Definitely one of my favorite ever visited destinations is the amazing city of Istanbul. Having spend an overnight a few years ago during an Eastern Mediterranean cruise aboard Norwegian Jade, the city excited me right from the moment that the ship sailed into the harbor. Presently and quite sadly, it might not be the most recommendable place to visit due to political tensions and terrorist threats. Yet I am counting the days until I feel carefree again to return. To dive more intensely into the bustling melting-pot and its incredible attractions that are just waiting to be discovered.
I had planned to write about Istanbul for a long time. But as safety and political stability are always a major issue when planning my travels, it did seem smarter to me to postpone it for some time. Personally, but that is my individual opinion and perception, I am really having trouble to agree with the extreme political direction of President Erdogan in general and I see Turkey currently moving more and more away from my comprehension of a modern society.
But I am literally waiting for my inner to give me a go again to return and pick up my city exploration where I had last stopped. Because Istanbul is like no other. And I am sure it will blow your mind as much as it did mine. And these three great reasons should definitely be included on your sightseeing list when you feel it is the right moment for you to go.
Officially called the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, this landmark of Istanbul is in and outside a fairytale to explore. It was constructed between 1609 and 1616 and the interiors are covered with hand-painted tiles and ornaments. The popular nickname “Blue Mosque” springs from the nightly illumination in blue light. It is open to visitors on a daily base outside the praying hours! I had always wanted to see it since I was a small child, but we never vacationed in Turkey. Make sure to plan your visit in advance by checking the prayer hours on the link above. That makes the visit much easier! You will also find helpful information about your visit here.
This architectural giant is one of the oldest Christian orthodox churches in the world and a museum at present times dating back to as early as 537 AD. Serving as an Ottoman mosque for 478 years (1453 until 1931), Hagia Sophia well combines architectural styles of the Christian and the Muslim belief. Its sheer size is only comprehensible once you are inside and there are billions of artistic details to marvel at. I remember the very special atmosphere on the day I visited. It was quite chilly inside and the air had this typical stale smell to it that you normally find in old basements. And it was so quiet! Even though the building was filled with people. Small windows allow sunlight inside, creating a mysterious and magical atmosphere. It is an absolute must see, particularly as President Erdogan has ordered her to be transferred back into a mosque for the future.
Ever since I watched the movie “Topkapi” as a child, I always wanted to see the famous dagger in real life. But it is not only the showpiece itself that had completely casted its spell on me. Topkapi Palace covers an area of almost 700,000 square meters and was the royal residence to all the Ottoman sultans from 1478 until 1853. It is a beautifully arranged complex consisting of different courtyards and buildings. Today, only the most important areas of the palace are open to the public. But you can easily spend a whole day touring them since there is so much to see, such as the harem or the treasury. It also offers an amazing view over Istanbul, the Bosporus and the Golden Horn. As it lies in close proximity to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, a visit to all three landmarks could be combined in one day.