“If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.”
– Alphonse de Lamartine
Istanbul…was Constantinople. Strategically straddling the Bosphorus inlet called the Golden Horn, Istanbul has always been caught between two continents, two worlds: Europe and Asia.
Ancient Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire until it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. Ottoman rule reigned for over 400 years until it was eliminated in 1923 and the republic of modern Turkey was established.
Istanbul is a cosmopolitan city and an international tourist destination. An incredibly hospitable and gracious people, almost everyone we encounter speaks enough English for us to easily communicate. Old and new are comfortable together here…The call to prayer resounds throughout the city and many of the women look out from berkas while Adidas are sold by street vendors and cell phones are common place.
By staying in Old Town we could set off by foot and easily walk to many of Istanbul’s major sites. We also enjoyed being able to return to our hotel to refresh and enjoy evening walks. Istanbul is beautiful at night. Families, locals, visitors all come out to enjoy the cool breezes, visit in local parks and perhaps buy a souvenir or snack from a local peddler.
There is so much to see! One guidebook said there are over 100 places worth seeing in Istanbul! But we only have 3 days! So, we have to choose and prioritize. So we chose the most notable: the Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, Süleymaniye Mosque, Rüstrem Pasa Mosque, and the Spice Market.
So, what are we waiting for? Let’s explore!
Oh, before we do, a few reminders: Since we are guests in a Muslim country, it is advised and respectful to act and dress accordingly. For example, bring a scarf or shawl to wear when entering mosques and be prepared to remove your shoes. Also take note of when mosques and places of worship are closed for prayer.
Exotic Istanbul… Join me as we visit mosques where the faithful have come to worship for centuries, the Haghia Sophia which is so big that the Statue of Liberty could stretch inside…and then there are the bazaars, the markets, the wonderful people…
Visiting Topkapi was a Highlight…Once secret and hidden, the private world of Topkapi is fascinating! The audio tour takes you through this luxurious and intriguing world of the Sultans and a separate admission/audio tour (definitely take it!) into the lifestyle of their Harem (Arabic for forbidden) .
We ogle at the opulent world of extravagant…everything! Every surface is adorned with spectacular tiles, fabrics, carvings… We view their fabulous baubles, and jewel-encrusted …well, everything!
Peeking in on this exotic and fascinating world is an experience not to be overlooked and certainly not to be forgotten so let’s begin…
For more valuable advice on sightseeing and getting the most out of your visit to Istanbul: