10 top reasons to visit Istanbul
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12 Reasons to Visit Istanbul

If you are wondering whether the Turkish capital is worth a trip, check out these 12 inspiring reasons to visit Istanbul.

1. The most exotic city in Europe

The melting pot of the European and Asian cultures - Istanbul is as exotic as it gets
The melting pot of the European and Asian cultures – Istanbul is as exotic as it gets

Majestic and magical, dynamic and bustling, this huge metropolis is by far the most exotic city in Europe. It’s the only city in the world located on two continents. This duality is reflected in its contrast of cultures that mixes the essence of Europe and Asian exoticism in a combination unique of its kind. With its strong Oriental identity entangled with the centuries-long European influences, with the ancestral traditions coexisting with current trends, with it’s unique history and position, it’s like no other city you’ve ever seen.

2. Ruler of Empires

The interiors of Hagia Sophia reflect the different eras and empires it survided through
The interiors of Hagia Sophia reflect the different eras and empires it survided through

Istanbul has a past that few places on Earth can match. For as much as 16 centuries, four subsequent great empires were ruled from here! It was influenced by each of them adding up layer by layer of foreign cultures. The Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman empires each left their impressive remnants. The past glory of Istanbul is reflected in the majesty of its buildings and awe-inspiring historical sights.

3. Bosphorus: Boat trip between Europe and Asia

Splendid view from the boat at the Bosphorus Strait at Hagia Sophia
Splendid view from the boat at the Bosphorus Strait at Hagia Sophia

Europe and Asia are divided here by the beautiful Bosphorus Strait passing between the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea. It’s a very scenic spot from all points of view: from the shore – from one of the reastaurants or bars at the European or Asian side, crossing the long Bosphorus Bridge, or best – from a boat. The boat trip on the Bosphorus is spectacular – the views on the seven hills of Istanbul with multiple minarets of the city mosques are amazing. If you are visiting in the summer and the time permits, take a trip to Princes’ Islands on the Marmara Sea.

4. Muslim culture & art

Interior of the Blue Mosque represent the splendour of the Islamic art
Interior of the Blue Mosque represent the splendour of the Islamic art

One of the main reasons to visit Istanbul is to have a close encounter with the culture and tradition of Islam. With over 3,000 mosques, calls for prayers from minarets 5 times a day, and some people wearing traditional muslim clothing and headgear, you feel the strong Muslim identity. In general though, the religious customs here are much more permissive than in the Arab countries, and the only rules imposed on tourists concern entering the mosques without shoes and with arms and legs covered. You will be impressed by the richness of the spectacular islamic art in the mosques – the fascinating ceramic tiles, mosaics, beautiful geometric patterns and endless cupolas of the mosques.

5. Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia never fails to impress and amaze
Hagia Sophia never fails to impress and amaze

Hagia Sophia, built as an Orthodox cathedral in 537 and converted to a mosque in 1453, is considered the most magnificent architectural object of the first millennium of our era. It’s influence is such that it is deemed to have changed forever the history of architecture. It is a true spectacle to contemplate, no photos or words prepare you for all its glory and grandeur, and admiring it is definitely one of the definitive reasons to visit Istanbul.

6. Blue Mosque

One of the most iconic sights of Istanbul - the Blue Mosque
One of the most iconic sights of Istanbul – the Blue Mosque

The Mosque of the Sultan Ahmed known as the Blue Mosque is one of the most important monuments in Istanbul and its main mosque, although it is half the size of Hagia Sophia – something that is difficult to see at first glance. It is an excellent example of the highest level of the muslim art. Pure beauty.

What to Do in Istanbul – Main Attractions & Activities

7. Topkapi Palace & its Harem

Decorative islamic ornaments in Topkapi Palace in Istanbul
Decorative islamic ornaments in Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

The Topkapi Palace gives you an idea of the richness and power of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire. On its 700,000 square meters it houses fascinating chambers, courtyards and gardens, and the Imperial Treasury with some of the most valuable objects of the world, such as the pear-shaped Spoonmaker’s Diamond, which belonged to the mother of Napoleon and has 86 carats or the Topkapi Dagger, made of emeralds and gold.

The visit to the palace would not be complete without accessing the Imperial Harem of the Sultan (with a separate entrance), chambers with the capacity to accommodate even up to 700 women (in different periods, there were between 30 – 705 sultan’s concubines). The responsibility for its management fell on the mother of the head of state.

8. Grand Bazaar: world’s most fascinating shopping

In Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
In Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

There is a reason why the Grand Bazaar is the most visited tourist attraction in the world. This world’s oldest and largest covered bazaar is an unforgettable experience, with multitude of fascinating and exotic objects, scent of spices, and charming commercial tradition including bargaining and offering tea.

Read all about the Grand Bazaar and typical Turkish products worth buying in our Guide to Shopping in Istanbul.

Shopping in Istanbul, Souvenirs, Typical and Cheap Gifts

9. Turkish cuisine

Delicious Turkish sweets based on nuts and honey
Delicious Turkish sweets based on nuts and honey

Turkish cuisine is arguably one of the best in the world. The variety of dishes seems endless, there is a great choice. The range of vegetables, seafood and types of meat used in the dishes is just amazing. And it’s a healthy Mediterranean cuisine, with great proportions of fresh, cooked and grilled vegetables and different sources of proteins. Also the street food is very tasty. And let’s don’t forget about the spices, nuts and dried fruit of superior quality. Then, we have the world-famous sweets like the Turkish Delight, halva and baklava, just to mention a few. So, food itself is one of great reasons to visit Istanbul – nobody is disappointed!

10. Rooftop bars & nargile

Nargile on a rooftop terrace in Istanbul
Nargile on a rooftop terrace in Istanbul

Rooftop bars of Istanbul, in which you sit surrounded by colourful pillows outdoor on mild summer nights, are an experience you will remember forever. Try there nargile – a water pipe extremely popular in Turkey, to make the evening even more exotic.

11. Turkish Music

Belly dancer
Belly dancer in Istanbul

Turkish music is fantastic. Centuries of mixing multicultural traditions led to forming a great wealth of types of music – most of them very exotic to European ears. Vibrant rhythms of drums are entrancing. In many places in Istanbul you can see belly dancers and it’s a pleasant spectacle.

12. Hammams

Turkish bath - Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı in Istanbul
Traditional Turkish bath – Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı in Istanbul

Another pleasure of visiting Istanbul is a visit to the traditional and authentic Turkish bath – hammam. There are plenty of them throughout the city. The centuries-old ritual is a very relaxing experience, and the interiors of some of them can take you back in time.

Interesting Facts about Istanbul – 20 Curiosities

Other Reasons to Visit Istanbul

There are really many reasons to visit Istanbul – to see for yourself that it is one of the world’s most captivating cities.

Read the Curiosities about Istanbul to discover surprising fact about the old & modern Istanbul.

Do you have other suggestions to add? Leave a comment!

Author

Małgorzata Kmita

Chief Editor & Writer of euroviajar.com, a serial expat - I've lived in 7 countries, I speak 7 languages, and I travelled to 39 countries so far. I have a deep interest in understanding the culture and lifestyle of various countries and regions. I'm always looking for the authentic local habits, tastes and surprises that give a certain place its character.

3 thoughts on “12 Reasons to Visit Istanbul

That’s a really nice article and I love the photos! It definitely convinces me to visit Istanbul! I think I’ll go this summer.

Thank you Juliet, I’m very glad to have convinced you! ;) Out of all my travels, Istanbul was one of the most memorable – it really is an amazing place.

I have been to Istanbul before, many years ago with my partner at the time. I am going again next week, but this time alone. My last visit I was disappointed with the pocket WiFi that I had bought. Kindly can some one advice me on the best pocket WiFis to consider, I have read of rent n connect and they seem to be the best in Turkey any person having an experience with them

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