The vibrant city of Istanbul, straddling two continents, should top your travel destination checklist. Here’s why, and a roadmap of what to do once you’re there.
Istanbul boasts stunning architecture and centuries-old sites, as well as hip boutiques, hotels and nightlife. Coupled with culinary delights and a bustling energy, it’s no wonder travellers have taken note.
Feast your eyes on the former living quarters of the Ottoman sultans at Topkapi Palace, which includes four courtyards, treasures galore and the must-see Harem apartments, where the sultan’s concubines lived. Take a break at the on-site Konyali Restaurant and soak in the gorgeous views of the Sea of Marmara.
Galata Tower, a 220-foot-high observation tower, boasts the best views of Istanbul and dominates the skyline. If you walk up the steep incline to the tower from Galata Bridge, you’ll find the city’s cheapest cups of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice along the way. From the tower, walk to the famous Istiklal Avenue, lined with modern shops, cafés, restaurants and nightlife.
Hop on a ferry and take an unforgettable cruise down the Bosphorus, a straight that separates Europe and Asia and offers spectacular scenery. You’ll see incredible palaces and the towering minarets of beautiful mosques along the shore.
Stop by the Spice Market to pick up exotic spices, dried fruits, tea, Turkish delight (lokum) and nuts. And don’t miss the labyrinthine Grand Bazaar filled with thousands of shops selling rugs, blue evil-eye souvenirs, Turkish bathrobes, jewelry and other keepsakes. Don’t be afraid to bargain with shopkeepers who will try to woo you at every turn. It’s a haggler’s paradise.
There’s arguably no mosque more majestic than the Blue Mosque. The six minarets on the exterior will impress any passerby, as will the tens of thousands of blue and white tiles that adorn the inside.
Be sure to stop into the Arasta Bazaar located behind the Blue Mosque and say hello to Jennifer Gaudet, the Edmontonian owner of Jennifer’s Hamam. Pick up a kese, an exfoliating glove, to use on your visit to a Turkish bath—try tourist-friendly Çemberlitaş Hamami, built in 1584.
Cap off the night at the nearby Meşale Café. Hear live music, watch a Whirling Dervish perform, sip tea and take in unparalleled people watching.