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
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
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
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
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, 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
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.
7. Topkapi Palace & its Harem
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
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.
9. Turkish cuisine
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
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
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.
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.
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!