Istanbul seems like another world. Just as Mehmed the Conqueror said (“Mehmed was a 1400s sultan who ruled Turkey)” Either I conquer Istanbul or Istanbul conquers me. ” It is still, I think the philosophy should be explored and see Istanbul. While it may seem overwhelming at first, with a little planning, you can “conquer” Istanbul and spend the time of your life. Katie and her grandmother traveled here when she was young and had an amazing time. Istanbul, although modern, at the same time looks antique. It is an amazing city.
Since the ancient Roman Empire, the land around the Black Sea and the Bosphorus Straits has been a meeting place of East and West. Now known as Istanbul, it was once Constantinople and was home to the last remnants of the Roman Empire. The Roman colony of Byzantium was expanded by order of Emperor Constantine the Great, and soon Constantinople became a great example of a Roman city in the east. For almost a thousand years, the city was the last Roman outpost, renamed the Eastern Roman or simply Byzantine Empire, until it was conquered in 1453 by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II. After the conquest, Istanbul became the center of military campaigns that would soon grow the Ottoman Empire as one of the largest and most enduring until the end of the First World War. Despite the fall of Byzantium, the Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul remains the historical, cultural and financial center of the country.
About 12 to 19 million people live in Istanbul, and it is located on the Bosphorus Strait between the Black and Marmara Seas. The bridges connect Asia and Europe both physically and geographically. Explore the old city of Istanbul and don’t miss these amazing activities while you’re here.
Explore and marvel at Hagia Sophia
It is probably one of the most recognizable sights in the country, Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia was built in 537 by Greek surveyors initially as the Christian church of the Byzantine Empire. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the church was turned into a mosque and finally, by 1935, it became a museum. The church was built by order of Emperor Justinian I and was at that time the largest closed space in the world, and it was said that it changed the history of architecture.
There is a reason why Hagia Sophia is a famous Istanbul landmark, and that is the size and design of the building itself. The domed roof is stunning, and art and mosaics from the Byzantine era can be explored and admired for hours. It contains Islamic and Christian art
For an interesting piece of “art” that is neither Christian nor Islamic, head to the gallery on the top floor where about 1,000 years ago someone carved their name into marble. The letters carved by man are not Greek, Latin or Arabic. They are runic, probably carved by a Scandinavian mercenary that roughly reads “Halfdan was here”. A sentiment that has been carried with petty vandals for millennia.
Make a small purchase at the Grand Bazaar
Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is sometimes called the “world’s first shopping mall”. It is one of the oldest and largest covered bazaars in the world, and although it covers 61 streets and has 4,000 shops, it is actually a neighborhood in itself. The Grand Bazaar brings in an average of 250,000 people a day, and construction first began in 1455 immediately after the Ottoman conquest of the city, and was built as an initiative to boost the economy. As early as the 19th century, many things in the Grand Bazaar in the west were unavailable, and there was a lack of any advertising on the stalls.
In the modern world, the bazaar is still a place of trade and commerce, and if you plan to shop a little, take care of the Turkish language and bargaining skills. Negotiating the price of dancing is what you will expect to learn when you are here. If you don’t plan to buy, the Grand Bazaar experience is an experience you won’t forget.
Learn about history and have lunch at Galata House restaurant at the same time
Galata House Restaurant is just a few steps from Galata Tower. While people are waiting in line for the tower, you probably won’t find a lineup here, or if you can find one at all. Galata House Restaurant is located in an old British prison. The place was bought by the British Consulate in the early 1900s and retained as a place to detain disobedient British sailors who were creating problems in the Galata settlement. The prison then belonged to the French, and finally, to the current owners who bought it in the 90s and turned it into a restaurant in the 99s.
To enter, you will have to ring the doorbell, and then you will be greeted by one of the owners, Nadira or Meta, who will delight you for the rest of the evening with stories from the surroundings that offer dinner and entertainment. Another element that makes the Galata House restaurant unique is that, although the owners are Turks, the menu is distinctly Eastern European with a menu that feels more comfortable in Moscow than in Istanbul. Ukrainian borscht, Russian stroganoff and Georgian wines are common items, along with some Turkish delicacies such as dolma (stuffed vine leaves). So what does the former British prison have to do with Eastern European food? Nothing really, the owners just love the history and the food.
Take an afternoon walk on the Galata Bridge
While the Bosporus is the border of East and West, the Galata Bridge is the transition between old Istanbul and the new. To experience the city of Istanbul means to walk across the bridge on a sunny day. The bridge crosses the “golden horn” and has a fairly large presence in Turkish culture, as it has been featured in numerous songs, books, films and the theater. Currently, the bridge is in the fifth iteration, and the first was built in the 6th century, and Leonardo Da Vinci and Michaelangelo even drew attention to early versions of the replacement bridge.
Walk across the bridge, listening to the screaming seagulls, passers-by, the old men smoking from the side smoking, and look at the view. Under the bridge, small cafes and restaurants serve food and drinks day and night. Enjoy a cold beer and watch the ferries pass by and escape the hustle and bustle of Istanbul for a moment.
Eat like a sultan in an Asitane restaurant
You might think that a place with a rich culinary history like Istanbul would have a multitude of restaurants dedicated to old-fashioned cuisines. But alas, recipes from the Ottoman era are actually quite difficult to come by, and it is especially difficult if these recipes were to be served to the sultan.
Asitane Restaurant is located in a quiet side street, which is partly a research institution and partly a restaurant. The restaurant’s goal has been to create classic Ottoman dishes since 1991, but it’s harder than it sounds. Ottoman chefs were part of the guild and were forbidden to write down recipes, so tracking these dishes was an exercise for researchers and academics who worked with the chefs to create these plates. Today, the restaurant serves hundreds of years old food, such as a 1539 soup recipe made from pomegranate and nutmeg, a recipe for fried liver from a bunker in sweet and sour molasses, or baked fruit (usually quince or melon) stuffed with lamb and beef.
Take a walk in Sultanahmet Park
Located between Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet Park is a beautiful place for picnics, walks in the sun, a place to observe the city’s famous sights and marvel at some unusual places of interest. The park houses the Obelisk of Theodosius, originally built in the Karnak Temple, the obelisk traveled all over the ancient world before this park became his home. The deck covered with hieroglyphs was carved between 1400-1500 BC and it was not until the 300s of the new era that it broke through the Nile to Alexandria before reaching (then) Constantinople where it remained. Being several thousand years old, the obelisk is incredibly well maintained and just sits there in the park with passers-by and passers-by not knowing that it is an amazing journey.
If you’re into something more contemporary, and this one is historically fascinating, there’s also the Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain in the park. The fountain was built in 1900 to celebrate Kaiser’s anniversary of his visit to Turkey. The large Neo-Byzantine design has marble pillars and a dome with golden mosaic tiles dedicated to two empires that no longer exist. Germany and the Ottoman Empire were allies in the First World War by concluding an agreement that introduced them to the war of 1914. The Ottoman loss in 1918 meant the weakening of his army, and soon followed the Turkish War of Independence, which meant the end of the Ottoman Empire Republic of Turkey who lives today. Some might argue that had it not been for that friendly visit of Kaiser Wilhelm in 1898, none of it would have happened.
Get some spices in the Egyptian bazaar
Although the Grand Bazaar is a cult shopping center of the city and is full of things from clothes to luxury goods, the Spice Bazaar has existed since the 16th century and as you guessed by the name, the place is a paradise for those looking to increase their home spice collection. Rows and rows of colorful mounds of spices fill the stalls, along with other delicious treats and herbal blends. Buy something salty for your next homemade meal or snack on something sweet to fix the sweet. The spice bazaar also has tons of people offering herbal remedies and a cure for what bothers you.
Satisfy your sweet teeth at Altan Şekerleme
Although sweets and candies can be found anywhere in the world, it is rare for a candy store like Altan Şekerleme to continue the sweet tradition for more than 100 years. Altan kerekerleme is basically Turkish Willy Wonka, and after founder Emin Bin Karagözoğlu founded his candy store in 1865, the store almost immediately brought joy to thousands. Four of Karagözoğlu’s five sons died during World War I, and the remaining child then took over the patisserie where today, after four generations, the store has remained in the family, still bringing joy to both children and adults.
The store itself is truly an explosion of the past and a remaining relic in a city that changes every day. Sweets and candies from old schools are still served, such as akida şekeri (a type of homemade stone candy) and the ubiquitous Turkish delight that is said to be the best in town.
Spend the night in Bomontiada
Located on the European side of the Bosphorus, the area around Bomontiada is a place to spend the night. In a city where history is abundant, spending some time in Bomontiada is one of the greatest breaths of modernity in the city. The Bomontiada complex replaces an abandoned brewery and has been transformed into a multidisciplinary space featuring art galleries, museums, shopping, dining and more. Watch movie screenings, creative spaces and fun nightlife around the Bomontiada area.
Our final word
Istanbul is an amazing city that connects the western world and the east. It is old and historical with incredibly fascinating things to see and experience that span generations and empires. Istanbul may no longer be Constantinople, but that didn’t stop Istanbul from keeping the best of the old world and bringing in the best of the new.