Istanbul is Turkey’s most populous city, as well as one of the largest cities in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. It is located on both sides of the Bosphorus strait, located between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea. Much needs to be seen and visited in Istanbul, since it is the cultural and financial hub of the country. Istanbul has a very rich and interesting history, dated to begin around 660 BC, when the Byzantium Empire was established. Later on, it became the imperial city of Constantinople, wherein it served as the central of power of Greek culture and Christianity. Considered as the bridge between Europe and Asia, you can easily cross cultures and get to taste the best both continents have to offer. Recently, it was named as the European Capital of Culture, making it the fifth most popular destinations in the world. Travel to Istanbul and see for yourself that the best way to travel from point A to point C, is by enjoying your stay over point B.
Istanbul’s commercial and historical centre lies in Europe, while a third of its population is in Asia. Istanbul’s offers lots of historic and religious places to visit, with the monuments dating as far back as Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman eras. For a start, try visiting Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), and Basilica Cistern. These are all located around Sultanahmet Square, so this should not be hard to miss. Some of the architectures, notably the Church of St. Savior in Chora, are dispersed throughout the Old City of Istanbul (Walled City), essentially what used to be called Constantinople. The Theodosian Walls, which isolates the old city and is widely used as defence by the Eastern Roman Empire, is a sight not to miss. Most of the walls are still completely intact, with only a few sections suffering from restoration done in 1990s.
Going north of the old city lies Galata and Beyoğlu, wherein the Istiklal Street and the adjoining Taksim Square can be found, which is considered as Istanbul’s city centre. Galata is marked with the famous Galata Tower. Istanbul Modern can be found in Taksim Square, which exhibits contemporary Turkish art. Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul’s prominent pedestrian street and the original diplomatic district during Ottoman Empire, can be found in the square. Even if the area is brimming with cultural landmarks, the square is primarily visited for its night life attractions. Thousands of people strolling in the street can be seen eating in nearby restaurants or helping themselves to nearby retail offers. Going further north lays the New Istanbul, the main district of the city. Here, the Military Museum can be visited, wherein Ottoman military music concerts are held every afternoon. Skyscrapers are located around Levent and Maslak.
To see and feel the local city life, head west from the old city and you will find yourself in the Golden Horn estuary. A trip to Eyüp to visit the city’s holiest Islamic shrine should not be missed. Another famous landmark that attracts tourists is the Eyüp Sultan Mosque, which is densely visited during Friday prayer and all throughout Ramadan. To have a panoramic view of the Golden Horn, visitors are treated to a gondola lift and bring them to the outdoor Pierre Loti Café.
Aside from rich historical landmarks, Istanbul is notably known for its Hamman (Turkish bath), for this is an essential part of the trip to Istanbul. Experiencing Hamman (as a sauna) is enough to feel the essence of the place, topped with the scrubbing experience, which is said to be the best part of the bath. The massage, on the other hand, is true Turkish standard so western standards should be put aside. There is said to be at least one historical hamman in each neighbourhood so finding one should be relatively easy. With this in mind, remember to take a bath before heading home.
How to get around within Istanbul
From Istanbul Atatürk Airport, you can haul a taxi heading straight to Taksim Square, which is approximately 20km away. An express bus service called Havataş, run by local airport service, takes tourists to Taksim and Aksaray. The metro, known as light rail in the airport, is a 10-minute walk from the airport wherein travellers will be taken directly to Otogar (bus station) or to numerous stops within Istanbul, with Aksaray as the last stop. Here, tram transfer stations bound for old city is available at Zeytinburnu and Aksaray.
How to get there
Being situated between Asia and Europe, getting to Istanbul is fairly easy by air, by land, and by sea. By plane, you will land at Istanbul Atatürk Airport. Meanwhile, international trains from across Europe arrive at Sirkeci station, which is close to Sultanahmet, while Aisan trains arrive at Haydarpasa station. Tourists can easily go to Bosphorus via ferry. Meanwhile, international ferries carry tourist groups at Karakoy Port, which ideally close to Sultanahmet and Taksim.