Reasons to visit Istanbul are not difficult to find. This fabulous city that straddles two continents (Europe and Asia) is the capital city of Turkey and is an absolute jewel. It is everything a capital city should be and the key reasons to visit Istanbul take in the incredible history that stretches from the birth of civilization to the modern day, an amazing heritage of art and architecture, a multi-ethnic and colorful culture and entertainments galore. I never need an excuse to go but here are my 7 Inviting Reasons to Visit Istanbul.
The most basic of reasons to visit Istanbul is that is tourist heaven. It’s easy to navigate on foot, there are a mass of things to do in a relatively small area and the sights are a delight. Istanbul is a photographer’s paradise. The light is amazing most of the year, the street and its inhabitants are interesting, the neighborhoods authentic, it boasts an enviable sea front location and there are markets, museums, mosques et al galore.
If you’re a fan of boutique hotels you’ll find plenty of reasons to visit Istanbul. There are some really excellent hotels in Taksim and Harbiye. Both are part of the new city on the European side and there’s a really good selection of international hotels here that are moderately priced. Taksim is great for shopping and entertainment. For decently priced hotels offering good views of the Golden Horn, the Marmara Sea and the Blue Mosque, stay in Sultanahmet. If your budget stretches a little further, pricey hotels are found on the banks of or overlooking the Bosphorus and in the western suburbs.
Shopping is an adventure and alone is enough reason to visit Istanbul. Head to the Grand Bazaar and the tiny interconnecting streets or the Spice Market for a truly authentic shopping experience. Sip tea whilst vendors tempt you with their wares and enjoy the heady aromas. Take care not to be railroaded, learn to haggle and you’ll find some fabulous bargains. All of the traditional market areas are in the old city so if you prefer your shopping more sanitized head to the new part to one of the many modern malls. The most exclusive mall is Kanyon, found in the Levent district. Kilim rugs can be best found around Sutanahmet and another good buy is a local semi-precious stone called chalcedony.
Ah, The Bosphorus! The stretch of water that connects the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea, separating Europe from Asia is gorgeous. To see it at its best in late Spring when the Judas trees which line its banks are in full bloom with dark pink flowers is surely one of the most compelling reasons to visit Istanbul. Cruises on the Bosphorus are one the most favorite activities in Istanbul. Go at night when the lights from the neighborhoods lining the banks dance on the water. In the daytime you’ll be able to see the clusters of old Ottoman wooden houses, 6 Ottoman palaces, 2 medieval castles and 2 bridges.
Istanbul boasts a history woven into the very fabric of human time. Known as Byzantium way back in 660 BC, Istanbul has always been a strategic settlement including being on the trade route known as the Silk Road. It has passed through many guises and 2 name changes – from Byzantium to Constantinople to Istanbul – has been the crown city of three empires and it has remained opulent and thriving. Its history is evident in its multi-cultural architecture. The Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, the Church of Saint Sophia, the Dolmabahce Palace, the Sulemaniye Mosque, Bankalar Caddesi and the Galata Tower should be top of your architectural reasons to visit Istanbul.
If you think Turkish food is a greasy strip of meat in a pitta bread, you couldn’t be more wrong. Turkish food is delicious. Again, the multi-cultural facets of this fabulous city are represented in the tastes and flavors of its cuisine. Eating authentic Turkish food in a traditional lokanta (local restaurant) or Meyhane (wine house – like a Spanish Tapas bar) is certainly one of my personal favorite reasons to visit Istanbul. Deeply spiced aromatic casseroles, the titbits of Meze , velvety vegetable dips are standard fare. Sure, there’s kebabs, but real ones where the meat is tender and juicy and the bread fluffy. Munch on some imaginative salads followed by some sticky baklava and of course some gooey Turkish Delight.
You might not be able to dance on the tiles of the blue mosque but the nightlife of Istanbul is stupendous. The sun goes down, the Bosphorous shines with the light of a million stars and the action starts. Many restaurants have rooftop terraces with live music and they compete with a mass of bars, nightclubs and discos, especially along Istikal Street in Beyoglu. If you’ve heard that it’s party, party, party on some of the Mediterranean Islands, Istanbul offers them stiff competition. The huge number of meyhanes, wine bars, live music clubs, dance clubs, tea gardens and waterpipe (hookah) clubs are all reasons to visit Istanbul.
Istanbul is a shining jewel and I haven’t even mentioned the historical sites, the array of archaeological interest, the museums, the art galleries, walking tours and of course the hamam (Turkish baths) that are more reasons to visit Istanbul. Turkey takes its tourism very seriously and if you choose to be guided around the capital, it is very well organized. English is widely spoken. Go it alone and discover a world of adventure and exhilaration. I hope you’ve been tempted by my Inviting Reasons to Visit Istanbul.
Top Photo Credit: weheartit.com
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