Have you ever seen wallpapers of picturesque beautiful cities on your desktop or mobile phone and wondered wish I could travel and see such places with my own two eyes? Well, recently I travelled to one such place called Istanbul. It was every bit like the pictures I seen and I was astonished by the beauty of this marvellous city.
This city has been ruled by different empires across thousands of years, first by the Greeks, then the Romans and later the Ottomans. Once known as the infamous Constantinople, this city was loved by kings, commoners and travellers alike. Nearly 2000 years later it still retains the cultural influences of all the empires that once ruled here. The city is as marvellous today as it was almost 2000 years ago while it served as the capital city of the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire and later the Ottoman empire.
During my stay in Istanbul, I was in awe of pretty much everything I came across whether it was the magnificent historical sites, the cobbled streets, the delicious food or even the hospitality of the Turkish people. Now I can go for hours at a stretch talking about Istanbul but let me talk about a few points on why I feel Istanbul is a place you should definitely visit.
- The Hagia Sophia
Undoubtedly the most famous site in Istanbul which has literally been the talk of the town for nearly 1500 years now. The Hagia Sophia is a sight to behold. Built in the 6th century as a Byzantine church, it was later converted to a mosque by the Ottomans before finally being converted to a museum in the early 20th century. The Hagia Sophia is still mesmerising to this day as it once was for the thousands of people that visited it centuries ago. What’s fascinating about this place is that it’s one of the rare places in the world to have remnants from two different religions (Christianity and Islam) coexist together in the same building peacefully.
- The Grand Bazaar
Istanbul has many magnificent sites to explore but the one place you certainly cannot miss is the Grand Bazaar. Built in the 15th century, the Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. It is often regarded as one of the first shopping malls in the world. Inside the Bazaar there are thousands of shops to explore from, selling a wide variety of products. You should definitely pick up a few things from here. It is a one of a kind shopping experience plus you get bragging rights that you’ve shopped from one of the most famous bazaars in the world. My recommendation would be the different types of Turkish tea, Turkish delights, Baklava, perfumes, authentic Turkish spices, rugs and souvenirs.
PS: Do not forget to bargain.
- The Bosphorus Cruise
The Bosphorus Strait is a body of water that connects two seas and also separates Istanbul from Europe and Asia. Taking a ferry ride across this strait is one of the most popular tourist things to do in Istanbul. It is scenic, majestic and exhilarating. Now I know there are far more scenic ferry destinations around the world but trust me the Bosphorus cruise won’t let you down. The banks of this strait are serenaded by hundreds of beautiful waterfront houses built by the Ottomans centuries ago. Sitting at the deck of the ferry gazing at the scenic surroundings with a cup of coffee in your hands will make you feel captivated. The journey across the Bosphorus is also a photographer’s paradise. So, don’t forget to click a ton of pictures when you’re here.
- The Food
Istanbul is a food enthusiast’s Nirvana and a meat lover’s Paradise. It is a melting pot of cultures due to the different empires that once ruled here. There are so many different mouth-watering options to choose from whether it’s appetizers, main course or desserts, that it’s absolutely insane. As Indians we take pride in our spices but believe me when I say this, Turkey is equally impressive! Their food is bursting with flavour too. Turkey is incredibly popular for kebabs, meatballs and doner which you can find in almost every menu across Istanbul. Now you’ve probably heard about meatballs and kebabs before, but you must be wondering what’s a ‘doner’? Fun fact: Shawarma originated in Turkey during the Ottoman era and is known as Doner. It is undoubtedly Turkey’s most popular dish and also its greatest food export. No matter what you try, Turkish food is absolutely scrumptious.
Istanbul has many more places to explore and if you plan to stay a couple of more days, do check out Topkapi Palace, The Blue Mosque, Galata Tower and the Spice Bazaar. Istanbul is a destination on every traveller’s bucket list and it certainly lives up to the hype. The best way to experience its amazing history and culture is by hiring a guided organized tour. The local tour guides are very organized & hospitable and will take good care of you so that you have an amazing trip. They also provide the best of recommendations for dining and shopping saving you hours of countless research. The best time to visit Istanbul is between September to November.
So, the next time you’re planning a vacation, head to Istanbul for an unforgettable and memorable experience.