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Istanbul: Bosphorus, Bizaars & Byzantine

  • November 28, 2014
  • By 50 Shades
  • 24 Comments
Istanbul: Bosphorus, Bizaars & Byzantine

Istanbul

Most people when travelling to Europe only visit what I would describe are the ‘big four’ cities: Paris, Rome, Athens and London. But people don’t realise how much they are missing out on not seeing the capital of Turkey – Istanbul.

Touted as being one of the most intriguing travel destinations in the world, Istanbul constitutes a mosaic of many civilizations and cultures combined, and is where the east meets west.

Bosphorus Strait

Bosphorus Strait

It is located on the Bosphorus Strait and covers the entire area of the Golden Horn – a natural harbour. Because of its size, Istanbul extends into both Europe and Asia. To the north lays the Black Sea and to the south the Marmara Sea.

Istanbul has a history that is steeped in the rise and fall of the world’s most famous empires. Due to its participation in these empires, Istanbulhas also undergone various name changes throughout its lengthy history.

Ottoman Sultan Statue

Ottoman Sultan Statue

Initially it was called Byzantium. It became part of the Roman Empire as early as 330 CE and was declared as the capital of the entire Roman Empire and renamed Constantinople after the Roman emperor.

Constantinople became the capital of the Byzantine Empire in the 400s. As part of the Byzantine Empire, the city became distinctly Greek as opposed to its former identity in the Roman Empire.

In 1204 to 1261 it became the centre of the Catholic Latin Empire. Then it was conquered by the Ottomans and its name was quickly changed to Istanbul in 1453. The Ottoman Empire ruled Istanbul until it was defeated and occupied by the allies in World War I.

Things to do & see in Instanbul

  1. Be dazzled by a tour of the Blue Mosque. Inside it there are 260 stained glass windows and around 20,000 shimmering blue-green tiles.

    Blue Mosque

    Blue Mosque

2. Look up at the golden tiles lining the dome of the ancient cathedral, Aya Sofia. It was built back in AD 537 in the days when the city was called Constantinople. It was later turned into a mosque but is now a museum called Hagia Sofia.

Hagia Sofia

Hagia Sofia

3. Book a ticket to tour the Harem at Topkapi Palace. It’s the oldest palace in the world and was used by the Ottoman Sultans dating back to 1478. The Harem is the maze of rooms where the sultan’s wives and concubines used to live.

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

4. Catch a tram over the Galata Bridge, which spans old and new Istanbul, to the interesting Beyoglu district which is the most active art, entertainment and night life centre of the city.

Street Musician in Beyoglu

Street Musician in Beyoglu

5. Go bargain hunting at the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest covered markets in the world with 5,000 shops spreading over 60 streets. Smell the spices and leather goods.

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar

6. Take a ferry on The Bosphorus.The narrow waterway divides the Europe half of Istanbul on the Western shore, from the Asian half on the East.

Bosphorus Boat Cruise

Bosphorus Boat Cruise

7. Wrap yourself in traditional cotton and relax in the steamy surroundings of a traditional Turkish bath (Hamam).

Turkish Bathhouse or Hamam

Turkish Bathhouse or Hamam

8. Check out the Hippodrome which was a circus that was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. Today it is a square named Sultan Ahmet Square with a few fragments of the original structure surviving.

Hippodrome

Hippodrome

9. Walk the cobbled streets of the Old City of Sultanahmet and take in the sights of this interesting district.

Sultanahmet Streets

Sultanahmet Streets

10. Explore the old city walls that are still standing from the Byzantine era that once stood as a fortress around the city.

Old City Walls Istanbul

Old City Walls Istanbul

As for the food I would highly recommend to take some time to just sit at a sidewalk café and sip Turkish tea or coffee, or go native and smoke a nargile (water pipe). Dine on savoury Turkish cuisine such as pide (flat bread), pilaf (rice), meze (tapas), kofte (meatballs) and the good old kebab in an excellent Istanbul restaurant or consume a traditional fish sandwich by the Golden Horn on the Bosphorus. All the food is fresh and very tasty!

Smoking a Nargyle

Smoking a Nargile (Water Pipe)

Istanbul was an adventure that will long live in my memory as being up there with one of my best holiday experiences. It was extraordinary both culturally and historically, was cheap and easy to get around having a great public transport system. My advice is to put this city on your ‘Must See List’.

Linking up with Wednesday Wanderlust

 

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By 50 Shades, November 28, 2014 Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
  • 24

50 Shades

Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.

24 Comments
  • jennyandstephenmilan
    November 28, 2014

    Great post Kathy. Istanbul has been on my must visit list for ages. Maybe next year we will get there. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Kathy
      November 28, 2014

      Turkey is overall a great place to visit. So much to see and so much to do and very cheap. Istanbul was very special and should be on everyone’s bucket list. :)

  • Pinky Poinker
    November 29, 2014

    I think I could spend a week just wandering around the bazaar! Great post Kathy!

    • Kathy
      November 29, 2014

      Thanks Pinky. I think I did spend a week wandering around the bazzar as I got lost many times!

  • Rachel
    November 29, 2014

    Hey Kathy, I have thought about Turkey but never investigated or researched the country. Thanks for that, it is on the list of countries up for consideration, when I do start to explore.

  • budgettraveltalk
    November 29, 2014

    I agree that Istanbul and Turkey are too good to miss. I would love to return and do another road trip. When in Istanbul again I would stay in and become familiar with a different area. So much to see and experience. Lovely Photos Kathy.

    • Kathy
      November 29, 2014

      I agree Jan. We stayed in Sultanahmet but I would love to stay over the other side of the Bosphorus as it was entirely different again.

  • Red Nomad OZ
    November 29, 2014

    It all sounds wonderful! Although I was surprised to read today that there’s a mosque in Sydney that was modelled on the Blue Mosque! That’ll be the cheapskate version for me until I make it to Turkey!!

    • Kathy
      November 30, 2014

      A Blue Mosque on Sydney? That’s interesting. Turkey was a great travel destination and I would highly recommend it. :)

  • San
    November 29, 2014

    Istanbul is definitely on my travel list! Beautiful pictures :)

    • Kathy
      November 30, 2014

      Istanbul was stunning on the Bosphorus. Such a place of intriguing cultures and history. You would not be disappointed. :)

  • Nancie
    November 30, 2014

    Hi Cathy. When I was in high school I went to Europe on a school cruise. We visited Izmir, which I loved, but didn’t make it to Istanbul. Turkey has always been on my list to visit again, particularly Istanbul. Your photos are gorgeous. Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

    • Kathy
      November 30, 2014

      We drove through Izmir on our way up the coastline but didn’t stop there. You would love Turkey – such a great place to visit. :)

  • Johanna
    December 2, 2014

    The Bazaar looks like the sort of place that I could happily while away a few days in ;) Would love to get to Istanbul.

    • Kathy
      December 2, 2014

      The Grand Bazaar was very easy to get lost in with such an array of delights. There is also a Spice Bazaar which was equally as interesting. A good place to put on the bucket list for sure.

  • Dick Jordan
    December 8, 2014

    Nice round-up of things to see/do in Istanbul.

    • Kathy
      December 8, 2014

      Thank you Dick. It is an intriguing city with a long history. I absolutely adored Istanbul.

  • seizetheday20
    October 14, 2015

    Love your photos and info on things to see and do in Istanbul Kathy. I’ve always been intrigued by the Blue Mosque. Istanbul is on the travel bucket list! :-)

    • Kathy
      October 14, 2015

      I can highly recommend Istanbul and Turkey. It certainly has a blend of cultures and some of the best ruins I have ever seen at Pammukale and Ephesus. Plus Gallipoli is a must see for any Aussie of Kiwi.

  • Malinda (@MBPaperPackages)
    October 14, 2015

    Istanbul has been on my must see list for a while now and this just solidified its position!

    Thanks for linking up #wednesdaywanderlust

    • Kathy
      October 15, 2015

      You are very welcome Malinda. Istanbul and Turkey are definitely worth putting on the bucket list! :)

  • NOMAD/nester _ Julie Small
    October 17, 2015

    Istanbul is by far my favourite city I have visited in the world. Over Paris, over London, just over Athens :) hmmm…but I do love Athens…will have to be tie :)

    • Kathy
      October 17, 2015

      I thought Istanbul was pretty special as well with its blend of cultures separated by the Bosphorous. I haven’t been to Athens yet so can’t vouch for that, but I’m sure I would enjoy it! :)

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