Istanbul - where the East begins is written by The editorial staff, RejsRejsRejs.
Istanbul is the gateway to the rest of the world
Istanbul is overwhelming in many ways. The city on the border between Europe og Asia offers a jumble of impressions. This is where the east meets the west, and the north connects to the south. People come from near and far to experience the colors and speed of the big city or the peace and quiet of some of the nearby islands.
Istanbul has it all - it's just about going in search of what's just you.
Audio Turkey largest city draws Istanbul in many travelers who are looking for big city adventures. If you are flying to the city, you can arrive in either the big new airport Istanbul International on the European side or in the slightly smaller Sabiha Gökcen on the Asian side.
The city is divided approximately in the middle of the Bosphorus Strait, which can be crossed by ferry or over the long Bosphorus Bridge.
No matter where you land, it is recommended to stay centrally, as Istanbul is brilliant to experience on foot. Sights and experiences are in a row, and a large part of the experience is to be overwhelmed by the sounds, smells and life lived in the narrow streets.
Blue - The historic heart of Istanbul
The most central district through the centuries is historic Sultanahmet. As you move around this neighborhood, you are taken back to the Middle Ages. This is where History mixed with culture og gastronomy. Let yourself get lost in the many small streets, eat a kebab on a street corner and experience the atmosphere of one of the bars on a Friday night.
It is in this neighborhood that you will find three central mosques, which are also some of the most popular sights in the city: Sultan Ahmet Camii - also known as the Blue Mosque - and the neighboring Hagia Sophia as well as the Süleymaniye Mosque at the top of the hill. Everyone has something very special to offer.
The Blue Mosque, is a sight not to be missed. It is a breathtaking mosque, known for its 6 minarets and for its very special exalted tranquility, even though it is located in the middle of the busy center.
The Hagia Sophia Mosque was originally built in 537 as a church in what was then Constantinople and was for hundreds of years the center of Christianity, until the church in 1453 was conquered by Sultan Mehmet II and converted into a mosque. The mosque stands beautifully with its dome-shaped roofs and today is also a museum with many colorful mosaics of religious scenes.
The Süleymaniye Mosque is a stone's throw north and uphill in the Fatih district and is definitely worth a visit. Apart from the fact that the mosque is the second largest in Istanbul and exudes both power and splendor, you have a fantastic view of the entire central Istanbul from the mosque. From here you can see many of the city's famous landmarks, which are good to navigate by.
5 attractions in Sultanahmet that you must not deceive yourself about
Lively Grand Bazaar is one of the world's largest bazaars with over 4.000 stalls. Here is everything you can imagine, and a little more. Move around the many small streets, smell the spices and feel the atmosphere - a fascinating and hectic crowd, where you can hardly avoid getting a little lost. It is Shopping in the Oriental way, where the price is always negotiable.
If you need a break from the bazaar and the hustle and bustle of the streets, visit the Cisterns and experience the underground tranquility sinking around you. The impressive building was started in the year 527, and is today 1500 years later one of the sights in Istanbul that you must not miss.
In the Sultanahmet district you will also find the University of Istanbul, located between the Grand Bazaar and the Süleymaniye Mosque. The university is adorned with historical, architectural details and a beautiful stop on the way if you need to sit down and get some peace of mind.
If you need a little green to look at and a little shade, visit Gülhane Park. In the park you can stroll around and experience many different gardens and fragrant flowers - a breath of fresh air on your walk around the neighborhood. Gülhane is located right next to one of the great highlights of both Sultanahmet and Istanbul in general: the Topkapi Palace.
Topkapi was the palace that housed the Ottoman sultans for hundreds of years with court, army, harem and the entire molevit. It is hard not to be impressed by the sumptuous richness of which the style and decor of the palace are a testament. Everything that looks like gold is gold.
It's easy to lose your way in the Sultanahmet's crowds and sensory bombardment, so it pays to use the tram line that runs through the district to find your way. Follow the rails and you will end up at the harbor, where it is easier to orientate yourself.
From the harbor you can hop on one of the many ferries, which connect the city crosswise, and which is an attraction in itself.
Taksim - the young Istanbul
When you have had enough of the Sultanahmet's hectic atmosphere, move on to the more modern district of Beyoglu or Taksim on the other side of the water, the Golden Horn - called Halic in Turkish.
If you cross the famous old Galatabro, which is a really good place to enjoy the view of the busy harbor or a freshly caught sardine sandwich from the stalls under the road, you will come straight over to the historic tower Galata, which is one of the city's most famous landmarks. It was built in the Middle Ages, where it served as a watchtower, but is today a museum where you can get a 360 degree view of the whole of Istanbul from the top.
Use the tower as a fixed point when you move around, so you do not get lost, even if it is okay. A trip up the tower can also help find head and tail in where everything is in relation to each other and the view of the old skyline and the minarets of Sultanahmet on the other side of the water is phenomenal.
In the Taksim district, you will find the large square Taksim Meydani, where tourists and locals meet and hang out among the more modern shops, hotels and restaurants. The square and the area also attract many young people, who especially in the evening occupy the neighborhood's many bars and discos.
Besides being a mecca for shoppers and night owls, the Taksim area is also one of the places that attracts football fans from near and far. One of the big Istanbul football clubs, Besiktas, is located in the impressive Vodafone Park stadium below Taksim Square on the way to the water. Here you can experience the riveting and fanatical football atmosphere, and if you sit on the north stand, you also have a view of the Bosphorus.
As a finishing touch, visit the sumptuous Dolmabahce Palace, which stands out impressively from the Bosphorus. The palace is one of the most iconic buildings with bling-bling for the great gold medal from the Ottoman period. A clear priority during your visit to Istanbul.
A trip to Asia
You can not go to Istanbul without visiting both continents of the city. Take the ferry from the quay on the European side to eg Üsküdar on the Asian side of the water. This district offers mostly residential areas for the locals, but is still worth a visit.
Visit some of the many restaurants and cafes, while strolling through the neighborhood. There are lots of delicious temptations to put your teeth into, so it's just about trying yourself out and letting your taste buds lead the way.
Along the quay in Üsküdar you can throw yourself on blankets and pillows and enjoy the view of the hectic harbor and the beautiful city skyline with a glass of Turkish tea in hand. Then it does not get much better.
A little further south on the Asian side you will find one of the other big football clubs in the city namely Fenerbahce, which is located in the district of Kadiköy. The club's distinctive yellow-blue colors are evident in the street scene and you are in no doubt when there is a match. Football is almost a religion in Istanbul, and it is very easy to make new friends - or unfriends - if you throw yourself into a football conversation with the locals.
Excursions out of Istanbul
Once you've had enough of the city life and noise you can take on some of the obvious excursions out of the city.
You can easily take the ferry up the Golden Horn, where you can possibly stop in the suburb of Eyüp Sultan, which is cozy and relaxed and with a historic and important mosque. If you sail further north, you will come to Miniatürk, which is a fun miniature universe for the kids with Turkey's famous sights in miniature.
Further north you come to the third of the big football clubs, Galatasaray, which in their impressive stadium, can have more than 50.000 wild spectators. Definitely worth an experience.
If you need pure relaxation and to enjoy the warm temperatures, then you can take the ferry to one of the surrounding islands. For example, you can take from most ferry terminals in the city center to one of the Prince Islands south of the city and enjoy sun, beach and bathing water. Along the way you will experience Istanbul from the water side and thus get all the way around the city.
An obvious way to put an end to your travel adventure to Istanbul is with an evening cruise on the Bosphorus. You can look forward to the scent of sea, a colorful evening sky and the city's beautiful architecture and history that breaks the horizon. You can find departures, for example, from the quay at Galatabroen.
If you are not into water experiences, you can also enjoy the sunset from one of the restaurants located under the Galata Bridge. Enjoy the view along with a cold beer or a drink.
The whole world meets in Istanbul
Istanbul is a meeting place for many people. Everything from business people and scam makers to holidaymakers and football fans gather here. It is therefore a good idea to pay extra attention to your belongings as you move around the unique metropolis.
In general, the locals and other tourists are very friendly, but there are many people gathered in one place, and dexterous scammers are not an unknown phenomenon. Finally, don’t let that scare you; the adventure awaits you right at the end of Europe, where the East begins.
Good trip to Istanbul.