There is a sense of timelessness when you visit Istanbul. The magical confluence of the East and West can be experienced here as you can see layers of history unfold in every nook and corner. As dervishes swirl, you are swept away into a bygone era. There are many reasons to visit Istanbul – from its rich cultural diversity to its bustling markets, from the delicious culinary heritage to the vibrant local life, from traditional Turkish hospitality to the cheap hotels. The rich tapestry of history can be seen in the sights and sounds and in the many places to visit in Istanbul. While there are many things to see in Istanbul, it is the vibe that fascinates me. There is something special about Istanbul and personally, it is unlike any other city that I have been to. You almost feel like you have experienced many cities in just a single visit. Here are my five reasons to visit Istanbul , a charming city with its unique mosaic of cultures.
1.Asia meets Europe
One of the many reasons to visit Istanbul is to cruise on the Bosphorus and soak in the atmosphere where Asia meets Europe. A transcontinental city, Istanbul is steeped in antiquity and was once a strategic destination on the Silk Route inviting several merchants. And even today, the rich and cultural heritage stands as a testimony to these ancient inhabitants. But while Istanbul may be the meeting point of Asia and Europe today, it was once the home of four different empires – the Romans, the Latin, the Byzantine, and the Ottomans. And the city still retains its eclectic blend of the East and the West in its fabric. The places to visit in Istanbul capture the very essence of this unique diversity.
2. Art and Architecture
The blend of the East and West can be seen in the art and architecture in Istanbul. Every empire has left its mark in the monuments, including the Romans and the Greeks but it’s the grandiose of the Byzantine empire and the craftsmanship of the Ottomans that can be experienced even today in the churches and mosques. The monuments of Istanbul tell a story of the historic past – be it the iconic Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque, the Top Kapi Palace or the Dolmabahce Palace.These are some the places to visit in Istanbul. The colourful frescos and mosaics are priceless treasures. Museums and galleries are storehouses of stories. And you can literally become a time traveller by visiting these classical monuments.
Istanbul is not just about monuments and museums, but the living history can be captured in vibrant markets. The old-world charm can be experienced in the bustling lanes. Walking along the ageless Grand Bazaar, you are lost in the covered alleys which are home to over 5000 shops selling everything from ceramics to carpets. The historic Grand Bazaar called Kapali Carsi dates to the Medieval Ages when Istanbul was the hub of merchants. It is easy to lose your way around this maze with 22 ancient gateways taking you into a different world. The 17th century Egyptian Spice Bazaar is an assault on your senses, where besides spices, you can treat yourself to Turkish coffee as well. There are many more markets in Istanbul like the old market of books at Sahaflar or the culinary feast at the Sunday Inebolu market or the loud Carsamba market every Wednesday. You dont visit Istanbul and not head to these old markets, which are some of the things to see in Istanbul.
With its rich cultural heritage and the fascinating blend of East and West, Turkish cuisine is a delicious blend of the diversity. While Turkish coffee is an international favourite, they are also known for their teas. Turkish cuisine is largely influenced by the Ottoman dynasty and you get a variety of kebabs, mezes and spicy rice-based dishes as well. The cuisine caters to both vegetarians and meat-eaters with a variety of dishes. A speciality for breakfast is menemen, made with vegetables, eggs, cheese and olive oil. Turkish desserts and sweets are delicious and a trip is not complete if you do not try the varieties of baklava or indulge in some fun as you taste the elastic Turkish icecream called dondurma. And all this rich and elaborate food can be washed down by their national drink, a spirited drink called raki, made with fermented aniseed. When you visit Istanbul, make sure that you spend enough time in the local cafes, bars and eateries Istanbul also has a vibrant night life and one of the things to see in Istanbul are the local taverns and kabab restaurants besides cocktail bars.
There is something special about Turkish hospitality that needs to be experienced. Personally, for me, Istanbul is all about local flavor – be it at the coffee houses and tea gardens, the traditional baths or the hamams, the markets or at the taverns. All these are part of every itinerary and things to see in Istanbul. The locals love to woo you with their hospitality and you must stay in any of the local hotels here. There are different kinds of accommodations here to suit every budget – be it budget hotels in Istanbul or luxury hotels, boutique guesthouses, and bed and breakfast options. The Turks will ensure that their guests are very well taken care of and will pamper you all the time.
There are many more reasons to visit Istanbul and here is also a guide for 48 hours in Istanbul.Do share with us some of your recommendations for places to visit in Istanbul. If you have not been to Istanbul before, then make sure that this vibrant historic city is in your travel itinerary this year.