Top 10 Istanbul was hard to narrow down because Istanbul is like no other city in the world! The city is geographically unique because it straddles two continents: Europe and Asia. On top of that, the city is filled with so many historical sites, restaurants, and shopping. You could spend days there and never be left with a dull moment. Here is my favorite for Top 10 Istanbul:
Blue Mosque – Built between 1609-1616, this is by far the most popular mosque in the city, and is still used today. The mosque does shut down to tourists during certain prayer times so be conscious of that when planning a visit. The mosque does require women to cover their head and legs so keep a scarf handy for your head and wear pants. If you do come unprepared, they have proper clothing you can borrow for your visit. I recommend getting a walking tour of Istanbul through Daily Istanbul Tours. They hit many of the sites listed in My Top 10 and add a wealth of knowledge to your experience. Ask for Ali as your guide. https://www.dailyistanbultours.com/
Turkish Bath – A unique experience that leaves you feeling relaxed and refreshed after a long day of walking around. Men and women are required to bathe separately and minimal clothing is required. This tradition is still followed by locals today. Many of the workers at the baths do not speak a lot of English, but their signals are very easy to follow. Check out the link below for more info on the Turkish bath experience:
Day Trip to Ephesus – One of the largest ruin cities in the world and only a one hour flight from Istanbul. It is incredible how much they are still discovering every year. During the summer it gets REALLY hot there and keeping hydrated is essential. Remember to bring plenty of water with you. Once you enter the ruin city there is nowhere to buy water. I recommend getting a guide for this site. There is a lot of history involved and walking around does not do the ruin city justice. Here is a link to the BEST tour company for Ephesus. Ask for Taner as your guide, he is AMAZING! Ephesus Tours: http://ephesustours.biz/
Hagia Sophia – A beautiful church that dates back to 537 AD, the Ottoman Empire converted the church into a mosque in 1453. The mosque was used by the sultans to pray. Finally, in 1935, the building was converted into a museum and declared a world heritage site in 1985. The building has been restored over the years and it is very interesting to see the two religions merge under one roof.
Grand Bazaar – One of the largest covered bazaars in the world spanning 60 streets and housing over 5,000 shops. If you are looking for cheap trinkets to take home as souvenirs this is the place. Many of the items in the bazaar are promoted as “handmade Turkish items,” but most of the stuff comes from China. Bartering for your items is a must, but only barter with intent to buy. Counter offer the original price at 50% off and work from there. Getting items around 30% off is usually the norm. This is a hot spot for tourists, locals buy their goods elsewhere.
Spice Market – This outdoor spice market smells wonderful as you walk through. Somehow all of the scents come together in perfect harmony. At the time of purchase, spices can be sealed so you can take them through customs on your return trip home.
Taxim Square – Progressive and hip, this liberal area is bustling with a younger generation trying to make a difference. There are tons of shopping, restaurants and nightlife along the busy street and you can feel the energy as you walk. This is a great place to stay if you want to be in the heart of things.
Hippodrome – Now an area for locals to hang out, this area was once famous for it’s chariot races. Lined with shops and green areas to sit, this is a great place to sit back and relax after a long day. At night, the fountain lights up and changes color and the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are in plain view.
Two Continents Tour – You can’t go to Istanbul with out ending up in two continents in one day. There a many tour options by bus or boat (or in some cases, both). They even have a day cruise option that offers lunch or dinner on the boat.
Topkapi Palace – A residence for Turkey’s sultans for the Ottoman Empire for around 400 years, this palace has been converted into a museum for tourists to enjoy. Once housing about 4,000 people, the residence has four main courtyards as well as some smaller buildings where state matters took place. Imagine cooking for 4,000 people a day!! No thank you!