Posted 21 October 2022

Top reasons that make Istanbul your next stop

There is no place like Istanbul in the world. Istanbul is a metropolis of layers and contrasts, spanning two continents, Europe and Asia. It is a city where old and modern coexist, with ancient sites like Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace rubbing shoulders with frenetic clubs and colourful cafés. The city never stands still.

Istanbul is Turkey's cultural centre, with a profusion of independent galleries and imaginative eateries. Also, it is Turkey’s transit hub with flights to and from all around the world. Each area has its own particular personality and feel, and it is easy to spend weeks in Istanbul and never see it all. But, that is what makes it so intriguing. Always, there is something beckoning you back for more. So, grab a cup of Turkish coffee and a slice of pistachio baklava and prepare to be enthralled by this unique metropolis.

The following are the top reasons that make Istanbul your next stop:

  • The Bosphorus Views: The Bosphorus Strait, which separates Istanbul's European and Asian sides, is its most distinguishing feature. Visitors can take a public boat trip or charter a private boat to see some of the city's most breathtaking sights. Visit Ottoman coastal houses, the 15 July Martyrs Bridge, the fishing town of Anadolu Kava and Byzantine palaces.
  • Historical sites: The historical sites of Istanbul include Ottoman palaces, Byzantine castle fortresses, and Roman-era obelisks. You can also visit Hagia Sofia Museum, an architectural masterpiece once a Byzantine church and then an Ottoman mosque. Next, the 17th-century Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as Blue Mosque, is Istanbul’s one of the most populartourist sites. A tour of Blue Mosque will introduce you to illustrious interior tile decorations, grey cascading domes, and six minarets.
  • Unique diversity: Istanbul has long been a colourful melting pot of people, faiths, and civilisations. These two famous terms perfectly describe the diversity of Istanbul - "East meets West" and "Everything meets everything else". It is so amazing to see here synagogues coexisting with churches and mosques. While walking the streets, you will be amazed to hear so many languages and diasporas from various nations that continue to contribute to the city's colourful life.
  • Shopping markets: Bazaars are an essential part of Istanbul's identity. And, Grand Bazaar, spanning more than 30,000 sq m, is one of the world's biggest (323,000 sq ft). Decorative tiles, handmade carpets, antiques, and other items can be bargained for hours. The neighbouring Spice Bazaar is nearly as large and provides a beautiful selection of spices, herbs, and tea. Every neighbourhood also has a weekly food market, selling fresh fruits from the countryside, cheese, and seafood from the nearby sea.
  • Food hub: Istanbul is a food hotspot and chefs are famed for creating outstanding new dishes based on classic Turkish recipes. Spend a day sampling street-food favourites, including simit (the country's famous sesame-filled bagel), baklava (a crispy and sweet wrap filled with dry fruits), doner meat packed in a wrap and midye dolma (mussels combined with seasoned rice and lemon juice served in half of their original shell). These are widely available around the city. Imam bayld, a roasted and filled eggplant dish, is a good option for a heartier lunch. At night, dine at fancy restaurants that reinvent classic dishes.
  • Ramadan: Ramadan (or Ramazan in Turkish) is one of the fascinating occasions to visit the city. Although the city is relatively calm during the day, it comes alive after dusk. Local governments organise Iftar feasts every night when hundreds of worshipers gather to break their daily fast after sunset. Public spaces surrounding mosques are turned into picnic grounds for post-prayer eating. If you plan your visit during this month, then you will be able to enjoy the hospitality, with a sense of camaraderie and togetherness extended to everyone who takes place at the table.

Places to visit in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia, perhaps Istanbul's most famous monument, has a long history as a religious landmark. It was built as a Christian church in the 6th century and its name means ‘holy wisdom.’ It has also served as a mosque and, more recently, as a museum.

Tour this piece of stunning historical architecture and UNESCO World Heritage Site, marvelling at the unique mosaic tiles on the interior. Embrace the magical aura of the vast shrine while learning about one of the best destinations to visit in the world's intricate past.

The famous dome of the building can be viewed from all around the city and is best appreciated at sunset from a rooftop in Istanbul. The Hagia Sophia is one of the unique destinations to see in Istanbul and should not be missed.

Dolmabahce Palace

The Dolmabahce Palace, located on the edge of the famed Bosphorus Strait, is a magnificent palace erected in the 1800s by the empire's sultan. This opulent castle comprises 16 unique buildings and is filled with paintings, sculptures, and historical treasures like teaware and Bohemian crystal.

Visit the most famous palace in Turkey and marvel at its classic Ottoman features and style. Enjoy the regal marble stone, Hereke rugs and the spectacular collection of oil paintings as you stroll through the well-preserved palace interior.

Enter the main hall and explore chambers such as the secretariat's rooms, the crystal staircase, the red room, and the ceremonial hall. On the exterior, you can see the imperial gate, gorgeous gardens, the swan and harem ponds, and the iconic clock tower, which stands over 100 ft tall.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque, also known as Sultanahmet Mosque, is one of Turkey's most renowned landmarks and a must-see in Istanbul. This historical monument was built in the 1600s, combined with Islamic and Byzantine architectural features.

Both the beautiful exterior and the detailed interior will take your breath away. More than 20,000 hand-crafted ceramic tiles cover the walls. Over 200 stained glass windows create dramatic lighting, contributing to the Blue Mosque's appeal and magical aura. Spend some time in the courtyard area, which is an excellent place to watch people.

Sultanahmet Square

This historic hippodrome and public area in the heart of the old city has been a gathering place since the Byzantine era. As you travel by the monument ruins that remain, learn about the history of this place.

You can practically visualise the exciting events that took place in the square, imagining the horse racing activities and the chariot that it was famous for.

The Serpent Column, the seven Statues of Porphyrius and Walled Obelisk, constructed to honour a legendary charioteer from the 6th century, are among the highlights. The 16th-century German Fountain at the other end is well worth a look.

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is a renowned tourist site that provides a unique view of the city's past. A visit here will let you travel back in time to the 6th century to discover Istanbul's largest historic cistern, which once lay beneath Stoa Basilica, a vast public area.

View the 336 old columns reused from other structures and temples in this fascinating underground chamber as you wander along wooden corridors in an area that formerly stored over 20,000 sq ft of water as part of its historical function. Several prominent films have used the Basilica Cistern as a background.

Things to know while traveling to Istanbul

  • The primary language in Istanbul is Turkish, but due to the city's enormous foreign population, do not be startled to hear a conversation in English, Arabic or Farsi while you explore.
  • Even if you do not know Turkish, local people are often exceedingly helpful. Store owners (particularly in Sultanahmet, the old center) will often encourage you to sit down and have çay, a little tulip-shaped cup of strong black tea.
  • The yellow cabs in Istanbul are not fully dependable, and overcharging is prevalent. If you choose a yellow cab, be sure the meteris switched on. Uber cabs are another viable option.
  • When you arrive in Turkey, you should have your accommodation information with you as the border police may or may not ask for it. Make sure to have it printed off or downloaded to your phone because you may not have an internet connection when you initially arrive.
  • Bring swimsuits with you so you may enjoy Turkey's hammams and beaches without having to change out of a wet one.

So, what are you waiting for? Pick your phone up, discuss with your family and friends, fix your plan, make bookings for your trip and get ready to explore Istanbul.

How to get there?

 Even for brief visits, Indians require a visa to enter Turkey. To gain access, Indian citizens must present a valid passport and visa. Applying for an online Turkey tourist visa for Indians takes only a few minutes. The accepted visa is normally e-mailed to the passenger within 24 hours.

When flying from Indian cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, or Bengaluru, you will land at Istanbul's Atatürk Airport. Direct and stopover flights to Istanbul are available, with the shortest flight duration from Mumbai being 6 hours.

Best time to visit Istanbul

  • March to May and September to November are considered the ideal months to visit Istanbul due to the temperate climate. During this time, the crowd is sparse so you would not have to contend with people while taking a bicycle ride or a cruise.
  • The city enters a high season noted for exorbitant costs from June through August. Another disadvantage is the hot temperature, but chilly ayran and famed sticky ice cream know how to deal with it.
  • December to February is the coldest and wettest, so bring plenty of clothing and an umbrella. A vacation during these months is also the best time to visit traditional Hammams.

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