10 Must-Visit Sights In Istanbul.
There are so many reason to love Istanbul: for its history, culture, people, sights or night life. I’ve been to Istanbul twice and it’s one of those enchanting cities, I could return to every year.
I love sitting on a roof-top terraces to watch the sun set over the one of the world’s most beautiful skylines. I love the locals, who are more than friendly. I love listening to the Muezzin – even at 4.00 am – to which you can set the clock. I love the parks and the delicious sweets. What can I say, I’ve simply lost my heart to Istanbul!
Here Europe and Asia meet and this makes it the perfect spot for any travel photographer. It has more jaw-dropping sights you could ever imagine and an incredible cultural experience will follow you each step of the way. There are many must visit sights and places of interest in Istanbul and I would like to share some of my favourite.
1. Süleymaniye Mosque.
Süleymaniye Mosque is an architectural masterpiece. The aesthetic supremacy of its interior and exterior and its perfect proportions have been captivating visitors for centuries. I actually find this Mosque the most impressive in Istanbul.
2. Gülhane Park.
Gülhane Park is a historical urban park located on part of the Topkapi Palace grounds. It’s one of the oldest public parks in Istanbul which is frequented by many locals & tourist aiming for fresh air and superb nature right in the centre of Istanbul. Sometimes dealing with the masses of people can be daunting, so this is the perfect spot to settle down after an extensive day of walking. You can either rest on one of the many benches, or walk down the tranquil, tree lined path that leads you all the way to the Bosphorus.
3. Grand Bazaar.
Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is the last stop on the Silk Road. It’s truly a maze market and with more than 3.000 shops, it’s one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. Established in 1461 by Mehmet the Conqueror, it houses more than 60 streets of jewellery, textiles, pottery, leather & carpets. Bring a map for orientation, but still expect to get lost at least once. If you’re into books, definitely check out Sahaflar Carsisi (the Old Book Bazaar) which was moved to the picturesque location near the Beyazid Mosque.
4. Galata Bridge.
The Galata Bridge spans across the Golden Horn and was built in 1992 to replace an iron structure dating from 1909 to 1912, which had already replaced two earlier structures. A walk across the bridge is an absolute must for every visitor. During the day, the bridge carries a constant flow of people crossing to and from Beyoğlu and Eminönü, as well as a handful of hopeful anglers. Underneath, restaurants and cafés are open day and night. Historically (and in some respect also today), the Galata Bridge was a symbolic link between the traditional city of Istanbul. On one side you had imperial palace and religious institutions, and on the other side the districts of Galata and Beyoğlu, where where foreign merchants and diplomats lived and worked and where today a young hip and more artsy crowd frequents the area.
5. Hagia Sofia.
The Byzantine masterpiece was built by Emperor Justinian I as an Orthodox patriarchal basilica. This huge 30 metre diameter dome covers what was once the largest enclosed space in the world. After Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, it became a mosque, before being converted into a museum in 1935. The stunning interior is supposed to be well-worth the wait outside (calculate at least 2 hours). We were there on a Monday, which is unfortunate the only day the museum is closed…
6. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque aka The Blue Mosque.
Neighbouring the Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque is an impressive sight from the outside as its one of only a few Mosques in the world with six minarets. Its name comes from the interior, the decorative blue tiles that cover the walls. This architectural masterpiece is one of the most popular must-visits in Istanbul and if you wish to see the insight you have to calculate a great amount of time.
No trip is complete without crossing the Bosphorus to visit the Asian shore. Excursions along shoreline best reveal the city’s beauty and other attractions hidden from street view.
8. A Ride On A Heritage Tramway.
There are two heritage tramways in Istanbul – one on the European and one on the Asian side. The Taksim-Tünel Nostalgia Tramway (also called T2 line), runs from Taksim to Tünel. The historic trams are small, can’t hold many passengers, and are full most of the time. The ride is relatively slow but pleasant. The conductor constantly has to ring his bell to clear the way of pedestrians walking on Istiklal Avenue – frequented by approximately 3 million people every day.
9. New Mosque & Spice Bazaar.
The Spice Bazaar was built in 1663 as part of the New Mosque. It was the last stop for camel caravans travelling on the Silk Road, which already gives a sense of the history around this marketplace. Spices are displayed alongside Turkish delights and dried fruits as eye candy for tourists and locals who make their way here every day.
10. Galata Quarter & Galata Tower.
Last but not least, walking through the Galata quarter is an absolute must – in particular the Galata Tower from where you have an amazing 360° view of the city. Galata is a great place to relax, wander the streets, discover, take pictures and enjoy the city. This part of town is hip, stylish, trendy & young. You’ll come across many local shops; from gift shops to cool shoe shops, vintage boutiques to Turkish designer’s showrooms, great cafés and cosy restaurants. The architecture is also worth seeing; it’s a mixture between run down buildings, old-fashioned wooded houses and modern façades.