Istanbul, the bridge between Europe and Asia, can be considered as one of the best cities to visit worldwide. From the beautiful mosques perched over the Bosphorus strait to the incredible Grand Bazaar, Istanbul has a mix of cultures all coming together in one place. There is no lack of awe inspiring sites to see, the only problem is seeing them all if you a have a limited time in the city. Here are some tips on how to get the best of the old Byzantine and Ottoman Empire capital.
There are many great areas to stay in Istanbul, but one of the best is around the Galata tower or in the Karakoy neighborhood. Should you be searching for accommodation in these areas of Istanbul, you can do it online, because booking providers such as Venere.com do a search by city zone possible. After you have found your place to stay, these two areas are a must see before you hit the landmarks on the other side of the strait. The Galata tower is a Romanesque 14th century tower that has an incredible view of the city and houses a great restaurant and night club at the top. It was once used to spot fires for the Ottomans but now is used to get a stunning look at the Blue Mosque and Topkapi palace from the other side of the strait. From there you can make your way down the winding streets to the bridge that takes you across. It is called the Galata Bridge, and here you can dine underneath the structure. Here they literally catch fish and put it directly from the line onto the grill, be sure to go here for a truly unique experience and amazing seafood.
Across the strait you can first visit the Topkapi palace that used to house the Ottoman sultans. Sitting on top of a beautiful park, the palace has incredible gardens and museums where you can see the ancient treasures of the once mighty empire. Next, go to Aya Sofia or Hagia Sofia, the enormous church turned mosque that was built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian. It has some beautiful mosaics, but honestly not much else. It is even better to see from the outside. The best site of the city is easily the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Blue Mosque. It stands out on the skyline of Istanbul because of its blue colored stone work and immense dome accompanied by six minarets. Inside with its hanging lights, is truly a religious experience because of its tranquility. It is also still used as a mosque today, so watching the prayer is something you might want to see.
Lastly, the Grand Bazaar and Istanbul Spice Market are great places to wander around. The bazaar has gorgeous tiles and artwork, as it was the main market during Ottoman times. However, the actual shops are a bit touristy. The Spice Market has a more authentic experience and you can try endless types of Turkish delights from the many vendors making it fresh! Be careful in these areas though, because pickpockets target tourists in large crowds. But other than that Istanbul is a safe and incredible city to visit.