Sunday, July 31, 2011


This post is long overdue but I wanted to ensure to get it up here as it's a pretty complete guide to the major sites of Istanbul.

Following on from my trip with Nicole to Turkey & Greece (refer to several previous posts), we picked up an Istanbul book and the first page listed the 21 Things Not to Miss. Given that we only had two full days in Istanbul, Nicole and I decided to do as many items on this list as humanly possible in those 48 hours. We got through 11 of them. Not bad.

Here’s a snapshot:

1. Yerebatan Sarnici – The “Sunken Cistern” Underground fresh water system designed by the Romans. This was our first sightseeing stop and we were more than impressed by this one.

2. Blue Mosque - This enormous mosque dominates the Istanbul skyline. Covered legs and heads were required! Our “friend” gave us a personal tour.

3. Suleymaniye Camii – The most beautiful mosque in Istanbul. A bit out of the way but I think it’s a must-see.

4. Topkapi Palace – Political center of the Ottoman Empire for four centuries. Unfortunately it was closed the day we were there so while we did a huge loop around it, we couldn’t actually get inside.

5. Hippodrome – Arena of the first Roman city, now marked by this pillar.

6. Visiting a hamam – A hamam is an old architecturally-beautiful bath house where today you can get massaged and exfoliated in the buff by large Turkish women. This was our last stop in Istanbul and most definitely a memorable experience. I’d go back in a heartbeat. And probably wouldn’t be quite as embarrassed the second time around.

7. “Dessert Time” – There are many Turkish sweets, most famously Turkish Delight, Baklava and plenty of other little pastries and icecream.

8. Galata Tower - Built as a defense tower but now open to the public for good views of the city.

9. Bosphorus Cruise – The Bosphorus River splits Istanbul across two continents, Europe & Asia. A cruise down the Bosphorus provides views of both. We spent nearly an entire day on a cruise and met some German friends along the way too.

10. Grand Bazaar – Outdoor shopping market with over 1,000 stalls selling rugs, spices, scarves, bags and pretty much anything else you could ever want.

11. Aya Sophia – “The Church of the Divine Wisdom”, containing some very old mosaics.

And, believe it or not, we managed to fit in a few things that weren’t on the list.

• I made a friend at dinner:

• Saw a twirling dervish

• Walked up and down the Istikal Cadessi (The Magnificent Mile equivalent) in the hip town of Beyoglu where we stayed

• Saw fisherman lined up on a bridge catching fish to sell to the nearby restaurants

• And heard the call of prayer….5 times a day!

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