Istanbul.. If all the trees of the world were quills and all the seas were ink, it would not be enough to describe the love you will fall into. Once you breathe in the history, the beauty, the reminiscence of the descendants, you will never be the same again. Wherever you go, this feeling will haunt you and never let you stop missing it. Whatever the reason you happen to pass by, Istanbul will touch your heart with its sorrow beauty and you will find yourself dreaming about giving up your career, school, money, friends and start a new life here. Once you look into this mistress deep blue eyes, a piece of your soul will drown in it and she will ruthlessly add you next to her many lovers. Let them talk about the economical imbalance, dangerous alleys, infuriating traffic, the best love is the one that is difficult. And yes, Istanbul passed through fires, great wars, glorious conquers, uneasy defeats, emperors, sultans, revolutions, countless riots, lots of religions, cultures, and civilizations, yet she learned to feed on chaos, never expect her to be easy. Let me finish my ode to love and learn how to travel Istanbul as a newbie.
Let’s say you have limited time and trying to feel the thrill right away, there are two shortcut options:
Shortcut (1) Bosphorus Tour:
Go to Ortaköy and take the Bosphorus boat tour. You will be able to travel Istanbul from its heart, see all those glorious palaces, architectures, luxury, poverty, history and nature at the same time. Even if you have sea sickness, you will be too dazzled by the view to feel sick.
Shortcut(2) Sneak into University campus:
If you are searching the best view, to sum up Istanbul for you into a moment, you have to trespass. Bogaziçi University has the best view of Istanbul. Also, the famous poet Orhan Veli’s statue is there to accompany you. You should find the Bogazici University South Campus (güney kampüsü) next to Rumelihisar. Then you should walk through the entrance like you live there. Nobody will ask you anything if you act normal. Then start to walk from the right side of the thin road down. Ask for the place called “petek” in there. You will find the people of the campus so friendly. When you find petek, sit down and enjoy the drink you bring with you. I suggest you go there in the evening to watch the city ending a busy day and rushing to have fun while the lights of the bridges flashing one by one.
Istanbul is a really large and complicated city with a lot to offer. There are literally thousands of things to do and see. There is no way to list all the things you should do but like a classical travel article would do, there are a few that we can offer to give you the idea of how long your trip should be. Main historic attractions will take about 2 to 3 days to cover. Seeing the Bosporus, Galata and Taksim will take another day. Having covered these, you will probably want to cover some advanced stuff like tasting the nightlife or finding the hidden places, shopping at the world's greatest malls depending on your preference for a couple of days. Overall, you will need at least 5 days to even say that you saw Istanbul! You can find an overview of the top tourist attractions in Istanbul here:
The Blue Mosque is located in Sultan Ahmet and opens from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. It was built 17th-century and has six minarets. Everyone wants to know if it is really blue or not. Actually, the walls are covered with blue Iznik tiles but it is not remarkable.
Hagia Sophia is in the Sultan Ahmet neighborhood and considered the masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. The building includes the history of Istanbul with beautiful Christian mosaics and brilliant Islamic calligraphy. In 1453, Sultan Mehmed II conquered Istanbul and this main church was so beautiful, sultan Mehmed decided it to be converted into a mosque. It remained a mosque until 1931, then it was closed to the public for four years and re-opened in 1935 as a museum. Hagia Sophia is attracting almost 3.3 million visitors annually and can be visited from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
The Topkapi Palace was the home of the Ottoman Sultans and their harems (families) from 1465 to 1856. The palace became a museum in 1924. It is a fascinating place with brilliant architecture and exciting exhibits such as the staff of Moses and a beard hair of Muhammad, resplendent jewelry of harem woman and Ottoman dresses. Topkapi palace is the heart of Ottoman history in Istanbul. If you are familiar with the popular Ottoman sultans like Hurrem Sultan, Safiye Sultan, Suleyman the Magnificent, they all lived there. All those well-known palace intrigues took stage here. The museum can be visited from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. and is closed on Tuesdays.
Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and biggest shopping markets in the world and located one mile away from Sultan Ahmet. In Grand Bazaar, there are restaurants, cafés, mosques and thousands of shops. Carpets, clothes and art pieces are popular products sold in the bazaar.
Süleymaniye Hamami was built by Turkish architect Mimar Sinan in 1557 and named after Süleyman the Magnificent. The Süleymaniye Hamami is a historic Turkish bath and part of the Süleymaniye Mosque.
Dolmabahçe Palace was built in the 19th century and used by the last Ottoman sultans. The architecture of the building combined the European and Arabic style of designs. Additionally, the palace has an amazing view along the Bosporus. The palace greets visitors every day except Monday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Galata Tower has the best view of Istanbul from the Beyoglu side. The origin of the tower is based on the 6th century but it was restored in the 1960s. Besides the view and history, the visitors can find a restaurant and, at night, a nightclub at the top.