Top cities in Turkey: –

Istanbul

Istanbul is a city that wears its cultures and history well, blending them into an exciting city that has much to offer travelers from around the world. Founded during Neolithic times, Istanbul today is a modern city that remains true to its historic heritage through its mosques, basilicas and cathedrals, and ancient bazaars. Standing between the East and the West, Turkey’s largest city offers an aura of charm that will appeal to all visitors. Turkey is such a stunning and interesting country that any holiday you choose will be amazing. As the counterpoint of where Europe meets Asia, you’re almost always guaranteed to have a unique cultural experience at just about every corner you turn around.

There’s a reason why Istanbul is quickly becoming a favorite city for travelers. Not only is Istanbul a friendly city, but it’s a city located on two separate continents (a European side and Asian side), complete with diverse and fascinating neighborhoods and delicious Turkish cuisine.  It’s a city that’s both, mystical and mysterious, with a history spanning over 4000 years.

 

Best Things to Do in Istanbul: – 

Sultanahmet Area:

Sultanahmet District is a popular tourist neighborhood, housing the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar. It’s got a plethora of restaurants, travel agencies, sweet shops and cafes.

1. Blue Mosque 

The Blue Mosque is one of Istanbul’s prominent landmarks.  Built by 15 year old Sultanahmet, it was meant to be an Islamic place of worship grander than the Hagia Sophia.  The architecture is not only exquisite, but easily best favorite landmark. Unlike most mosques, this not only has two or four, but six minarets!  It was given its name due to the 20,000 blue tiles which line the ceiling. On summer evenings at 9pm, there is a historical narrative and a light show at the Blue Mosque.It is open daily and prayer calls are held every 5 hours for 30 minutes. Dress code: Women are required to wear a headdress upon entering.  Shoes must be removed.

2. Hagia Sophia 

The Hagia Sophia (pronounced Aya Sofia) was the architectural highlight of the Byzantine era, when the arts and architecture flourished.   It was built by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It was first a cathedral, then a mosque and now, a museum for tourists to visit.

 

3-  Grand Bazaar 

Up the ways or a 15-minute walk from Sultanahmet Square, you’ll find the Grand Bazaar, a 500-year-old marketplace equivalent to a large mall that is filled with store-lined passageways and alleys.  It’s said to have over 60 streets and it draws a crowd. Even if you’re a big shopper, be prepared to be a little overwhelmed.

 

Eminönü Area 

The Eminönü district is the gritty crossroads, where you’ll find the (Egyptian) Spice Bazaar, Galata Bridge and the ferry cruises that go down the Bosphorus Strait and to the Asian side.

4.  Cami Mosque (aka New Mosque)

Istanbul has a lot of mosques. A less crowded but equally beautiful mosque to visit is Cami Mosque, which sits sandwiched between the Spice Bazaar and the ferry docks.

5. (Egyptian) Spice Bazaar 

The (Egyptian) Spice Bazaar is a bazaar filled with stalls of Turkish spices and sweets.  Those are the two main products you’ll find sold there. Some vendors here make their own spice mixes and will give you a free taste to lure you in.  It’s a little touristy in feeling and if you show any curiosity or interest in a particular thing, you’ll quickly be approached

 

6. Local Markets outside Spice Bazaar 

If the Spice Bazaar is too touristy for you, the local market right outside will walk you into the secrets of Turkish kitchens.  Wander down Tatakale street where you’ll find foods that make up a Turkish dining table and Turkish household kitchen products.

 

Beyoglu Area

In the Beyoglu neighborhood you have Galata Tower which houses the best view of Istanbul.  The Beyoglu houses more trendy neighborhoods and shopping areas,  from Galata Tower to Taksim Square. You can weave through the streets leading to Taksim Square or take the old Tram

7.  Galata Tower

The Galata Tower is one of the highest and oldest towers of Istanbul. 63 meter (206 feet) high tower provides a panoramic view of the old town. It was built in the 14th century by the Genoese colony as part of the defense wall surrounding their district at Galata directly opposite ancient Constantinopolis. The tower was used for the surveillance of the Harbor in the Golden Horn. After the conquest of Constantinople by Mehmet II, it served to detect fires in the city.

 

8.  Galata Bridge

The Galata Bridge spans the Golden Horn in Istanbul, Turkey. At 80 meters wide, it is the second widest bridge in the world. The Galata Bridge links the neighborhoods of Eminönü and Karaköy, and it is the dock of choice for amateur fishermen, who you’ll find camped out in one spot for the entire day!

 

9.   Taksim Square

Fanning out from Taksim Square with its Republic Monument, Taksim is a busy nightlife, shopping and dining district. Vintage trams trundle along Istiklal Caddesi, the city’s main pedestrian boulevard, which is lined with 19th-century buildings housing international shopping chains, movie theaters and cafes. A dense web of side streets contains bars, antiques shops, and rooftop eateries with Bosphorus views.

 

Don’t miss the following in Turkey: –

 

Pomegranate juice: – 

You’ll find pomegranate juice sold on the streets by street vendors in Istanbul. They’re refreshing on a long day of sightseeing. Cost:  approximately 5 TL.

 

Simit 

Simit is like a Turkish bagel, that’s a little crunchy and topped with sesame seeds. They’re commonly sold on the streets of Istanbul.

 

Stuffed clams 

The closed-shell clams are actually stuffed with a type of rice pilaf with herbs and spices. It was gastro-orgasmic.

 

Pide

The Turks are proud of their pides, so don’t let them hear you call it pizza.   The crust is thin and light and you’ll find it topped with all types of goodness from cheese, herbs, tomatoes and meats.

 

Turkish Baths 

When in Istanbul, why not get a good scrub down at a Turkish Bath (aka Hammam)? You can choose self-service or to get scrubbed down by a masseuse. There’s a hot room to relax in before scrubbing and a cold room to cool down. Men and women are separated. Men must strip down to a towel, while women are allowed to wear their underwear (bottoms). Prices range around 55 to 80 TL depending upon the service.

 

Bursa

Modern, industrial Bursa is built around the mosques, mausoleums and other sites from its incarnation as first Ottoman capital. Despite being built-up and somewhat chaotic, its durable Ottoman core and abundant parks keep it remarkably placid in places. For some fresh air after pounding the markets, the soaring peaks of Mt Uludağ (Turkey’s premier ski resort) are nearby, with Çekirge’s thermal hamams en route.

 

Bursa was awarded Unesco World Heritage status in 2014 for being the birthplace of the Ottoman Empire. The city’s historic contributions to Islamic development have given it an austere reputation. Yet locals are kind and welcoming, and you can take the occasional photo inside historic religious structures (just be respectful). You’ll see a majority of headscarved women here and devout prayer in overflowing mosques.

 

Muradiye Complex 

historic site in Bursa 

Set in a shady park, this Ottoman-era complex incorporates a handsome medrese (seminary; 1426) and the equally handsome Sultan Murat II (Muradiye) Camii (also 1426), but its most interesting elements are the 13 imperial türbes (tombs) in the cemetery. A number of these are exquisitely decorated with tiles, painted calligraphy and inlaid wood carving. Don’t miss the 14th-century tomb of Cem Sultan (the third son of Mehmet the Conqueror) and 16th-century tombs of Şehzades Mahmud and Ahmed, the sons of Beyazıt II.

 

Like other Islamic dynasties, the Ottomans did not practice primogeniture – any royal son could claim power upon his father’s death, which, unsurprisingly, resulted in numerous bloodbaths. The tombs preserve this macabre legacy: all theşehzades (imperial sons) interred here were killed by close relatives. While many tombs are ornate and trimmed with beautiful İznik tiles, others are simple and stark, like that of the ascetic and part-time dervish Murat II.

 

Built for Mehmet I, the Yeşil (Green) Camii was completed in 1422 and represents a departure from the previous, Persian-influenced Seljuk architecture that dominated Bursa. Exemplifying Ottoman stylings, it contains a harmonious facade and beautiful carved marble work around the central doorway. The mosque was named for the interior wall’s greenish-blue tiles.

 

Ulu Camii (mosque in Bursa)

This enormous Seljuk-style shrine (1399) is Bursa’s most dominant and durable mosque. Sultan Beyazıt I built it in a monumental compromise – having pledged to build 20 mosques after defeating the Crusaders in the Battle of Nicopolis, he settled for one mosque, with 20 small domes. Two massive minarets augment the domes, while the giant square pillars and portals within are similarly impressive.

 

Bursa Citadel

Some ramparts and walls still survive on the steep cliff that is the site of Bursa’s citadel and its oldest neighborhood, Tophane. On the summit, a park contains the Tombs of Sultans Osman and Orhan, the Ottoman Empire’s founders. Osman Gazi’s tomb is the more richly decorated. Although it was ruined in the 1855 earthquake, Sultan Abdül Aziz rebuilt the mausoleum in baroque style in 1863. The six-storey clock tower, the last of four that also served as fire alarms, stands in a square with a cafe where families and couples gaze out over the valley and snap photos.

 

Trabzon

Due to its location on the old silk road, Trabzon has been influenced by many cultures and religions. If we measure the size of the city on population, it is relatively small. The population count makes it the 30th largest city in Turkey. The main claim to fame for Trabzon is as the birthplace of the Ottoman ruler, Suleiman the magnificent. This connection ensured that it was an important city during the long reign of the Ottoman rulers.

 

Attractions of Trabzon: –

On the outskirts,  is Sumela monastery which is perched on the edge of a cliff face. Most people visit Trabzon especially to see this attraction. 

There is also a Hagia Sophia which is a lot smaller than its counterpart in Istanbul but it is still worth a visit. Formally a mosque and church, it is now a museum  but try to avoid the coach loads of people that often turn up because the interior is quite small.

Perched on a hilltop with a view over Trabzon is Ataturk’s house. Ataturk was the founder of the Turkish republic and  was given this house as a thank you.

Day trips also run to the nearby natural beauty of Uzungol. With its lakeside mosque and forested mountains that recall Switzerland, the ‘hidden valley’ of Uzungöl (Long Lake) remains idyllic.