Discovering Istanbul

10 November 2023 Travel time: with 26 October 2023 on 30 October 2023
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As you know, success in any business is determined by two main features. Firstly, this is how much you achieved the goals you set for yourself, and secondly, how much it cost you, in all senses, of course, and not just financially. Tourism in this regard is no exception; when planning any trip, each person outlines his goals, defines priorities, plans various types of acquisitions, from aesthetic to material, and calculates how much health, time, finances and other things will cost him to achieve his goals. Please forgive my philosophical introduction, but it’s impossible without it, I have seen different tourists in my time, but there are not many successful ones among them who would carefully think through their travels, study the history and modern reality of the place where they are staying, and rationally weigh their desires and capabilities.

And Istanbul, about which I want to write about my stay, is precisely the place that it is not recommended to visit without proper information and preparation. True, recently only the lazy have not written about this amazing historical place and modern metropolis, and this is not surprising, because Istanbul has now become the largest logistics hub in Europe with its new huge airport. youtube is also oversaturated with videos about Istanbul of varying quality, but it is all the more difficult for an ordinary tourist to obtain rational information if they want to visit this Turkish pearl, because Confucius also said that it is better not to read books at all than to believe everything that is written there. I don’t pretend to be the ultimate truth, because Istanbul is a multifaceted phenomenon that opens up to everyone in their own way, but with the experience I’ve gained, I’ll try to be as objective as possible.

So, what is so attractive about this huge city, divided by the Bosphorus into European and Asian parts, for tourists from around the world? I would highlight the following main facets in the magnetism of Istanbul. Traditionally, this is its historical heritage with numerous monuments in the form of mosques, cathedrals, palaces, parks, buildings, where every stone breathes the history of many centuries. The historical layer of values ​ ​ of Istanbul is huge and multifaceted, the study of which, even just getting to know it, requires enough time, effort, and, recently, considerable finances. The main attractions are located in the historical center, and this is the cathedral, and now the Aya Sofia Mosque, the Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet Square, the Egyptian Obelisk, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, Gulhane Park, and the Archaeological Museum.

Visits to the Aya Sophia and the Sultanahmet Mosque are free, but be prepared to stand in lines for many hours even in the off-season, because the number of visitors is off the charts. There are options to bypass the queues, this is to find a guide, or he will find you himself and for a negotiated amount (usually 50-100 USD) he will take you on an hour-long excursion, or try to visit these iconic mosques late in the evening, and they are open until 23:00, when There are significantly fewer visitors. There is another option: join the queue at Aya Sofia, go explore other attractions, or succumb to the persuasion of active touts to take a two-hour cruise along the Bosphorus on a tourist boat. Our family group did just that, and did not regret it at all, since traveling on regular ferries (vapur) along the Bosphorus from the European to the Asian part of Istanbul does not in any way replace a thematic walk along the Bosphorus with an audio guide.

There are several carriers, so you need to choose one with a reasonable price (we paid 15 USD for an adult and a child for free), an audio guide and a convenient pick-up and drop-off point. Wonderful photos and videos after such a walk are guaranteed. It’s not a fact that after this cruise you will find your turn at the mosque, but the impressions you receive will compensate for this. Topkapi Palace, where 25 dynasties of Turkish sultans lived and ruled the Ottoman Empire, is of course the most significant attraction in the historical center, but visiting it requires standing in line for tickets, several hours to visit, and considerable finances, prices in liras are constantly rising, equivalent to about 40. e. Of course, everyone decides for themselves which attractions to visit in the list of historical values ​ ​ of Istanbul, and which ones to take a photo of, everything is determined by personal interests, reserves of energy, time and finances.

There is another historical place in the former capital of the Ottoman Empire that was planned to be visited, this is the Dolmabahce Palace, where the last dynasties of the Turkish Sultanate ruled. But it is located on the other side of the Golden Horn, on the shores of the Bosphorus, and three days in Istanbul were not enough for us to visit it; we limited ourselves to a visual inspection from aboard a Bosphorus pleasure boat. A little away from Sultanahmet Square, on a hill, is the Suleymaniye Mosque, built back in the 16th century by order of Sultan Suleiman, and where his mausoleum and the tomb of his wife Hurrem, known to us all as Roksolana, are now located. The mosque is very large, beautiful in its decoration and decoration, there are no queues to get into it, located on a hill, it is clearly visible from different points of Istanbul and is a wonderful viewing platform for the city, the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. A must visit.

For us, the Suleymaniye Mosque was a “home” attraction, because it was located not far from our hotel, we visited it both during the day and in the evening, with night illumination it is magnificent. By the way, from the mosque there is a short road down to the Egyptian market, another historical highlight, and through it to the Galata Bridge.

Being in the historical center, it would be a sin not to visit the Basilica Cistern, in the past a place where drinking water was stored in the ancient city, and now it is a huge hall with columns, statues, bas-reliefs, pools of water, decorative lighting, a filming location for famous films, in general, as it is now as they say, a very Instagrammable place. Depending on personal priorities, visiting historical attractions in Istanbul will require at least a full day from the tourist, and 2 to 3 days to fully explore.

The Cathedral, and now the Hagia Sophia Mosque

Blue Mosque and Sultanahmet Square

Side view of Sofia and the pump room

A small fragment of the queue to Aya Sofia

Entrance to Topkapi Palace

Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque from the observation deck

View of Istanbul from the observation deck in Sulaymaniyah

Egyptian market decorated for the national holiday

Basilica Cistern

          Another component of the tourist attraction of Istanbul is its modern appearance, which consists of unique architectural and engineering structures, observation decks, museums, monuments, new mosques, embankments along the Bosphorus, and individual exotic areas of the city that are of interest to both tourists and local population. Visiting precisely such places will determine your impressions of Istanbul no less than historical sights, and maybe more. It is impossible to list them all; I will only focus on my priority list for this autumn trip.

It included bridges across the Golden Horn Bay (Galata and Halich), with views of the city, bay, and Bosphorus from them; the tallest skyscraper in Istanbul, Sapphire, with its observation deck and the unforgettable skyride attraction; Taksim Square, smoothly flowing into the most touristy, pedestrian Istiklal Street, with its branded boutiques, cafes, museums, consulates, cathedrals and of course a crowd of tourists. Next comes the Galata Tower, and the entire Beyoğ lu district where it is located, with numerous shops, hotels, restaurants and pastry shops. It is better to explore this area from Taksim Square to the Galata Bridge, and not vice versa, so as not to climb the mountain. The next architectural and engineering landmark of Istanbul is definitely the modern Galataport, which receives cruise ships from all over the world.

This is a great place for walks, photo shoots, visiting brand stores and cafes; there is also a museum of modern art on its territory.

A separate topic in getting to know modern Istanbul and its flavor is visiting its Asian part, in particular the Uzkudar and Kadikoy districts. It is better and more pleasant to do this by using city ferries (vapurs) departing from various piers in the European part, the largest of which is Eminö nü , near the Galata Bridge. In the Uzkudar area there is a beautiful embankment along the Bosphorus, along which you can walk to the Maiden Tower, and then drive a little in the other direction to the old Kuzguncuk microdistrict, where along the main street there are colorful wooden houses, painted in different colors, filming locations for Turkish TV series. There are also excellent views of the Bosphorus Bridge.

Here, in the Uzkudar region, the largest mosque in Turkey, Ç amlı ca, is located on a hill, built under the current president of this country. Tourists can get to the Kadikoy area either from the European part of Istanbul by ferry or by moving from Uzkudar by dolmus. Kadikoy also has a large embankment, and in addition it is famous for its fish market and fish restaurants, the Moda microdistrict and the old tram route. Having decided to go to the Asian part of Istanbul, more detailed information for developing a route can be easily obtained from travel blogs or youtube.

Istanbul City Hall, decorated for the centenary of the Turkish Republic

View of the city and Suleymaniye Mosque from the Halic Bridge

View of the Galata Bridge and Galata Tower

The tallest skyscraper Sapphire

View of Istanbul from the observation deck

The real masters of Istanbul are the seagulls on the Karakoy pier

Republic Monument on Taksim Square

Istiklal Street in festive decoration

View from one of the embankments of Istanbul

Stunning architecture of a Catholic cathedral in a Muslim country

        But why do we keep walking and driving around Istanbul? It's time to have a snack. And there is where to do it. Gastronomic Istanbul is a separate big topic that attracts tourists to this amazing city.

Most visitors to this metropolis have breakfast at hotels, and rightly so, to recharge their energy for at least half the day. But for gourmet Turkish cuisine, there are a number of restaurants that specialize in serving only breakfast, which consists of a variety of snacks served in individual plates. Alas, this is the only breakfast I have ever seen.

Given the large influx of tourists, street food is very developed in Istanbul. Trays of simits (Turkish bagel sprinkled with sesame seeds) stand every 100 meters, roasted corn and chestnuts are a little less common. Burgers, deners, shawarma and kebabs are available in any area of ​ ​ Istanbul, choose to suit every taste. We have become fans of a local dish, which can also be classified as fast food, called balyk-ikmek, this grilled mackerel with vegetables and sauce, wrapped in pita bread.

Near the Karakoy pier, next to the Galata Bridge, there is a fish market, and behind it a fish restaurant, where they will serve you delicious balyk-ikmek. When visiting restaurants in Istanbul to enjoy Turkish kebabs and pide, I recommend remembering the following. You need to choose cafes and restaurants among those that are popular among the local population or have many decent reviews on forums and Google; this will eliminate disappointment and unnecessary expenses. As a rule, every restaurant has dishes, such as otaman kebab, which are cooked in clay pots and served with fire show, and you are guaranteed an indelible impression and video. Not every restaurant, given the Muslim religion, has alcohol, and if it does, it may not be on the menu and it costs a decent amount. Almost all restaurants are ready to serve takeaway dishes, so if you haven’t finished eating something or want to dine in your room, there will be no problems.

And the last thing I wanted to tell you about the Istanbul catering system is the presence in the city of canteens that operate with price discounts at the expense of the state, since sometimes you need to think about saving. To find them, you need to search for Balkan Lokantasi in Google maps, and the map will show their location. True, we did not have time to visit them and get to know their quality.

Boat trip along the Bosphorus

These are the handsome men who bring tourists to Galataport

Dolmabahce Palace from aboard a tourist boat

Ortakoy Mosque near the Bosphorus Bridge

You can’t forbid living beautifully

Asian district of Uzkudar with the Maiden Tower

Maiden Tower

Embankment in Galataport

Galataport also participates in the national holiday

Emotions go through the roof when there is such beauty all around

        Well, we’ve had a bite to eat, and we can go shopping. By and large, the whole of Istanbul is a big market. Trays and retail outlets on every street are lined up one after another, sellers grab your hands and invite you to choose their goods. And this is not counting official stores, various markets and shopping centers.

There are wholesale markets, such as the Laleli district, there are weekly markets, which are held on a certain day of the week in different areas of Istanbul, where they mainly sell consumer goods and products at low prices, there are special markets, like the Egyptian one, where they sell spices, Turkish sweets and other specialties . And the Grand Bazaar is a city within a city, with many streets where everything is sold. In this variety of goods, there are Turkish and world brands, but there are many fakes, there is high-quality consumer goods and not so good, it is advisable to understand all this on the eve of your trip to Istanbul, mark shopping places for yourself and purposefully visit them. Grocery stores in the tourist part of the city are rare; you need to find Migros or other chain stores in Google maps, and then you will already know where to go. A special place for shopping in Turkey, and Istanbul is no exception, is pharmacies.

The fact is that in Turkey there is very high quality control of drugs sold in pharmacies, there are practically no counterfeits, drugs for all brands in different pharmacies are sold at fixed prices, which for some items can be 2-3 times cheaper than in Ukraine. Therefore, if you are interested in purchasing any medicines in Turkey, I recommend that you first familiarize yourself with their range on the website ilactr. com, enter the active ingredient of the medicine in Latin letters into the search and you will have complete information about the availability of the medicine, its trade names and price in Turkish lira. By the way, there should be no problems when converting prices into Ukrainian hryvnia; for the fall of 2023, you need to increase the price in lira by one third, and you will get the price in hryvnia. In official stores with terminals and in pharmacies, you can easily pay with hryvnia cards so as not to waste foreign currency.

One of the shopping streets of Istanbul

Turkish breakfast offers in one of the restaurants

Istanbul does not sleep at night

         Everything that I described above is the subject of interest for most tourists, and is therefore the most visited places, especially during a short stay in this Turkish metropolis. But there is also cultural, museum, sports, nightlife, and criminal Istanbul, but all these aspects of life in this city are not the subject of today’s story.

Now, after the descriptive part of the story, I want to move on to practical recommendations for that category of tourists who are just planning a trip to Istanbul and are thinking about how best to organize it.

Firstly, taking into account today's realities, you can get to Istanbul from Ukraine mainly by bus; I consider flight methods from neighboring countries not practical, more costly in time and finances, so I do not consider them. Before the trip, you need to decide who organizes it - a travel agency, or you yourself. If a tourist decides to travel on his own, he saves money, chooses his own hotel and area of ​ ​ residence, determines the period of stay, draws up a program of activities at his own discretion and allocates time, physical and financial resources for its implementation. Choosing a travel agency can only be recommended if it is an offer that is difficult to refuse, that is, if it has material bonuses, or in the organizational program of the tour, since in most cases travel agencies only include travel and hotel in the price of a tour to Istanbul, rarely just one sightseeing tour.

Next we will continue the conversation for those who want to be the architect of their own happiness. So, let’s decide on the timing of the visit to Istanbul. In my opinion they should range from 3 to 5 days of a full stay. Less unreasonable, more for those who have special plans for Istanbul. Now we choose a carrier. Many travel agencies and carriers organize tours from different cities of Ukraine, but not all on a daily basis. I know two companies that transport from Kyiv through Zhitomir, Vinnitsa, Khmelnitsky, Chernivtsi, Romania and Bulgaria every day. These are Luks Istanbul and Gunsel. The asking price is equivalent to 100 dollars, the buses have cold and hot water, tea, coffee, treat you to sweets, cola, and breakfast in Turkey. The buses are not overloaded, as a rule, each passenger is given a double seat, the journey takes from Kyiv from 27 to 30 hours.

Each of these carriers has an agreement with a hotel, usually next to the parking place, with which it cooperates, and if a tourist does not want to bother choosing a hotel, the carrier company can do this for him. When choosing a hotel on your own, I will not be very original if I advise the location of the hotel in the areas of Fatih, where the historical center is located, or Beyoglu, where Taksim, Istiklal, Galata Tower, Galataport are located. The main transport route for tourists in Istanbul is the T1 tram line, which connects these two areas, so I recommend choosing a hotel not far from it. The price for a hotel, in my opinion, should not exceed 50-60 dollars. for a double room per night, less, this is probably an outright flophouse or a bad location, if more, then you are unlikely to go to Istanbul for a hotel holiday, like on the Turkish coast.

I wish you all successful travels.

Translated automatically from Russian. View original
To add or remove photos in a story, go to album of this story
Собор, а ныне мечеть Ая София
Голубая мечеть и площадь Султанахмет
Вид сбоку на Софию и бювет
Небольшой фрагмент очереди в Ая Софию
Вход во дворец Топкапы
Мечеть Сулеймание
Мечеть Сулеймание со стороны смотровой площадки
Вид на Стамбул со смотровой в Сулеймание
Египетский рынок, украшенный к национальному празднику
Цистерна Базилика
Мэрия Стамбула, украшенная к столетию турецкой республики
Вид на город и мечеть Сулеймание с моста Халич
Вид на Галатский мост и Галатскую башню
Самый высокий небоскреб Сапфир
Вид на Стамбул со смотровой площадки
Настоящие хозяева Стамбула - чайки на пристани Каракей
Памятник Республика на площади Таксим
Улица Истикляль в праздничном убранстве
Вид с одной из набережных Стамбула
Потрясающая архитектура католического собора в мусульманской стране
Морская прогулка по Босфору
Вот такие красавцы т в туристов в Галатапорт
Дворец Долмабахче с борта туристического караблика
Мечеть Ортакей возле Босфорского моста
Красиво жить не запретишь
Азиатский район Узкудар с Девичьей башней
Девичья башня
Набережная в Галатапорту
Галатапорт тоже участвует в национальном празднике
Эмоции зашкаливают, когда кругом такая красота
Одна из торговых улочек Стамбула
Предложения турецкого завтрака в одном из ресторанов
Ночной Стамбул не спит
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