Istanbul Travel Guide

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Turkish tea at the Haghia Sophia

Top Attractions & Sightseeing Information

The magnificent city of Istanbul, straddling the 2 continents of Europe of Asia over the waters of the Bosphorus, is historically an imperial capital and seat of the Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman empires. Discover some of the most striking excesses from the past in the Old City – Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia Museum…

Top Attractions:

Old City Quarter – Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome, Grand Bazaar, Underground Cistern
Bosphorus – Bosphorus Cruise, Spice Market, Ortakoy Village, Dolmabahce or Beylerbeyi Palaces
Golden Horn Quarter – Chora Church, Suleymaniye Mosque, Eyup & Pierre Loti, Golden Horn Cruise
Princes’ Islands – Boat Cruise, Horse Carraige Ride, Stroll & Island Lunch, Relaxing Day with Beautiful Views
Galata/Karakoy Quarters –Modern Art Museum, Galata Tower and sidestreets

Main Istanbul Highlights:

topkapi palace tourExplore the decadent four courts of Topkapi Palace, perched atop the narrow peninsula of Seraglio Point overlooks the Marmara Sea and Golden Horn and is one of the grandest and most lavish palaces of the Ottoman Sultans over the last 500 years. The secret life and extravagant decor of the Harem, the luxurious satin gowns, gold and diamond-laden treasury and armory section are testimony to the great throne of power once seated here.

One of the greatest examples of surviving Byzantine architecture is the Hagia Sophia Museum with colossal dome atop colored marble columns making awesome viewing, not least the upper balconies lined with expansive glittering gold mosaics. In its day it was world renowned for its record as the largest church for 1000 years. Converted to a mosque by the Sultan at the neighboring Topkapi Palace, it has a suitably grand royal entrance attached.

Another monumental structure gracing the old city is the Blue Mosque, a delicate design of 6 minarets, arches and domes, complete with an interior that boasts beautiful tiles of intricate patterns, colors and floral designs with striking shades of blue, from which it takes its name.

Stockpiles of old-world antiques and collectibles, beautiful handmade fabrics, soft leathers and gold and silver abound at the Grand Bazaar, with a greater variety of colorful spices, dried foodstuffs and handmade sweets to be found at the Egyptian Spice Market. Shop and haggle with vendors to your heart’s content in this comprehensive and unique market.

istanbul ortakoy tourFor a quieter day, nothing beats a Bosphorus Cruise between Europe and Asia, past a shoreline riddled with treasures – from old Ottoman palaces to grandiose summer villas, fortresses, castles and mosques, alongside fellow boats, yachts and cargo ships.

A new alternative to the basic ferries and passenger boats of Istanbul is to charter a small yacht to yourselves which can be done using a private Bosphorus cruise tour on Zoe Yacht to cruise in comfort.

Another old and historical quarter is that of Pera & Galata, overlooking the Golden Horn and residence of Greek and Jewish minorities. Here stands the landmark Galata Tower of Genoan times, the Suleymaniye Mosque, the Church of Chora with beautiful Byzantine mosaics and frescoes and the old Pera – Beyoglu downtown area.

An extra day in Istanbul can be enjoyed at a slower pace on a boat trip out to the beautiful Prince’s Islands – a series of Islands in the Marmara sea best known for their quiet paced island life, fish restaurants and traditional summer mansions. This ambience is maintained by the use of horse-drawn carriages and bicycles in place of any motor-vehicles.

Tours featuring Istanbul:

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