Istanbul has been a well-known destination since time immemorial. It was counted among the richest cities in Europe during the Roman era. The location of the city made it a wonderful trading point and till date Istanbul is the financial and cultural capital of Turkey. There are numerous historic mosques in the city dating to the Ottoman and Byzantine era that attract the attention of the visitors.
Istanbul has a number of interesting museums which feature historic artefacts, Islamic artefacts and several relics depicting the bygone and present cultures and heritage. The Istanbul Archaeology Museum, Istanbul Museum of Modern Art and the museum housed in Hagia Sophia are worth visiting. The Hippodrome, the Taksim Square, Topkapi Palace and the Galata Bridge and Tower are especially worth visiting for their architecture and views.
Istanbul offers a varied shopping scene. From crowded bazaars to modern shopping malls the city offers an excellent shopping scene. The Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Spice Bazaar are of special mention because of the sheer variety of items that they have. The best things to buy in these markets include authentic rugs, jewellery, spices, perfumes and traditional clothing. There are also several contemporary malls where one can enjoy a luxurious shopping experience. There are some good malls on the European side of Istanbul such asCevahir, Metro City, Kanyon, City's Nisantasi, etc.
The wondrous city of Istanbul is where the East meets the West. Its wealth of attractions offer an incredible cultural experience for visitors, with rich heritage and years of history emanating from every corner of the city. We have listed a few of the highlights and must-visit attractions for travellers in Istanbul.
Hagia Sophia: A recognised historical and architectural wonder of the world, the Hagia Sophia is one of Istanbul’s most venerated and exalted monuments. It is admired for its architecture, grandness and size, and is considered to be one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture to have survived. A visit to the monument should be on the top of any sight-seeing itinerary to Istanbul.
Blue Mosque: Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Blue Mosque is one of the most historic mosques in Turkey and was built during the rule of the Ottoman Empire in the 1600s. The magnificent building structure features a massive dome and a total of six minarets and eight secondary domes. It serves at a mosque even at present.
Topkapı Palace: The majestic Topkapı Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is well known for being an excellent example of palace complexes of the Ottoman period. Built in the mid-15th century, the palace was the former residence of Ottoman sultans and a setting for royal events and functions. At present it is a museum and attracts numbers of tourists throughout the year.
Basilica Cistern: Travellers visiting the Hagia Sophia should also spend some time to visit the Basilica Cistern, which is located just a few feet away, beneath the city. The enormous ancient cistern complex and underground chamber date back to the 6th century CE when it was built to provide water to the city.
Süleymaniye Mosque: Istanbul’s largest mosque is one of the best-known sights in the city. The mosque was built in the 16th century under the orders of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire – Suleiman the Magnificent. The complex also encompasses a hamam, medrese a hospital and a caravanserai that can be visited.
Grand Bazaar: Offering over 3,000 shops across 61 streets, the Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s largest and oldest markets and attracts around 400,000 visitors each day – making it the most-visited attraction in the world. Items at the shopping complex range from local crafts to clothes ad textiles to antique items, providing endless shopping opportunities for shoppers.
The nearest airport to Istanbul is the Istanbul Ataturk Airport. It is located about 20 Km from the city centre. The airport caters to domestic as well as international flights. From the Istanbul Ataturk Airport visitors can take taxis which cost around 35-40 TL for a one way journey or express buses which cost 10 TL for a one way trip. Public bus service is also available from the airport at just 5 TL for a one way trip. Metro service is also available from the airport to the city centre.
There is another airport in Istanbul on the Anatolian side (European side), the SabihaGokcen International Airport. This airport is also connected to the city centre by a HavatasBus that costs 13 TL. There is also a public bus line that operates from the airport to the city centre.
For Muslim travellers Istanbul offers a wide choice of halal restaurants to pick from. The best halal restaurants in Istanbul includeHayat Cafe, Asitane, Mozaik Café,Hamdi Restaurant, 360Istanbul Restaurant, Bab-i Hayat Restaurant, Istanbul Modern, etc. There are restaurants and cafes around the Taksim Squareand in the Grand Bazaar where visitors can find delectable halal food.
Turkey being an Islamic country does not have any dearth of mosques. There are numerous mosques in Istanbul and almost every street has a masjid. The Sultanahmet Mosque, SuleymaniyeMosque, YeniValide Mosque, Laleli Mosque, Sehzade Mosque, Mihrima Mosque, Fatih Mosque, etc. The mosques in Istanbul are mainly of Ottoman or Byzantine styles of architecture.