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There is so much to see in Istanbul I could not contain this article to just one post. So here is our second set of reasons to visit Istanbul and make sure to check out Part 1 if you have not read it yet!
Topkapi palace is an overwhelmingly ornate maze of palatial buildings and stunning views of the Bosporus. Alex and I spent half a day here and can confidently say that we probably saw less than half of the palace. Topkapi palace was the main ottoman palace for the Sultans from 1465 to 1865 and some of the most important sultans of the ottoman age resided here including Sultan Mehmed II, who began construction of the palace. For me the most interesting part of the palace was exploring the Harem, which does cost extra but it is worth it. The Harem was perhaps the most intricate and beautiful section of the palace however as you are walking around you are reminded that this was really a whole world for them. Only the Sultan was allowed to enter the Harem.
Ferry to Asia
Visiting the Asia side of Istanbul is definitely an experience and a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Asia side of Istanbul is definitely worth checking out even if just for the Ferry ride across the Bosphorus. You will get amazing panorama views of Istanbul and also appreciate how much the city’s life is focused on the waterways. The waterways are really one of the main reasons that Istanbul has always been such an important city and the site of so many great empires. It is no surprise that Istanbul became the capital of the Roman Empire after Rome because of how strategic its location is.
The Asian side of Istanbul is much quieter and subdued than the European side but it is nice to see how the actual citizens of Istanbul live, from the quiet and peaceful mosques to the grocery stores and food stands that line the streets. One of my favorite moments in Istanbul was simply sitting in a park on the Asian side of Istanbul, soaking up the sun and eating a delicious cheese pastry called Borek and roast chicken. Who needs restaurants?
The Spice Bazaar is a must see while in Istanbul, for one it smells amazing, and I found it much more interesting than the Grand Bazaar. The mounds of spices are gorgeous and bright, all colors of the rainbows, and besides spices you also have tea and turkish delight. If you travel for food definitely stop in at the Spice Bazaar. Food is such an integral part of Turkish culture that you would be missing out on a piece of the city if you do not stop at the Spice Bazaar. You can see locals mingling with tourists taking photos (AKA me) as they go about their business of shopping for their families.
Sultanahmet is the old city of Istanbul found just south of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. It is a great little district filled with old building, twisting streets, kabob man and great restaurants. A lot of hostels are located in sultanahmet and are very reasonable and centrally located too, although on the downside of this the area can be a bit touristy. It is a great neighborhood to explore though and I am so glad that we ended up staying here. Our some of our best meals in Istanbul were in sultanahemet: kabob man, this amazing seafood restaurant and a restaurant called Doy-Doy, which has great cheap and delicious kabobs and pide or Turkish style pizzas.
Last but certainly not least is Apple Tea. It may seem strange to see tea as a reason to visit Istanbul but Apple Tea is everywhere in Istanbul. Apple tea seems to be the drink of choice in Istanbul where it is consumed before, during and after a meal, with hookah, and alone. Any occasion can call for apple tea. I don’t think I will ever drink apple tea again without thinking of Istanbul and the mornings drinking it and Turkish coffee while enjoying the view of the Bosporus or in the afternoon taking time to smoke some hookah and drink tea.
Istanbul is a wonderful city and a city that has capture my imagination since I first read about it. It is one of those cities that lived up to the hype and is worth exploring. I cannot wait to return here to experience again it’s beautiful mosques, the Hagia Sofia, the basilica cistern and of course it’s amazing food and apple tea. If you have a chance to visit Istanbul do not hesitate; you will fall in love with this beautiful city!
If you liked this article check out our other articles on Istanbul: