! I was there for 4 days but I would love to come back for more – more of the architecture, of the food, of the history!

Here’s a short list of things you shouldn’t miss if you decide to visit Istanbul:

1. Hagia Sophia (Turkish: Aya Sofya)

Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya)

Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya)

Originally built as a Greek Orthodox Church. It was later converted into a mosque. It is now being used as a museum. It used to be the main mosque of Istanbul until the Blue Mosque was built.

Ceramic tile work inside the museum

Ceramic tile work inside the museum

The minbar with a calligraphic pane beside it

The minbar with a calligraphic pane beside it

Posing in front of the Sunu Mosaic that dates back to the 10th century

Posing in front of the Sunu Mosaic that dates back to the 10th century

Entrance fee: 30 TL
Operating hours:
Summer schedule: Apr 15- Oct 1 07:00 – 19:00
Winter schedule:  Oct 1- Apr 15  07:00 – 17:00
***The museum is closed every Tuesday.
Do not miss: the mosaics, the dome, the calligraphy panes, and the tiles amongst others
How to get here: Alight at Sultanahmet tram stop

2. Blue Mosque (Turkish: Sultan Ahmet Camii)

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)

Sultan Ahmed Mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque after it’s blue tiled interior. Built during the early 1600s, it is still used as a mosque to this day.

Visitors are expected to follow their dresscode

Visitors are expected to follow their dresscode

Head and shoulders covered, check!

Head and shoulders covered, check!

Inside the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

There is no fee to enter the mosque. However, visitors have to abide by the dresscode since it is a place of worship. Women must wear scarves to cover their hair – or if one’s jacket has a hoodie, that would suffice too. Also, women must be dressed modestly – no exposure of shoulders nor knee. Same goes for the gents, no shorts for them. Everyone is expected to take off their shoes as people who goes in there for worship would kneel on the carpet. You can leave your socks on though. Plastic bags are provided for so that visitors can carry their footwear with them at all times. During times of prayer, no visitors (tourists) allowed inside unless if you’re there to join the prayer.

How to get here: Alight at Sultanahmet tram stop

3. Basilica Cistern  aka Sunken Palace (Turkish: Yerebatan Sarayi)

Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi)

Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi)

Basilica Cistern was built during the reign of the Byzantinian emperor, Justinian 1 during the 16th century. It’s primary purpose is to contain and supply water to the Byzantine Palace. It’s the largest and best preserved ancient cistern that lies beneath the city of Istanbul. This was the place that easily intrigued me most as I happened to read Dan Brown’s Inferno (which was set in Florence, Venice AND Istanbul) which gave information about the popular spots of the city – as well as the meaning of the symbols behind them (yes, I am recommending that book if you happen to plan to visit any of the 3 aforementioned city). ;) With the place bathed in a warm orange glow, cool and damp place with water trickling down from the ceiling and with classical music in the background (not to forget the head of Medusa to boot), I was just entranced with this place!

Entrance to the Basilica Cistern

Entrance to the Basilica Cistern

The lamps that were used to light the path, we used as our spotlight as we couldn't get a nice sho down there - too dark!

The lamps that were used to light the path, we used as our spotlight as we couldn’t get a nice shot down there – too dark!

An upside down head of Medusa was used as a base for one of the column. It is said to be placed that way to negate the power of the Gorgon - turn everything that stares into its eyes to stone.

An upside down head of Medusa was used as a base for one of the columns. It is said to be placed that way to negate the power of the Gorgon – turn everything that stares into its eyes to stone.

Entrance fee: 10 TL
Operating hours: 09:00 – 18:30
How to get here: Alight at Sultanahmet tram stop

4. Spice Bazaar aka Egyptian Bazaar (Turkish: Mısır Çarşısı)

We know we found our destination upon seeing this plaque upon the entrance of the Spice Bazaar.

We know we found our destination upon seeing this plaque upon the entrance of the Spice Bazaar.

Named as the Egyptian Bazaar since the money used to built this came from the revenue of the Ottoman eyalet (state) of Egypt. The bazaar is centre of spice trade in Istanbul. Also, according to our local guide, it’s cheaper to buy things from here than the Grand Bazaar. This is the second largest covered bazaar in Istanbul.

P1160941

I couldn't get enough of their scarves - all so beautiful!

I couldn’t get enough of their scarves – all so beautiful!

Spices everywhere! Lots of dried fruits being sold! Turkish delights to be sampled at every turn!

Spices everywhere! Lots of dried fruits being sold! Turkish delights to be sampled at every turn!

Operating hours: 08:00-19:00, closed every Sunday
How to get here: Eminonu is the nearest tram stop. Alternatively, you can get here via Marmaray, at Sirkeci stop.
Here’s a great read on what to buy when in the Spice Market of Istanbul.

5. Taksim Square (Turkish: Taksim Meydani)

Taksim Square

Taksim Square

Taksim Square is considered to be the centre of modern Istanbul – a transportation hub and a favourite location for social events/ gatherings. Pictured above is the Monument of the Republic. It was built in 1923 by Pietro Canonica to commemorate the 5th year anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. Istanbul’s most popular pedestrian shopping street, Istiklal Caddesi, leads to here.

Waiting for our local guide to arrive in Taksim Square

Waiting for our local guide to arrive in Taksim Square

How to get here: Nearest metro stop is Taksim

  1. Great photos! looking forward to visit this beautiful country :)

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: