Monday, November 30, 2020

Best Places to Visit in Istanbul, Turkey | Taksim Square, Sultanahmet Square, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Golden Horn, Galata Tower, Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar


I just arrived in Istanbul. I am only here for a few days, but I am really excited to make the most of it. See as much as possible, eat as much as possible. So the first thing I need to do is exchange a little bit of money. I'm going to do that at the exchange place, and then exchange more once I get into the city for a better rate. I exchanged just enough money to cover my transportation costs to get into the city center. I have three different options to get there; I could take a taxi for about 55 Liras, or the Havataş service bus to Taksim, which would be 11 Lira, but I’m going to take the metro. 

Now, I am going to buy my Istanbul Card. It's very practical to have it in Istanbul. You can use it on ferries, trams, buses, metro buses, and funiculars. So, it's great to have, and I can also get one from the machine. It got my card in 10 lira. 6 Liras for the card and 4 as a credit to use it on the metro. Each ride costs about 2.5 Lira. If you're going to Sultanahmet, you need to change trains at Zeytinburnu station and take the T1 tram line. I got off the train at Yenikapı, the last station, and there are a few options from here. If you're going to Taksim, you can take the M2 Hacıosman line, or if you want to go to the Asian side of Istanbul, you can take the Marmaray, which actually goes underneath the Bosphorus. But I've arranged for my hotel to pick me up at Yenikapı, so I will going to exit the station. 

The next day I had breakfast and headed to Sultanahmet. To get there, I took a bus to Eminönü, followed by a tram. I paid for both the bus and the tram with my Istanbul Card. There are so many little cafes hidden everywhere. Sultanahmet Square is the place where most of the primary tourist attractions are located. Including the three I will visit today: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapı Palace. 

Sultanahmet Square - Blue Mosque

Sultanahmet Square takes its name from the exceptional six-minaret mosque, also known as Blue Mosque. From here, I will begin my visit today. It is free to visit and open until 5 pm in the evening for tourists. There is an entrance on the right side reserved for tourists where you can borrow a shawl to cover your hair or body as required. Next, I decided to visit Hagia Sophia. I had to buy tickets. I preferred to buy a Museum Pass for 85 TL, from the vending machine, because it provides five days of entry into many museums all over Istanbul, including Topkapi Palace which I knew I would visit next. 

Hagia Sophia

You save money if you're visiting several museums but even if you're not, you can at least save waiting time for many of these places. Hagia Sophia was first built in the 6th century as an imperial church for the Roman Empire then in the 15th century it became an imperial mosque for the Ottomans and finally in the last century, a museum opens for the public. So, do you get tired of coming to these places over and over again, or is it always exciting for you?

Topkapi Palace

The next destination is Topkapi Palace; it's just around the corner from Hagia Sophia. Topkapı Palace, the seat of Ottoman Sultans for four centuries, is unique in its layout as a group of small buildings positioned around courtyards. It doesn't take too long to visit them all. Outside of Topkapi Palace is an amazing view. The Bosphorus Bridge, One side Asia and the sea of Marmara over another side. It's a great place to take some photos and enjoy the view. 

Now, I am on to visit the Harem and it's included in my museum card. So, I don't need a separate ticket this time. Do you know how to get to the Harem? Welcome to Harem. "Çok Güzel!" as they say in Turkish. Harem was actually the living quarters of the palace, where women and children lived. Of the 400 rooms of Topkapi Harem, only a few are open to the public, but they are really worth visiting. So I'm done visiting Harem, it took about half an hour to 45 minutes, So, in total both places took maybe two and a half hours. I had lunch of famous traditional Turkish food. I had "köfte" and "piyaz". I strolled around the Sultanahmet area. Finally, I took the same way back to the hotel by tram. There I had a nice dinner with mezes and seafood. 

Now, I'm taking myself on a walking tour to explore the city, beginning with the Grand Bazaar and ending in Taksim Square, and I will pass Galata Tower along the way. So, I waited for the bus, going to take it to Eminönü, and then I will going to take a tramway to go visit Grand Bazaar.

Grand Bazaar - Spice Bazaar

I'm going to Grand Bazaar, and I'm going to get off at Beyazıt stop. Here, I am at the Grand Bazaar. So, I read that it has over 3,000 shops and is the largest covered market in Turkey and it dates back to the 15th century. It's got all kinds of different things, I am going to go browse for a few hours, maybe less and then I'll walk down to Eminönü, and pass some other shops along the way. Here are so many beautiful souvenirs lamps, scarves, jewelry... all kinds of new things. Grand Bazaar has one of the best places to exchange currency. 

I am done at Grand Bazaar, and I'm going to stroll down to Eminönü and check out the shops. The area around Grand Bazaar all the way down to Eminönü, is a vibrant market with many kinds of items you couldn't even imagine. While I was in Istanbul, I had to pick up some Turkish coffee, so I researched online and found the best place right here. It's a roasted house, smells amazing so I'm going to go pick up the bag.

I was walking down through the Grand Bazaar I got a little bit lost, but I came across the Spice Market which is also really cool, full of Turkish Delights, spices, dried teas, really cool things, so also fun. I crossed Galata Bridge, and now I want to go up to Istiklal street and Taksim. So I have two choices. I can either take the funicular, which is just over here or I can walk. And I think I'll walk because it's a nice day.

Galata Tower

Galata Tower is one of the landmarks of the city. I'm not going to climb up today because I want to get up to Taksim, so I'm just gonna take a selfie and keep on walking. The walk up to Istiklal street is actually quite interesting with many boutique shops and one-of-a-kind items. So I've made it to Istiklal Street, it goes up to Taksim. Istiklal Street, and the area around it, also known as Beyoğlu, is a popular city center and meeting place with thousands of shops, cafes, restaurants, and nightclubs.

I heard this place has good live music. I've ordered "kelle paça" soup, which is lamb soup and it's a good idea to add some vinegar and garlic. "Pide" is a traditional dish from the north of Turkey and I've ordered it with Trabzon Cheese, pastırma and sucuk. I had a drink and got an excellent view of the Golden Horn.

Golden Horn

Golden Horn is a good place to come, drink a "çay" at "Nevizade Street", and it is famous for its "meyhane", where you can meet your friends and have some "rakı" and mezes, it's very popular and I'm going to go walk down. I've made it to Taksim Square.

Taksim Square

Taksim Square is the most famous square in all of Istanbul, and it's also a connection point. From Taksim Square, you can take the metro, funicular or many buses all over the city, and so I will go to catch my bus back to the hotel. I had a nice long walk all the way up Istiklal Street and I'm ready to head back home. Well, I had a great few days in Istanbul; I saw some very interesting places tried delicious food.