If you go on our tours, you are more than likely to someday have a layover in Istanbul. The city that once was Constantinople, at the crux of the spice road, is nowadays one of the most important flight hub in the world, with the New Istanbul Airport welcoming more and more flights. Getting a visa for Turkey isn’t too hard, with e-visa and visa on arrival being available. So, rather than simply going through the airport next time, why don’t you step out and explore the fascinating cultural capital of Turkey? There are plenty of things to do in Istanbul! Here are our favourite things!
Visit Hagia Sophia
Certainly one of the most iconic sights of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia is a temple that truly reflects the changes that the city has been through. Hagia Sophia was first an Orthodox Cathedral hosting the Patriarch of Constantinople and, following the conquest of Sultan Mehmed, it was turned into a Mosque. It was turned into a museum in 1935 and since then, has grown to be the most visited museum in the world. You’ll be amazed at the luxury inside the mosque and its history. Crowds can get quite big there, so make sure to start your day by going there as it opens, beating the tourist bus!
Once you’re done with Hagia Sophia, you can simply cross the square to visit another famous mosque of Istanbul, the Blue Mosque, as this one is still open!
Visit the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul
You can always count on the capital of an old empire such as the Ottoman empire to have fascinating museums. The Archaeological Museum of Istanbul is filled with ancient artifacts of not only Turkey, but also of the greater Muslim world, as the Ottoman empire was instrumental in the spread of Islam. The amount of culture and history which can be found here rivals with Athens and Cairo.
Cross the Bosphorus
Istanbul is a particular city because it sits on two continents, Europe and Asia. While most of the attractions of Istanbul are on its European side, it is truly worth your time to cross the Bosphorus and arrive on the Asian side of the city. There, you will notice that the life rhythm is much slower and things are already much less tourists, with way less touts. You can cross the Bosphorus by subway, by bridges or by taking a cruise. Taking an hop-in, hop-off cruise will allow you to visit a lot of neighbourhoods of Istanbul and take it their best sights. This can make up for a full day of exploration
Visit the Topkapi Palace
If the Archeological Museum of Istanbul rivals with the museums of Cairo and Athens, the Topkapi Palace certainly rivals with other incredible royal housings of the world such as Versailles or the forbidden city. The palace was the centre of the Ottoman empire from 1478 unti the end of the 19th century. Sultans have succeeded themselves there, although other palaces where created later. This place is impregnated with history but also luxury. If you’re intending to visit this place and Hagia Sophia, you might want to consider the Museum Pass of Istanbul. The Topkapi palace is certainly a must-see in Istanbul
Experience the nightlife
Istanbul is truly a city that never sleeps and the narrow streets of the old city truly come to life at night. While you won’t find many bars per se as Turkey is a muslim country, Istanbul does have some if you’re looking for a drink. However, you’ll find plenty of fine dining options to try Turkish fare as well as fantastic hookah bars if you are looking for a local experience. For the best nightlife, you’ll want to go to the Ortakoy neighbourhood. After a nice night out, if you’re feeling peckish, be sure to munch on a doner kebab, it would be criminal not to, while you’re in its birthplace!
Enjoy a Turkish bath
If you’ve had a rough red-eye flight to Turkey, Istanbul has just what you need. Indeed, one of the most relaxing experiences you can have is to go for a Turkish bath, or hamman. Hammam are the quintessential middle eastern experience and those of Istanbul are renowned through to world. You can enjoy the sauna, a warm bath or a very relaxing massage. Soon, that jet lag will just wash off!
Visit Taksim Square
It wouldn’t be a YPT article if we didn’t mention contemporary political movements. You should have a look at Taksim square to have an insight into the political changes of Turkey and the pressure that have been in the medias a few years ago. You can also spot on the main statue of the square a soviet soldier, symbolising the contribution of the USSR in the struggle for independence of Turkey. Taksim square also is surrounded by cheaper and more authentic restaurants than the old city.