Istanbul is a wonderful Turkish city. Even if you come here not for the first time, you can always find something interesting here. After my summer trip to Turkey I decided to collect in one article a few tips on what unique sights of this ancient city are a must-see.
1. Visit the Hagia Sophia
I think, visit of the Hagia Sophia is the most popular item in many Istanbul travel guides. Of course, this museum is one of the first places, that I would recommend to visit for each tourist in the city. Walking through the majestic temple is comparable to traveling back in time hundreds of years ago.
Construction of the Hagia Sophia began under Emperor Justinian in 532, the work continued for five years. It should be noted that this is the third place of worship on this site. Once there was a market square, on the site of which a Christian basilica was built. This construction was destroyed by fire. The second church met the same fate. The Hagia Sophia has been turned into the mosque since 1453.
The cathedral is located near the Sultanahmet tram stop, the entrance to the building is free.
2. Go down to the underground reservoir the Basilica Cistern
The Basilica Cistern is one of my favorite places in Istanbul. I was here for the first time in 2018. Later, as far as I know, the exposition was closed, but today tourists can take a look at this unusual attraction again.
The Cistern is located a few dozen meters from the Hagia Sophia. The years of its foundation are approximately the same as those of the temple: the construction of the largest underground reservoir in Istanbul was carried out from 527 to 565. The construction was intended to supply water to the Grand Palace. 336 columns are installed in the reservoir in 28 rows, the height of the most of them is nine meters.
The cost of visiting the Basilica Cistern is 190 Turkish lira (summer 2022).
3. Cross the Bosphorus Strait and visit Europe and Asia in one day
Istanbul is a seaside city. Different types of the water transport are very popular among tourist and locals. Ferries from the Asian to the European side and back are depart from several marinals.
You can pay for the crossing using Istanbulkart. It`s wireless plastic card for trams, metro, metrobuses payment. The cost depends on the route, on city ferries it`s comparable to the price in the subway.
4. Visit the largest mosque in Turkey
On the Asian side of Istanbul stands the huge building of the Camlica Mosque. The complex, which officially opened in 2019, can accommodate 63,000 people. For comparison, Hagia Sophia can receive only 18,000 parishioners and tourists.
The height of the central dome of the Camlica Mosque is 72 meters, the minarets rise to 107 meters.
Benefit of Turkish mosques is that you can get into them completely free of charge - this is a great way to get acquainted with the local culture and save money.
5. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the East in Istanbul bazars
The East is often associated with a brisk trade. Spicy spices, expensive fabrics, unusual souvenirs: all of them can be found in shopping malls of Istanbul. I can hardly recommend buying something in the market, often the most popular goods among tourists are more expensive here than in small shops on the streets of the city. But Istanbul bazars are the best places to take interesting photos and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the East.
I have been to two Istanbul markets: Egyptian and the Grand bazar. For my feel, many of their shops repeat each other because tourists can buy here similar spices, jewelries, souvenirs. Shops with beautiful eastern lamps deserve special mention. Many of them are real artworks, however, most often sellers do not allow to take photos inside.
6. Go to the Princes Islands
We were on the Büyükada Island. It`s largest of the entire group of the Princes Islands and it`s name translates from Turkish as Big Island. You can get here on the ferry from one of the Istanbul terminals.
Even though the Büyükada located not so far from the mainland of a huge metropolis, here you can get into a completely special world. The nothern part of the Island is dotted with small cozy streets, it`s southern side is covered with woodland. Herу you can just take a walk, swim on one of the many beaches or climb to the top of the Island to visit the Aya Yorgi Kilisesi and admire the beautiful views.
7. Taste Turkish food
There is a lot of delicious food in Istanbul. Sweets, meat, seafood dishes: everyone can find here something special for themselves. Any tourist, in my opinion, should try dondurma - Turkish ice cream, which is sold from open street stalls.
Even if you did not set yourself the task of tasting this delicacy, you will still stumble upon its sellers when walking around the city center. The sale of dondurma is a real existing show. Ice cream makers tease tourists: they hand them ice cream cones and deftly taking them back. This happens several times. Children from such a spectacle are simply delighted.
8. Take a ride on a historic tram or travel to the future
The İstiklal Avenue (Istiklal Caddesi) is a very popular touristic place in Istanbul. It`s pedestrian, but tram tracks are laid in the center, and everyone can ride from one end of the street to the other on an unusual retro tram. The cost of the trip is only 4,17 Turkish lira.
Do you want to get away from historical places and transfer to the future? Then the Istanbul metro can surprise you. Some lines of it works without drivers. It looks fantastic: large panoramic windows are installed in the end parts of the trains, standing here you can watch thtough the dark tunnel. There are such trains on the line M7 for example. Another interesting idea for a small trip is a subway ride under the Bosphorus.
Have a nice trip!