Like Rome, Istanbul too stands on seven hills and is divided into 27 districts that can be considered real districts, given their vastness, characterized by streets that teem of people, adorned with palaces of sumptuous and rich architecture, as rich as the markets, where among a mix of objects and spices your eyes will shine like those of a child in a candy shop for the beauty.
Mosques to See
The skyline of Istanbul is characterized by numerous mosques, in fact, it boasts the beauty of 2691 but here are some that you absolutely cannot miss:
The Blue Mosque: located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood stands as one of the most suggestive and characteristic mosques of the city, to reach it you first cross a garden at the end of which you will find yourself in front of this magnificent and breathtaking structure with over 20,000 bright blue tiles adorning the dome, enclosing a structure within which today the madrassas, canteens, and shelters for the poor find a home.
Hagia Sophia Mosque
Also in the district of Fatih, at the highest point of the city, we find one of the emblems of Istanbul: the Hagia Sophia mosque, or Ayasofya as the Turks call it. Since the late 532 A.C., the year when it was built, it is still considered one of the symbols of Byzantine architecture. Constructed for the will of Justinian, the structure is adorned with colored marbles that came from all over the world, visitors will find also gold decorations and other ornaments, some of which have been taken from the temples of Ephesus, Delphi, Athens, and Delos.
Different, less opulent, and far from the tourist areas, located in the Beşiktaş district, we find the Ortaköy mosque. Its uniqueness and simplicity is the splendid view of the Bosphorus, once inside you will be enveloped by its pearl-colored walls that leave space by large windows crossed by a wavy light that almost cradle believers during their prayers.
Neighborhoods to See
The best way to fully experience the uses and culture of this unique city is certainly to get lost in its neighborhoods and streets, each with its own characteristics, making them able to offer experiences for all tastes, we will pass by the most traditional rich in legends and history to those that stand out for European luxury and city nightlife.
- The first stop can only be the district of Fatih which corresponds to the ancient city of Byzantium-Constantinople and which today is recognized as hosting two famous markets in the world, the Grand Bazaar or “Kapalıçarşı” and the market Egyptian Spice or “Mısır Çarşısı”, located in the Eminönü district.
- Having been Istanbul’s cradle for many civilizations, Also Italy finds its place in the Beyoğlu district, once a base for the trade of the Venetian and Genoese colonies. Nowadays we find a small community of Italians called “Levantine” which means “Italians from the East”, this multicultural district is famous for its nightlife and shopping. Traces of the Italian colonies can also be found in the Karaköy district with the Galata tower built by the Genoese.
- Moving on to the Asian side in the Üsküdar district, you can sit in one of its innovative cafes to enjoy the view of ancient Istanbul, across the river, as well as the Mihrimah Sultan Camii mosque.
- Last but not least there is the very famous district of Kadıköy Moda where the promenade extends beyond the Sea of Marmara to reach the Sultanahmet district, here in addition to the fish market you can taste some of the most traditional Turkish specialties served in its numerous typical restaurants.
Markets and Perfumes to Experience
The before mentioned Grand Bazaar, is one of the largest and most famous markets in the world but its birth dates back to 1455 when Muhammad II had the “Eski Bedesten” or “the old Bazaar” built around his palace which soon became the seat of numerous artisan shops, nowadays in this market, you can buy anything from the more traditional things like carpets, kilims colored lanterns, and Ibriks, up to Turkish ceramics.
Egyptian Spice Market
The second most famous market is “the Egyptian spice market” or “Mısır Çarşısı” which is indicated for the purchase of typical local products. It was born in 1663 with the aim of economically maintaining the new mosque, as it was born next to it, and soon became the most important distribution point of the ancient Silk Road as it ended at that point.
These were the places to visit in Istanbul. Check out our blog page for more articles about Istanbul and other cities. Don’t miss them out!
written by Anita Gajic