Welcome to Istanbul
Here are our top 3 places to visit in Istanbul, just to keep it simple for you, as Istanbul can be quite a challenge and easily overload all of your senses. Our advice is go. Go now.
There are few cities in the world which are as fascinating and mysterious as Istanbul. This might not be a city that particularly calls out to you generally, it really wasn’t somewhere I ever fancied going, but then I accidentally fell into a trip (that’s another story), and I discovered a city I fell in love with, and have returned time and time again.
You might have an idea of a dirty, bustling city, full of unfriendly locals and bad treatment of women, with over-inflated egos of men, but you actually couldn’t be further from the truth.
Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents – Asia and Europe, which in my opinion is a damn good reason to visit anyway, but it’s about much more than that.
Here’s a few highlights, and places I particularly enjoyed. Istanbul wasn’t at all what I expected, and hopefully this will help to turn your attention potentially towards this huge and fascinating city too. Oh, and before we continue, no, Istanbul is not Turkey’s capital, that would be Ankara – a common mistake many people make.
Places to Visit in Istanbul 1 – Sultanahmet
This is the historic part of the city, and where most people tend to stay during their first visit, that is until they discover Taksim, but we’ll get onto that a little later.
Sultanahmet is home to the famous Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, and the scarily large Grand Bazaar.
It’s a rite of passage to get lost in the Grand Bazaar, I lost most of an afternoon in there, but I’m told that even locals get lost, so don’t feel too bad on yourself! There are countless other attractions in Sultanahmet, but these are the main three ones which you should definitely visit if you don’t get chance to get around to the others, such as Topkapi Palace.
Places to Visit in Istanbul 2 – Bosphorus cruise
Ok, so not exactly about a place to visit, more something to do, the destination is up to you. I was more in it for the cruise across the Bosphorus myself. If you like seagulls, you’re going to love this; if you don’t love seagulls, give this a miss, because you might feel a little like you’re their next meal!
The Bosphorus is the huge body of water which cuts through Istanbul, separating the two continents, and a cruise across this is a must do.
The bridge lights up at night, which is a pretty special sight to see – that is if you manage to get to the other side without having your head pecked off by hungry seagulls.
Places to Visit in Istanbul 3 – Taksim
Taksim is basically shopping and nightlife central. You might think that this means there’s nothing of historical interest or cultural fun here, but the buildings around it are spectacular, and the nightlife is pretty amazing.
It’s not unusual to be trying to find a taxi at around 4am, with the streets still bustling with people. Food here is also out of this world, and the street food is often better than that you will find in sit-down restaurants – of course, you have the other side of the coin – it’s cheap!
I’m not going to lie, Istanbul is very busy, and it’s not somewhere you’re going to manage to relax in too much, but it’s an amazing city to visit, and the skyline will blow your mind if nothing else manages to. You won’t see everything, so make peace with that fact, but you can always go back, right?
Top 3 Places to Visit in Istanbul – by Nicola Curtis