Although a book can be written about the exciting things to do in the beautiful city of Istanbul, here are the top picks for every 1st time traveller.
Visit the Hagia Sophia Museum
A must-see attraction in Istanbul, Hagia Sophia is a church turned mosque turned museum, and is deemed the most beautiful architecture of the city. The 15 centuries old monument built during the Byzantine Empire is the centre of tourists’ attention for a reason. You will be amused by its extremely beautiful interiors and the 43 meters wide dome decorated with mesmerizing mosaics and tiles. The museum is also home to several ancient relics, murals, and calligraphy.
Go Shopping at Grand Bazaar
Get lost in one of the largest covered markets in the world, the Grand Bazaar, which is a labyrinth of more than 60 streets and 5000 shops. Tourists often claim to have one of their most exciting shopping experiences ever in these streets. From colourful lanterns to aromatic spices, luxurious fabrics to fancy carpets, handmade jewellery to Turkish souvenirs, it’s hard resisting to not buy the things you will come across here. Just make sure to bargain before you buy anything.
Explore the Local Food Scene
If you are driven by good food, Istanbul is a heaven for you. Inspired by Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Balkan cuisines, Turkish food takes you on a roller-coaster ride of flavours and aromas. From succulent kebabs, savoury desserts, tangy pickles, to refreshing beverages, the food here is enough to tickle every taste bud of yours. You can either roam the streets exploring the amazing Turkish dishes, or if you do not wish to miss out on the must try dishes, go for a food tour.
Visit the Blue Mosque
Not blue from the outside, you will have to enter the mosque to know why it’s called the Blue Mosque. Located in Istanbul’s Old City, the mosque is originally known as Sultanahmet Camii. The interiors of the mosque are covered with more than 20,000 blue Iznik tiles and look equally amazing as its exterior. Enjoy the awe-inspiring Ottoman architecture of the mosque that features 6 minarets, and beautifully cascaded domes. No doubt this mosque is considered the most photogenic building in Istanbul.
Watch a Sufi Whirling Dervish Show
The Whirling Dervish dance is a part of Turkish heritage which can be enjoyed at various shows in Istanbul. Unlike typical dance forms, Whirling Dervish dance is a spiritual one and started off as a form of meditation. Performers dance on a stage in a continuous whirling motion with their eyes open but unfocused as Sufi music is played in the background. Some of the spots in Istanbul to catch Whirling Dervish performance live are Galata Mevlevihanesi, Sirkeci Train Station, and Hodjapasha.