Istanbul – a blend of East and West
Istanbul is the perfect blend of East and West, past and present, a combination of Eastern culture and Western way of life. The only city in the world that is located on Asia and Europe is Istanbul. The city still keeps valuables of three empires in which it was the main political and economic center for more than 1600 years.
Do you want to feel the real charm of metropolitan bustle with deafening noise of street vendors and ship sirens from the city’s port? Then, Istanbul is the place to go..
Istanbul is full of beautiful buildings from the past – Hagia Sophia, the Grand Mosque, Suleymaniye, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Saray, and Dolmabahce Saray.
Istanbul is a place where you meet two cultures – east and west.
What to avoid?
Extremely heavy traffic, especially during the morning and evening. Istanbul is a city with millions of people so the traffic is overcrowded every day. If you don’t want to lose time on transportation, have that in your mind.
At the time of the Congress or the Formula 1 race, it’s hard to find room.
Beware of petty thieves – they can steal your wallet and documents. You don’t want to stay in foreign country without ID and passport? Right?
Some good restaurants can be quite expensive
In Istanbul, you can buy anything. Latest things are expensive but high quality. Do not buy at Kapali Carsi and around the small shops. Good things can be found in Akmerkez, Levant or in the Gallery Bakirkoy.
Their kitchen is phenomenal, and restaurants are on the every corner. They are not too expensive, but beware of the waiters (they are known for cheating). You need to try their quality Turkish food with lots of vegetables, cooked ingredients, strong spices that gives meal an interesting and delicious touch.
If the noise and bustle of the city get too much, nothing can beat a trip to the Bosporus, the straits separating Europe and Asia, which join the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. The easiest way to travel is by boat. The Bosporus is especially popular in summer, when the cool breezes off the water provide welcome relief from the heat of the city.
Within a radius of 250 km (150 miles) of Istanbul there are many destinations worth visiting. To the northwest is Edirne, an attractive riverside town and the location of several fine mosques. South of Istanbul is Bursa, which lies at the foot of Uludag, a mountain famed for its skiing. Closer to Istanbul are the Black Sea resorts of Sile and Kilyos, and the Princes’ Islands, popular in summer, which are easily reached by ferry. The war cemeteries of the Dardanelles and the site of ancient Troy require a longer trip.
Staff picks and must see in Istanbul
Shoppers need to stop at the Grand Bazaar. It is lined with 5,000 shops and restaurants. When shoppers get tired, they can sit and relax at a café or restaurant. Watching the other shoppers and the vendors is its own entertainment. Available items include carpets, spices, jewelry, leather, religious icons, furniture, and ceramics. Be sure to haggle for the best possible price as that is the custom in Turkey.
A less hectic shopping experience can be found in the Spice Bazaar also known as the Egyptian Bazaar. The Egyptian Bazaar isn’t as large as the Grand Bazaar, but defiantly worth a visit.
Most people have heard of the Hagia Sophia as it is one of the largest, oldest, and most beautiful cathedrals in the world. Built in 537 C.E., the Hagia Sophia started as a Christian cathedral, and then served as a Mosque beginning in the 1400s. Now it is a museum.
Visitors are fascinated by the dome as it is 182 feet high. Forty windows surround the dome letting in sunlight and highlighting the gold mosaics and marble columns. An impressive marble door is located at the southern entrance.
Take a Bosphorus Cruise
Consider a half or full day cruise on the Bosphorus Strait. Cruising the strait is fascinating as it divides Europe and Asia. Visitors can view Istanbul from both the Turkish and Asian shores. Stops along the way include mosques, shops, and restaurants. While on the strait visitors can see museums, palaces, forest covered hills, and villages.
Dolmabahce Palace is significant to Turkey as it was the home of the last Ottoman Sultan and the government center of the Ottoman Empire. Guests will be able to see what it really was like to live in the palace in its original state as all of the furniture, decorations, curtains, paintings, furnishings, and carpets are original.
Home to the largest ballroom in the world, an impressive 4.5 ton crystal chandelier adorns the room’s dome ceiling. Every room of the palace is filled with unique art, candelabras, fireplaces, and chandeliers. Dolmabahce Palace is home to six Turkish baths.
The Blue Mosque earned its name because of the blue tiles on top of the six minarets and the roof, and portions of the interior. At least 20,000 hand painted ceramic tulip tiles cover the lower level of the interior. The mihrad portion of the mosque is impressive and gorgeous as it is made of carved marble.