Istanbul straddles the east and the west with ease - literally and figuratively! The city buzzes with life, breathes history in every alleyway, is a cultural experience that is rarely found, and is home to friendly hospitable people. The only country that straddles the east and the west, the mix of the eastern and western is palpable in Istanbul and only adds to its charm. So when your cruise ship docks here, alight and come fall prey!
Take a Bosphorus boat tour to get a different perspective of this beautiful city. See Istanbuland life by the river and there is a choice of tours you could take depending on how much time you have at your disposal. Cruise along and view the Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce palace to the Yildiz Park and palace and many more sights that will keep you enthralled.
THINGS TO DO AND SEE
- The Hagia Sophia has served alternately as a church, a mosque and is now a museum. It is known for its architecture as well as its interiors that reflect the Byzantine and Ottoman empires
- Located in the Sultanahmet area, the Blue Mosqueis a sight to behold, with a series of domes and minarets. It is an active mosque so be sure to dress appropriately when you visit this beautifully serene attraction that also happens to be one of the biggest tourist draws in Istanbul.
- The Topkapi Palace in Sultanahmet has been a museum for almost a century now and holds some fascinating and valuable pieces of art, including the largest clock collection in the world. Situated on top of a hill it commands a breathtaking view of the Seas of Maramara, the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus.
- The Basilica Cistern has been in existence since the 6th century and is the main source of water for Istanbul's citizens. These underground cisterns just show us how advanced technology was in Roman times for them to have built this archaeological wonder. Located very close to the Blue Mosque, the Sunken Palace as it is sometimes known can hold up to an amazing 2.8 million cubic feet of water!
- The Dolmabahce Palace is a bit of Versailles in Istanbul.Built along theBosphorus this stunning palace is a study of traditional Ottoman architecture mixed the European Baroque and neo classical styles. While you are there, do have a look at the largest Bohemian glass chandelier in the world that it houses.
- Survey the city below from the Galata Towerthat soars 219 feet high, and dominates the citys skyline. At one time the tower was used as an observation tower to spot fires. In present times one can ride up nine floors in an elevator to have a cup of coffee at the café on top while you take in the panoramic views of the city below.
Shoppers of the world unite at the Grand Bazaar a labyrinth of over 4,000 shops making it one of the largest indoor marketplaces in the world. Everyone who comes to Istanbul pays a visit to the largest indoor marketplace in the world that was established in the 14th century. You will find a plethora of things to buy, from the ubiquitous 'evil eye' ( every one buys one!) to hand painted ceramics, to jewelry, spices, carpets and kilims that Turkey is well known for and a host of others items. It will be a rewarding and serendipitous journey indeed!
GRAB A BITE
Turkish food has delighted through the ages, whether it is the ubiquitous kebabs or the melt in your mouth baklava. Simit is Turkey's answer to the bagel and it is delicious chewy bread available at every street corner you turn. The street food is fantastic and you can try whether it is 'kebap', 'kofte' or 'doner' be adventurous and go ahead try it! And you really cannot leave Istanbul without a cup of Turkish coffee can you? The very concept of coffee and conversation probably was invented in Turkey, so take your time at a cafe, have meaningful conversation with your companion and sip your coffee - and if you are looking for an atmospheric coffee shop make your way to FazilBey in Kadıköy Market with the aroma of freshly ground coffee wafting into the street outside.
At the start of summer the temps are fairly cool at approximately 70F°/21.5C°, though it gets a bit hotter in July and August when temperatures get about 10 degrees warmer, after which it starts to cool down.
The Turkish Lira is the local currency in use, though credit cards are widely accepted most every where.