Cruise Guide to Istanbul
An eclectic mix of different cultures, and sitting between the continents of Europe and Asia, sharing characteristics of both, Istanbul is a fascinating, yet perhaps overlooked destination. Having been ruled by many civilizations throughout its rich history, there remains sings of each in the melting pot city of Istanbul. From Greek and Roman to Byzantine and Venetian influence, Istanbul has so much cultural diversity on display and on top of that was the end of the Silk Road trade route that connected Europe with Asia. Opulent palaces, magnificent mosques and generally striking architecture are the standard in Istanbul, which is definitely one of the more photogenic cities you could visit. If you’re starting a cruise from the city or ending it here, stick around for a few days to delve into the fascinating history of the
A standing monument of the Byzantine empire, the famous Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece – even considered by some to be the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. A true man-made wonder, the Hagia Sophia somewhat resembles the Indian Taj Mahal, in that there are 4 large column-like spires, and a giant domed roof. Constructed over 1500 years ago, the structure is the most striking and important example of Byzantine buildings. Not only a marvel to look at from the outside and a seriously impressive display of architecture, the Hagia Sophia features incredible mosaics and exhibits inside its museum.
The blue mosque – while adopting a similar aesthetic to the Hagia Sophia – is distinctive for its wonderful blue tiling. Built in the early 17th century, the blue mosque is much younger than the Hagia Sophia but arguably more eye-catching than the historical Byzantine structure. Containing over 20,000 blue and floral ornate ceramic tiles on the inside, the blue mosque is also definitely worth seeing on the inside after you’re done admiring its unique aesthetic. For the best view, approach the blue mosque from the West side and you’ll be able to appreciate it in all its glory. Like a mirror image, the two impressive structures face each other making for a striking visual if you can get up high.
A spectacular, colorful and vibrant indoor market-cum-spice bazaar, the “misir carsisi” provides a very authentic Turkish shopping experience. Houses inside an interesting space, entering the spice market means being met with a wave of color and rich aromas as the spices and dried food hangs from the individual market stalls. Not just reserved for spices, the market also sells the typical sweet treat Turkish Delight, pastrami, all kinds of jewelry and valuable metals and lots more. Try Malatya for their incredible Turkish Delight to get an authentic taste of local cuisine while you peruse the vibrant market.
Back to the outstanding examples of architecture in the Turkish city, Dolmabahce palace was built in the 19th century, making it a relatively young building compared to the others. Operating as an administrative base during the times when the Ottoman Empire ruled, the palace is opulent in every way and is fantastically situated looking out onto the Bosphorus strait.. A place where you can spend an entire day if you so desire, the Dolmabahce palace is adorned with the most beautiful monuments and has been excellently conserved. Crystal staircases and spectacular ceilings, the palace is extravagant and 100% worth taking the time out to explore.
An imposing tower that acts as a great vantage point to see the city below, the Galata Tower is a stone tower dating back to the Medieval era. Originally built as a watchtower to see if invading forces were attacking, the medieval tower is now a spectacle and standout monument in the city – even lighting up at night. The tower can be seen from many streets in the city and looks like it wouldn’t be out of place in a traditional fairy tale story as the home of a princess. It’s worth taking time out of sightseeing to get a bite to eat in the restaurant that lies at the top of the tower offering fantastic views out over the city.
Taksim is a popular district for entertainment and social activities with amazing restaurants, and rooftop bars with killer views. With trams running through the main square, and a network of narrow streets and 19th century architecture, the Taksim district has more than enough for you to see and do in an evening. One rooftop bar that will guarantee some of the best views over Istanbul and the Bosphorus strait is City Lights bar. The bar offers high-end cuisine and panoramic views over the incredible city and all its famous landmarks; there’s even a telescope in the bar to get a closer view of some of the monuments. Make sure to take an evening stroll through the lovely Taksim Gezi park too while you’re in the area, with a range of interest fountains and monuments on display.
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