Our Top Reasons to Visit Istanbul

 

Our Top Reasons To Visit (2)Istanbul is one of my favorite cities; it is loud, chaotic, bright and full of life.  The people are friendly, the food is fantastic and as cliche as it is to say it is a clash of the east and west.  I feel like Istanbul is the one city you can truly say this.  Being based on the Bosphorus, Istanbul, or in ancient times Constantinople, has always been the basis for trade between the west and the east.  In this city you have stunning ancient roman ruins likes the Basilica Cistern, ruins of Byzantine walls which kept the Huns out, graceful mosques that dot the skyline, and a thriving modern city.  Alex and I visited Istanbul for eight days and I could have stayed for a month.  There are so many reasons to visit Istanbul but here are some of my favorites.

Sunset over Istanbul
Sunset over Istanbul

 

The Book Bazaar

I love old books and I actually collect old books as souvenirs during my travels so I had to visit the book bazaar. The book bazaar is a mix of shops and stands selling both old and new books in a variety of languages. Tucked between the university and the grand bazaar, it can be a little tough to find but it is worth it if you are a bibliophile. While we were there I picked up a book from 1920 called “The Way We Travel”; it is a children’s book that explained all the different methods of travel available then including the brand new underground metro in New York. I also picked up an Ottoman dictionary and Alex picked up a copy of Shakespeare’s plays published in 1930.

The "How We Travel" book is a school book for children from the 1920s.  The underground subway in New York was a big deal then.  So happy I was able to find this book at the Bazaar
The “How We Travel” book is a school book for children from the 1920s. The underground subway in New York was a big deal then. So happy I was able to find this book at the Bazaar

 

Turkish Baths

The Turkish baths were one of the more interesting experiences that Alex and I had but well worth it. Alex truly loved the baths and I’m pretty sure the post he wrote on them could be considered a love letter. I also enjoyed it however, if you are a bit shy this may not be the activity for you. To be fair, I was a bit uncomfortable at first but it was fantastic and I am glad that I sucked it up and went.

 

Kabob man

Kabobs!!! Kabob man was our favorite food in Istanbul!
Kabobs!!! Kabob man was our favorite food in Istanbul!
My Kabob!  Not yours!
My Kabob! Not yours!

Kabob man (our nickname for him) was about the greatest person we met while in Istanbul. Every night he would bring his cart out to Sultanahmet and sell a variety of kabobs and once he was sold out that was it; he would pack up and go home. He set up in downtown Sultanhemet right next to the Big Apple Hostel.  Kabob man is super popular so he sells out quickly so get there early. It will be worth it!

Alex is over joyed to have Kabob man right outside our hostel
Alex is overjoyed to have Kabob man right outside our hostel
Simple ingredients for the best kabob in Istanbul.
Simple ingredients for the best kabob in Istanbul.

Suleiman’s Mosque

Sulieman's Mosque

Suleiman’s Mosque is not one of the first stops that tourists make when they visit Istanbul but we happened to stumble upon it while we were exploring the first day and I instantly fell in love with it. The mosque is very different from the Blue Mosque with it’s graceful and elegant yet simplistic design. There is a serenity and peace here which seems more pronounced than in the Blue Mosque.

Simple arabic above the entrance to Sulieman's Mosque
Simple arabic above the entrance to Sulieman’s Mosque

Blue Mosque

The intricate Blue Mosque
The intricate Blue Mosque

Just because Suleiman’s Mosque is my favorite does not mean you should not visit the Blue Mosque. This building is absolutely stunning. It sits across the park from the Hagia Sophia and is overwhelmingly ornate inside. The walls are covered with bright and vibrant mosaics that soar upwards to the ceiling. You can spend hours just looking at all the intricate designs. Alex and I definitely spent a solid two hours in the Blue Mosque just soaking it in.

Alex in front of the Blue Mosque
Alex in front of the Blue Mosque
The ceiling of the Blue Mosque is made up of little mosaic tiles to form the intricate designs.
The ceiling of the Blue Mosque is made up of little mosaic tiles to form the intricate designs.

Taksim Square

View of Taksim which is the nightlife heart of Istanbul
View of Taksim which is the nightlife heart of Istanbul

Taksim Square is across the Bosporus but still on the Europe side of Istanbul and is worth a visit. There are great shops here and great nightlife too. When we were in Istanbul we spent one of our last nights in Taksim and I wish we had gone out sooner. We ended up at two live music joints, one being a metal bar not playing metal, and had a fantastic night out. We met some Germans who insisted we visit Freiburg (we apologize that we have not visited yet) and we drank beer and tequila till the sun rose, successful night in my book.

Hagia Sophia

Few places can really be said to combine east and west but as cliche as it may be, the Hagia Sophia really does encompass both east and west
Few places can really be said to combine east and west but as cliche as it may be, the Hagia Sophia really does encompass both east and west

The Hagia Sophia is really the place that embodies the clash of east and west in Istanbul. It was originally a Byzantine church built by Emperor Justinian in the early 500sCE and was converted into a mosque after Istanbul was conquered in 1453 by the ottoman Turks. It is a beautiful building that still has the original frescoes from the cathedral on the walls mixed with Muslim elements. It is definitely worth seeing and spending some time in the Hagia Sophia.

The Medieval Frescoes on the wall of the Hagia Sophia
The Medieval Frescoes on the wall of the Hagia Sophia

Also look forward to our second half of this post, we love Istanbul so much we couldn’t contain it to just one post!

 

12 thoughts on “Our Top Reasons to Visit Istanbul

  1. I’d love to make it over to Istanbul one day. I’ve always been attracted to going there but somehow never did. The book market totally seems like an awesome place, I’ll definitely keep this in mind if I ever visit…

    Like

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