Because of its location, which lies between the west and the east, Istanbul is one of the richest cities in terms of culture. In addition to the incredible mix of traditions it has enchanting landscapes and fascinating sights. Anyone who enjoys architecture and history will love getting to know the city, mainly because of the Byzantine architecture and monuments.
To help those who are preparing for a tour of the city, I made this list with some main tours around the city. If you only have a few days there, make a selection of the main tourist attractions and choose the ones that you like the most.
The BLUE MOSQUE.
To get to know the Blue Mosque, you will need to follow some rules that are also valid for other mosques. Women must cover their hair with a scarf and not be bare-shouldered or wear short skirts or shorts. As for the men, the shoulder and shorts rule is also valid.
The Blue Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616, so it’s an ancient and a historical place. Both the exterior and the interior of the mosque are beautiful. Inside the site, the walls and ceiling are detailed and stained-glass that allows natural light to enter the environment. In front of the mosque is a wonderful garden – a great place to take pictures!
Just in front of the Blue Mosque is Hagia Sophia, which is one of the most visited places in the city. Like almost every old building in Istanbul, it is huge and full of details inside, such as beautifully crafted mosaics from the Byzantine period. Moreover, it shows us what life was like in those times.
Another fact that attracts many tourists to the place is the possibility of placing wish of sorts. There is a wall/ column with a small hole. People put their finger – thumb in and make a circle. Then they ask for a wish. Your thumb has to get wet in order for the wish to granted. If the wish happens, the person should return to the place as a thank-you. This is just a legend, but it doesn’t hurt to try, right?
Topkapı Palace is one of the main symbols of the Ottoman Empire, built-in 1465. It is even difficult to imagine how such an ancient building is still preserved today. The space is full of huge rooms, decorated with lots of gold and stained-glass and designed tiles.
As a museum, you will find several relics of Islamic art at the site. The patios and gardens are also charming and super flowery. Those who enjoy this mix of landscaping and ancient architecture cannot leave Topkapı Palace out of the script. I was enchanted by this place and could spend a whole day in it, getting to know every corner.
The Basilica Cistern was built to act as a water reservoir for the city. However, it has been disabled and is currently open to visitation. The environment is very dark and looks like an underground palace, full of columns and decorative sculptures, like a Medusa’s head. It’s an entirely unique tour from the others you’ll take in the city, so I believe it’s worth taking a look around!
Paulo and I didn’t have time to visit the Süleymaniye Mosque, but it is considered one of the most impressive in the city. Its structure is incredible, with a huge dome in the center and smaller ones around it.
Like the other mosques, it is rich in details in stained-glass and tiles, even being as beautiful as the Blue Mosque. Although the place receives tourists, there are still prayers there. You will have to wait for the end of each prayer, or take a peek at the service schedule, before heading to the place.
The Ortaöy Mosque was, for sure, one of my favorite places on the trip. The environment is all lit up, and it’s like it gives you a feeling of peace, you know? The entire decoration of the space made me in love. As it is not such a tourist place, it had many residents, mainly Muslims. Take the opportunity to walk around the region – the neighborhood is a grace and with several cafés, restaurants, and shops.
Those who love panoramic views of the city cannot miss the Galata Tower. Admission is paid and costs around 25 Turkish lira. As it is a very famous spot in the city, the lines are long, and the waiting time can be discouraging.
My tip is that you go there early, so enjoy the tour without wasting too much time and end up having a few hours to get to know the area. There is a restaurant inside the tower itself, but it is costly and touristy. As the region is very busy, you will soon find good places to stop.
The Dolmabahce Palace is so grand and luxurious that it is even compared to the Palace of Versailles. Its architecture is wonderful, and the interior has lots of gold, crystal chandeliers, and other wonderful and sophisticated decor items.
Book at least half your day to explore the entire complex, as it has 43 lounges and over 250 rooms – in addition to the beautifully manicured gardens.