Out of all the unmissable experiences in Turkey, a visit to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar should be at the top of your list. One of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, its 4,400 shops are filled with traditional Turkish keepsakes and treasures that can’t be found anywhere else, from handmade carpets and kilims to antique jewellery and beautiful silk scarves.
And then there’s the food. You’ll smell it before you can see it; enchanting arrays of spices, tempting Turkish coffee and expertly grilled kebabs all fight for your attention and, whether you’re hungry or not, will be impossible to resist!
From imperial Islamic mosques to grand palaces and renovated museums and galleries, there’s something to ogle at behind every corner.
By far the most iconic structure is the beautiful Blue Mosque. Adorned with tens of thousands of Blue Inzic tiles, the mosque is still used as a sacred place of worship today while being open to tourists too. It’s easy to find: just look out for the six slender minarets jutting out from the horizon.
While you’re in the Sultanahmet neighbourhood, or the Old City as it’s also known, make sure you stop by Bastilica Cistern and Hagia Sophia, two must-sees conveniently located within walking distance from one another. Once a Greek Orthodox Christian cathedral, later an Ottoman imperial mosque and now a museum, Hagia Sophia is considered to be one of the world’s greatest monuments.
After a long day touring the city, a revitalising Turkish bath is just what you need.
The traditional process dates back to the Ottoman Empire and involves a sauna, steam room and a full-body wash, often followed by a relaxing massage and some time in a cooling room. The process has also been adapted in recent years to include a variation of spa treatments – what’s not to like?
A narrow strait separating the Asian and European sides of Istanbul, the Bosporus is a busy waterway thriving with fishing boats and ships.
A cruise down this 32km-long strait is a unique and often overlooked way of experiencing the city; sit back and admire a panorama of the monuments, palaces and Yalıs – wooden waterside houses that date back to the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey’s largest city is famous for its street food; in fact, many foodies travel there for this reason alone!
A treat for your taste-buds, Istanbul has no shortage of diverse dishes for you to try. Meat-eaters can start with köfte, spicy meatballs made from lamb or beef, followed by döner – one of Turkey’s most famous dishes.
There’s plenty for vegetarians too. Gorge on lahmacun, a Turkish version of pizza that’s rolled up and eaten like a taco, or eat an entire meze by yourself. Kumpir is another firm favourite: a baked potato filled with cheese, butter, olives, pickles and whatever toppings you fancy. Are you drooling yet?
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