Must see places in Istanbul

After travelling almost 24 hours inclusive of our 9 hour transit in Abu Dhabi, we finally arrived in a cold wintry Istanbul. Often confused as the capital of Turkey, it is however the most populated city with 15.03 million people!!! Uniquely, Istanbul is the only city in the world that is split in between Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus strait. Formerly known as Byzantium during the Roman-era and then Constantinople and now Istanbul, this city has a rich history of religion and culture.

Here are some great places to visit in Istanbul:
(number not in order of visit)

1. Haghia Sophia (Ayasofya)
The third church of the Holy Wisdom is build on this site.  Meaning to say, this is the 3rd Ayasofya still standing strong at this location. It was once a Greek Orthodox Christian church which later in the years were converted into an impressive imperial mosque & now it is a functioning museum as ordered by Mustafa Kamal Ataturk (The Father of Turks). 

One of the more interesting facts about Haghia Sophia is the Sultan protected the Christian Mosaics. Instead of destroying the numerous frescoes and mosaics on the Hagia Sophia walls, Mehmed II ordered they be whitewashed in plaster and covered in Islamic designs and calligraphy (pretty smart move). Since it is going to be converted into a mosque at that time, it is only right to make the Christian mosaic out of sight. Many were later uncovered, documented, or restored by the Swiss-Italian architects Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati - which is now mostly visible in the museum.

Recently, an independent Turkish Heritage Association demanded to convert Haghia Sophia back as mosque for Islamic prayers but that plea has since been rejected by the Turkish court, more about it here.

2. Blue Mosque
The proper name of this mosque is Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Camii) - who is Sultan Ahmet? He is a young Sultan whom take over the throne after his father’s death, at age 14 with that he was also the 14th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He built Sultan Ahmet Mosque with the intention of making this the first mosque of his empire. An imperial mosque with 6 minarets, it was finally completed in 1616-17 shortly before Sultan Ahmet’s death. It is built opposite the ever stunning Ayasofya (At that time, year 1453, it has converted into a mosque after Sultan Mehmed invaded the city & captured the building).

If you are wondering, which part of the Blue Mosque is exactly blue? It was named the Blue Mosque because the interior of the building are filled with blue tiles as a dominant color decorating the walls.

3. Sulamaniye Mosque
We walked from the Bosphorus Bridge to Sulamaniye Mosque for about 30 minutes, going uphill was tough but it was not a wasted climb. I love the view and pretty much prefer this mosque than Sultan Ahmet Mosque.

4. Topkapi Palace
In Topkapi Palace, not many exhibited halls allows you to take photos but i can't resist on some sneaky shots. Apparently, what you are looking at is one of the many circumcision rooms for the royalties. Decked in beautiful blue tiles and cozy, carpeted decor, surely an inspiration for my future home.
4. Galata Tower
So here i am, at the top of one of the more iconic landmarks in Istanbul - the Galata Tower. I’m not usually a fan of seeing Cityscapes from touristy places (the likes of Bitexco tower, Taipei 101 etc) & prefer to see it from a different perspective but everyone we met kept saying that the view from the tower is spectacular. Well, the only thing spectacular is me. (But yeah, its quite beautiful seeing the Bosphorus sea.)
View from the Galata Tower that everyone has been raving about. Considering this is taken from the tallest building in the city, i have to agree, there’s no other building that can have this postcard-worthy angle (other than your drone). Enjoy.
5. The Grand Bazaar
In Turkish, Kapalicarsi, means covered market. The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest covered market in the world. Here you can feast your eyes on delicious baklavas, the finest spices and eyecatching Turkish lamps - for a great price! Oh, don't forget about their fresh pretzels in the carts and go get that Turkish ice cream experience!
5. Dolmabache Palace

Beautiful white things, beautiful white palace. I am in love with the architecture and could spend hours marveling inside the buildings. Do come early if you wish to visit both the Administrative and Residential Building here! They are not to be missed!

Istiklal St/ Taksim Square
Heaven on earth, the Orchard Road of Singapore but much more diverse in Brands. Istiklal Street is a shopping haven for the shopaholics. I love shopping at their local apparel stores because i find them more hijab friendly. Also, because there is Sephora here so i get to stock up on beauty brands not available in Singapore.  

This is also near the Galata Tower so you could make it a one time trip.

Until next time, i will update more about the must see places in Istanbul!

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