Istanbul was for me a city of contrasts that managed to steal my heart away from the first visit. I must admit the amazingly tasty food had a huge influence, but the magic of the city is much bigger than that. Gorgeous panorama, charming sunsets, diversity and kindness. If you have not seen Istanbul yet, then you should definitely start planning ASAP! Here you can find the TOP 10 Mandatory things to experience in this lovely city!
- Go on a mosque tour
Probably all travel guides to Istanbul start with visiting a mosque. I mean the city is just full of them and their beauty is hard to put into words. Visiting a mosque is a learning experience. Even though I am a Christian, I still like to understand other religions and cultures and this is the best way to start. You have a long list to choose from, but I recommend starting with the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia which are close to each other. Also, do not miss Suleymaniye Camii, one of the most beautiful mosques in my opinion that also offers a panoramic view of the city.
Note: You will need to dress appropriately, cover your head with a scarf and remove your shoes before entering the prayer hall.
- Let Istanbul charm you with its sweets
I believe every single person in this world is already familiar with the delicious baklava. And, boy, you can find some incredible baklava at every corner of the city. But, when we are talking about Turkish sweets, baklava is just the tip of the iceberg. In my trips to Turkey I had the chance to taste all sorts of incredible sweets. Honey, pistachios and walnuts everywhere. And we should not forget about the classical Turkish delight, also known as the perfect gift for friends when you are visiting this country.
- Go shopping for spices
Even though you are not the greatest chef in the world, you should definitely buy some tasty Turkish spices to take home with you. Istanbul even has a Spice Bazaar, which is one of the largest in the city. Located in Eminonu quarter of the Fatih district, the bazaar is just 5 minutes away from Galata Bridge and offers a great variety of spices for any kind of dish you can think of. Around 85 shops selling spices, Turkish delight and other sweets, souvenirs and dried fruits and nuts. I always make provisions when I get to Istanbul. My favorite spices are Sumac which I use at salads and Seven Spices – the perfect mix for beef.
- Sample the flavors of Istanbul
You can already tell I am a food addict. I love going to new places and discover their traditional cuisine. I know we are supposed to always eat healthy, but holidays do not count. Calories are not allowed to cross the border so you are safe and sound. Believe me!
Istanbul is like a paradise for foodies and meat lovers. Of course, you will not find pork in an Islamic country, but chicken, lamb, beef and fish are there for you. Do not leave without tasting the most delicious doner kebab in the world.
Note: All fish lovers should try the restaurants at Galata Bridge.
- Enjoy a panoramic view of the city at Galata Tower
This city is beautiful in any season. I have seen it in summer, but also in winter. And what better way to admire it than by seeing it from above? One time, while I was visiting Galata Tower it was snowing and the city looked like a fairytale. The best thing was to enjoy a Turkish tea in order to warm up after seeing the amazing panorama. From up there you will understand why Istanbul is also known as the mosque city.
Note: The city is home to most mosques in Turkey, around 3113!
- Enjoy the night in a rooftop restaurant
I always tend to search for the best panoramas in town. That being said, in Istanbul you have a long list of rooftop bars and restaurants to choose from, both in the old part of the city and in the new one. The good news is that you can find places for every pocket so you do not need to worry about going over the budget. Drinks with a view are always a good idea, right? I did this is summer and enjoyed an outdoor terrace, but also in winter and had great views of the Bosphorus Bridge. In fact, I spend NYE in 2015 in Istanbul and searched for the perfect warm place to enjoy the fireworks.
- Feel like a princess at Topkapi Palace
One of the largest museums in Turkey, Topkapi Palace served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans from the 15th century. Visiting the museum gives you the perfect opportunity to imagine the life of the sultans: opulent pavilions, jewel-filled Treasury and sprawling Harem. The most impressive part for me was the Imperial Treasury which was filled with objects made from or decorated with gold, silver, rubies, emeralds, jade, pearls and diamonds. Opulence and pride are the two perfect words to describe the Ottomans.
- Enjoy a lovely afternoon in a Bosphorus cruise
As you already know, Istanbul is the city that lies in two continents. Although it is considered European, the city also has its Asian part. I must admit I was really impressed of how developed this part of city really is. Skyscrapers sparkle everywhere and the streets are beautifully decorated with flowers and extremely clean.
Bosphorus strait, a 31-km-long waterway that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara offers cruises all day long allowing you to explore the Asian part for a couple of hours. The cruise begins from the famous Galata Bridge and gives you the opportunity to admire the city from the sea.
- Go shopping at Grand Bazaar
I know Turkey is popular for counterfeit goods and you aren’t probably interested in buying them, but believe me, you should not miss a visit to the famous Grand Bazaar, a series of covered streets full of shops where you can find almost everything that crosses your mind. The visit itself is a must do because here you can blend with the locals, see their habits and bargain with them. And Turkish people do love a good bargain!
PS: Girls, jewelry alert!
- Wander around the famous Istiklal Street
Last, but not least, you should not leave Istanbul without wandering around the lively and colorful Istiklal Avenue. Here you can find lots of shops and boutiques, restaurants and cozy cafés, traditional patisseries and fast foods, bookstores and art galleries, a mix between old and new, cheap and expensive.
The most famous street in the city, located in the historical Beyoglu district, it starts from around Galata Tower and ultimately leads up to Taksim Square, another popular place to visit in Istanbul.
I also plan on writing a COMPLETE TRAVEL GUIDE for this amazing city, so stay tuned! I do hope you will find time to visit Istanbul as soon as possible because every traveler should make a least one stop here.
See you soon!
Blonde around the World
*** All pictures without the Blonde around the World watermark from this travel blog are from Google. All the credit goes to the rightful owners.