Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

Enjoy the culturally rich Istanbul

{Editor’s Note: You know from my previous posts that Istanbul is one of my favorite cities in the world. The following guest post outlines a few great attractions that are truly must-sees for visitors to the region.}

Guest post by Dave Stephenson

Poised elegantly on either side of the narrow Bosphorus, which joins the Black Sea to the Sea of Mamara, Istanbul has been the meeting point between Europe and Asia for centuries.  This culturally rich Turkish city, formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is a stepping stone between the cultures of the East and West.  It is a vibrant and cosmopolitan metropolis that contains dazzling palaces, mosques, churches and museums that trace the city’s magnificent history through the ages.

Istanbul was the capital of three empires, Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman, and though it is not the capital of Turkey, it is the country’s best known jewel.  There are few cities better endowed to provide a cultural feast for the eyes and ears, offering not only architectural riches but also artistic festivals that celebrate music and film.  Istanbul’s bustling bazaars and culinary delights add extra spice to the experience of this unique city.  Cheap rental cars are available to take visitors to a wide range of top attractions.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Inside of the Blue Mosque, photo taken by Shannon Falzon

One of 500 mosques in Istanbul, the Blue Mosque is considered to be the symbol of the city.

Its official name is the Sultanahmet Mosque, named after the Ottoman ruler Sultan Ahmet and built in the 17th century.  The mosque has six towering minarets, and the interior of this majestic building is decorated with thousands of blue-glazed tiles, giving the mosque its familiar name.

Topkapi Palace 

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey

This huge, sprawling series of buildings was constructed by Sultan Mehemet in the 15th century.  It sits on Istanbul’s acropolis and has stunning views of the Golden Horn, an inlet of the Bosphorus.  It became a museum in the 1920s by decree of Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey.  Its many courtyards and rooms – including the Harem – contain thousands of examples of arts and crafts from different cultures, including a collection of magnificent clocks, porcelain from China and Japan, and weapons from the Ottoman Empire armies and those captured from defeated enemies.  In the Treasury can be found the richest collection of jewelry in the world, including huge, uncut emeralds and the famous Topkapi Dagger, the symbol of the museum.

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

A single shop within the Grand Bazaar, photograph taken by Shannon Falzon

With its 60 streets and 5,000 shops, the Grand Bazaar, or Kapaliçarşi, is one of the biggest covered markets in the world.  The richness of modern and ancient Turkish culture is fully on display and can be explored here for hours.  Individuals can browse shops selling jewelry, carpets, embroideries, hand-painted ceramics, leather goods and antiques.  The bazaar, which has been a trading center since the middle of the 15th century, is famed for its enormous range of spices on offer.

Music and film

Istanbul is home to the International Arts and Cultural Festival in June and July.  With its diverse program offerings, which include art, fashion, design, literature, architecture, film and music, the festival hosts artists from all over the world.  In April, the Istanbul International Film Festival brings together thousands of movie lovers and offers directors, producers and all involved in the worldwide movie business the chance to meet and talk about old and new projects.

Have you guys been to Istanbul? What are your favorite sites and must-sees?


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