I Visited One of the Most Beautiful Cities in the World!
When I first saw the Blue Mosque in Ben Affleck’s Hollywood flick, Argo, I made up my mind that Istanbul is one place I will definitely visit and stand next to the lovely structure known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque. This dream came true when I got a chance to visit the attractive city, thanks to an Indian airline for starting a direct low fare flight.
Istanbul is a beautiful amalgamation of cultures, of old and new and has a welcoming vibe. By far, it is on my list of the topmost beautiful cities in the whole world.
The minute I landed at Istanbul Airport I somehow got an overwhelming feeling. Situated on the banks of Bosphorus, this gorgeous city earlier called Constantinople is rich in culture, Ottoman architecture and most of all, tourists from Asia and Europe. You will feel a mix of the Asian and European cultures across the city.
From India, it's easier to visit Istanbul with direct flights from major cities and an e-visa requirement if you hold a valid US visa. Since I had an organized tour planned, I had a cab waiting for me at the airport ready to take me to my hotel in Sultanahmet. It will be nice if you book a hotel in Sultanahmet, which is on the old side of the city where most of the tourist attractions are located.
The Turkish lira is not a very expensive currency and the people are very hospitable, that contributes to a memorable vacation.
If your Google Maps is functional, you can visit most attractions on foot from your hotel in Sultanahmet. Our exploration began in the morning with the Spice Bazaar near the Blue Mosque. The Spice Bazaar is oh so lively and bustling with people yet very expensive for picking up souvenirs or Turkish towels.
Next stop was the stunning Bosphorus cruise- a must do. The Bosphorus has been a major trade route bringing in traders into Istanbul, the country's financial capital from ancient times. You cannot miss to sail across this beautiful river and experience prime real estate on the banks. The sight of the stunning riverside houses is so enthralling, that it makes you want to own a house there. The cruise also makes you witness beautiful mosques, gazebos and palaces of the Ottoman Sultans.
Never miss a chance to experience a Turkish meal on a rooftop restaurant with views of the Blue Mosque and the Bosphorus River; it is such a soothing sight!
Speaking of Turkish food, Turkish cuisine is such a delight for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. I am a vegetarian and did not face any challenge enjoying a single meal as compared to my carnivore husband. The Turkish people love their Greek Yoghurt and their Baklava. Make sure to eat up both while in Istanbul. For Baklava do not miss visiting the Mado stores across the city, their Baklava is the absolute best and so is their Turkish coffee.
Also, try the famous Turkish ice cream sold dramatically by street vendors. Sample the awesome local delicacies such as apple tea, Turkish coffee, Turkish Gozleme and borek. Do not miss a chance to gorge on a doner falafel wrap or a shawarma wrap.
A walk around the Bosphorus River in Sultanahmet is just something you will be compelled to do in the evenings. The view from the river is just worth a million bucks.
Visit the Topkapi Palace, the Beylerbeyi Palace, the Galata Tower, the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome of Constantinople and Hagia Sophia. I strongly recommend a mini tram ride across the old city to experience the real Turkey.
Do your souvenir shopping from the shops in Sultanahmet, their prices are far reasonable than elsewhere. Do not forget to take home the evil eye souvenir for friends and family.
I was in Istanbul only for 3 days and wished I could spend more time there just walking around, sitting at a roadside café, sipping Turkish coffee and eating a Baklava. I hope and pray that I get to visit this stunning city at least once more!