Walking through the underground cistern in the half-light listening to the sounds of dripping water mingle with the strains of classical music is an eerie but magical experience.
Reputedly the orginal cistern was built by Constantine the Great with the curent one enlarged and rebuilt by Justinian in 532. It is an amazing feat of engineering seeing the columns (approx. 336) stretch away in front of you and above towards the arched roof.
Don't miss the Weeping Column and the Medussa Head column bases (thought to mark a shrine to water nymphs).
There is also a small coffee shop in the cistern.
13 Yerebatan Caddesi, Sultanahmet
Tram stop Sultanahmet
0212 522 12 59
It's an amazing place and well worth the walk around.
The entry fee gets you in and you pay extra to go the Armoury and Treasury sections but well worth it. Free is the view of the Bosphorus from the rear battlements of the palace. Along with the mosques, the spice market and the grand bazaar, Topkapi is a must see in Istanbul . I was amazed!
close to Sirkeet railway station
and a short walk away from the Grand Bazaar, St Sophia, Sultanahmet mosque
and the Hippodrome
A perfect chance to see the way in which two cultures, the way in which east and west, truly meet in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia is now a museum but was previously a church and later a mosque. The beautiful building shows various aspects of two cultures. Hagia Sophia truly allows the cultural richness of Istanbul to be seen.
The museum is also located close to the Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) was built for Sultan Ahmet I between 1609 to 1616 by the imperial architect Mehmet Aga.
It is a wonderful building. Serene and majestic. The aesthetic of the exterior is beautiful. The way the domes cascade down towards the courtyard. Then the interior of the Mosque itself - spacious and peaceful - with the blues, red and gold of the decoration and the huge yet intricate chandeliers.
During the summer months there is a free Son et Lumiere show just after dusk.
At Meydani, Sultanahmet
The Topkapi Palace must be one of the highlights of visiting Istanbul. Built between 1459 and 1465 it is not the traditional royal palace building I was expecting, but a series of pavilions and kiosks placed in four large courtyards and surrounded by beautiful gardens.
The harem, the private living quarters of the Sultan, his wives, concubines and children, is a labyrinth of corridors rooms and courtyards. Some of the rooms, such as the imperial chamber and the dining room of Ahmet III, are exquisitely decorated. Standing in one of the courtyards overlooking the Harem baths it is easy to imagine the daily life of the women here, their frustrations, hopes and ambitions.
In the narrow corridors one can imagine the scheming, intrigue and jostling for position as the favours of the Sultan were vied for.
The third courtyard contains the treasury, where the famous Topkapi dagger is held, and the pavilion of the holy mantle, which contains some of Islam's Hholiest relics. Walking past the room containing the Prophet Mohammed's mantle listening to the sound of chanting as verses of the Koran are recited was a heady, quite emotional experience.
In the fourth courtyard is the Baghdad Pavilion beautifully decorated with blue and white tiles and the gold canopy of the Iftariye Pavilion where there are wonderful views over the Golden Horn.
nearest Tram stop: Sultanahmet
Hagia or Aya Sophia (Church of the Divine Wisdom) was inaugurated in 537 by Emperor Justinian. It has been a church, mosque and is now a museum.
The first thing to strike you when entering the nave is its sheer size and scale (the dome reaches a height of 54m, 187 ft). It is worth letting your eyes wander up the walls past the half domes and on to the apex of the main dome which seems to float, as if suspended in the air, above the interior space. Quite dizzying.
The galleries contain some beautiful frescos, you can also get a close up view of the huge plaques bearing calligraphic inscriptions which hang over the nave. The views over the nave itself and the ceiling are fantastic.
Just outside the exit is an exquisite ablutions fountain. Visiting Hagia Sophia is a truly awe-inspiring experience.
Ayasofya meydani, Sultanahmet; nearest tram: Sultanahmet
This hotel is run by a Japanese-Turkish family and is located in the beautiful and secluded Paradise Bay.
The hotel is just by the water with a stunning view, and you can relax on the long wooden jetty listening to the nature, without any disturbances. The sea is very clear - just like an aquarium where you can watch the fish go by.
The food is delicious, it is basically Aegean food: vegetables, herbs and mainly fish cooked with olive oil, and the Japanese menu cooked personally by the owners suited my taste.
The deluxe rooms are nicely decorated and are spacious, all with seaviews. The only
thing that might be negative is that the road leading to the hotel is unpaved and quite bumpy. They are waiting for the municipality to fix it, I hope that it works.
I would recommend the hotel to anyone who would like to have a quiet and relaxing holiday, enjoy the seaside and the nature plus a very friendly and comfortable stay.
Cennet Koyu n:48 Gölköy Bodrum 48400 Mugla Turkey
phone: +90 252 357 74 16-17-18
Cennet Koyu no:48 Gölköy Bodrum 48400 Mugla.
Tel: +90 252 357 74 16-17-18
First an Orthodox church, then a mosque, now a museum, Hagia Sophia represents all the layers of Istanbul's history. A funny-looking, squat building from outside, it possesses an interior of outstanding beauty. As you enter, the enormous dome opens above you; the beauty of it made me weep. It is a lovely building of curves and light and space - unmissable.
The pile on board. The red leather seats patched with tape. The uplift of wash as the chugging Clydeside engines, 50 years after they were built, pull you away from (in old money) Asia Minor.
Listen to the cries of white coated waiters cry, "Chi! Chi! Chi!". Buy a tea for God's sake! It's their living! Add plenty of sugar. Buy a Simit; Sesame seeded bread. If it's cold, purchase a salep with cinnamon on top. It has the look and consistency of...eh...but tastes GRRREEEAATTT!
And then, the best bit.
Watch the European side hove into view. Aya Sofia, The Mahvi Cami, the bustle of old Istanbul. And if you can be bothered, do it as the sun rises. From Asia to Europe. The finest commute. Ever.
The Spice Bazaar or Misir Carsisi (Egyptian Bazaar, because taxes from the sale of Egyptian imports were used to help finance it) is a colourful mix of sights, sounds and smells. Much smaller and more accessible than the Grand Bazaar, it is equally as busy. Traders will tempt you into their shops with a tray of Turkish delight and once inside you can peruse an array of spices, sweets, nuts and teas.
A good place to shop for gifts to take home. Or some apple tea to accompany the tea glasses you buy at the Grand Bazaar.
The streets around the Spice Market, particularly leading up to the Grand Bazaar, are a crowded, vibrant noisy, confusion of people, shops, stalls and carts.
Cami Meydani Sok/Yeni Cami Cadessi; Open: 9.00am-6.00pm closed Sunday
No matter how little time you have for visiting Istanbul, you have to take a boat trip along the Bosphorus. All boats zigzag the Bosporus stopping alternately at a European and an Asian port. The best time to take the boat is on a warm summer’s evening so that you get to see the sunset and, if lucky, full moon over the city.
There is a public service ferry that does the full length or privately run boats that also offer shorter routes
The colours, the smells, the crowds. A vibrant, hyperreal place. Much more exciting than the rather touristy grand bazaar (not to say that's not worth a visit). Actually full of locals doing their everyday shopping. And the sweets are delicious.
Go down the hill from the Grand Bazaar towards the Golden Horn
This pleasant little fishing village is the last stop on the excellent ferry ride along the Bosphorus, which you can take from Eminonu. This tour is an absolute must if you visit Istanbul. The houses and architecture along the Bosphorus are stunning. The idea is that you end up in Anadolu Kavagi with enough time to visit the ruined castle on the hill to take in the view of the mouth of the Bosphorus and enjoy a great meal in one of the many fish restaurants there. My favourite was the one immediately to the left of the Ferry Iskele.
At the north end of the Bosphorus, last stop on the ferry ride.
The Suleymaniye Mosque was founded by Suleyman the Magnificent and designed by the master architect Sinan.
As well as being a place of worship it included a hospital, soup kitchen, school and bath house and a welfare system that tended to the needs of the poor of the city.
The complex is very worthy of the name magnificent. From the soaring minarets, the peacefulness of the courtyard to the beauty and tranquility of the Mosque's interior.
Not as highly decorated as the Blue Mosque, it is equally impressive with its fine masonary, decorated dome and intricate calligraphy.
The tomb of Suleyman, next to the Mosque, is also worth visiting. Ceramic stars are set into the ceiling overlooking the coffins of Suleyman, his daughter and two of his successors.
Nearest tram stops are Beyazit or Eminonu then a 10 minute walk.
My wife and I did this a few years back. We set out and watched the sunset over the Golden Horn. The ferries themselves are of a shabbily romantic variety, with all walks of Istanbul life crowded aboard.
One word of warning, however: make sure your ferry is returning to Istanbul! With slowly dawning panic, we became aware that our poor grasp of Turkish and ferry routemaps had put us on a one-way trip to the Black Sea.
Once we had realised this, we were halfway down the Bosphorus (having ogled many a fortress along the way) and more than a little worried. Fortunately, it was an all-stopper and we disembarked at an unnamable little town past the glassworks with a lively looking square.
We found a local store where they told us where to find a bus heading back to Taksim Square. Very kindly, they gave us a pair of bus tickets to get back.
Unfortunately, when we caught the bus, it turned out we needed three each! No worries, a collection was taken up and the passengers on the bus made up our deficit! It was amazing to be rescued and no one would accept any payment in exchange for their tickets. We sat sheepishly and grinned like idiots for the whole hour and a half journey back to the city.
It was dark, very late and we were very tired when we got back, but we had had quite an adventure. We will never forget the kindness of the Turkish people!
Eminonu Ferry Terminal by the Galata Bridge
It is good to understand what the country is all about before you embark the city. Set against the rest of the country it is the only place in the world where eastern paradise meets the west.
The best tip I can give you is to have the utmost respect, for the culture, the people, the language because it is a liberal Muslim country that has adapted to the ideals of the west. The locals are friendly, not slimy and they truly possess the gift of the gab. Be prepared to be sold everything from sweet honey filled Gozleme - (pancakes) to fake designer rip off gear (just remember to check the spelling, I came back from the local Egyptian market with bags full of designer gear to find that my designer Gucci t-shirts were spelt Goolies).
The street vendors are colourful and funny and will entice you with anything. Don't pretend you don't speak English as I guarantee that the Turks can speak every language under the sun, try to learn the lingo 'Merhaba' (Hello) and 'Teshkuredrim' (Thank you) will take you a long way.
Never refuse the hospitality of a Turk, they will offer you tea and food with good intentions. Refusing can often offend people. Take English pounds and the euro and I guarantee that you will have the best bartering tool, a strong currency.
It’s the only place I know that is unspoiled by the explosive tourist trade and its currently one of the safest countries to visit in the Middle East. Turkey: it's definitely not just for Christmas.
Take a ferry from Eyüp to Uskudar at the cost of one Lira. This passes all down the Golden Horn stopping at port after port and then finally crossing over the Bosphorus to Uskudar on the Asian side. Leave just before sunset and sip tea along the way for the cheapest and most beautiful way to visit Istanbul.
"I have surpassed thee, Solomon!" Reputedly the words of the Byzantine emperor Justinian on completion of his architectural pierce de resistance. Talk about urban renewal. In this Sceptered Isle in the middle of the 6th-century AD we weren't even building in brick, let alone creating a dome unsurpassed for a thousand years.
There's plenty of books to describe the remarkable history that took place within it. If you can be bothered to read up, try John Julius Norwich if you want the building to speak to you. However, if you don't have opposable thumbs, just marvel at its sheer architectural genius. Church of the Divine Wisdom with added minarets - have it.
The corner terrace of Topkapi Palace. I don’t think this is the official name but you can’t miss it. It’s on the Sea of Marmara side. At the end of the terrace, you will be standing right above where Marmara and Golden Horn meet and the Bosphorus starts. You can stand there for ages, watching the commuter ferries criss-cross from one continent to another, dodging the massive tankers and trying not to ram into all manner of small boats carrying commuters or fishermen.
Whenever I miss Istanbul, my hometown, I close my eyes and imagine this view of where Istanbul comes together.
The Palace enterance is behind Aya Sofia
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