1. Take a Bosphorus Cruise
With so many historical attraction spots in Istanbul, travelers often overlook a Bosphorus tour. Just what is a Bosphorus tour? No, it’s not a chemical element with the atomic number 15. It’s a cruise where you get the sum of views of the major tourist attractions of the city.
A visit to Istanbul would not be complete without a Bosphorus cruise. Not only does it offer a decent view of the city, both on the European and Asian shores, it also gives you excellent views of old royal residences and manors strewn about in the massive city that is Istanbul. There are a few options you can take: a short one (to the second suspension span and back), along one (the distance to the Black Sea and back), and a nightfall visit in mid-year.
2. Walk like a Sultan at Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayı) is a legit palace you can’t afford to miss while in Istanbul. This impressive complex containing booths and structures, with four rich green patios, is the palace used during the eras of the Sultans and served as their essential home for a large part of a century.
But that’s not what’s cool and interesting about this palace, what’s interesting is the harem. The harem is where the Sultan’s concubines and eunuchs lived. The dude’s got a special room for nothing more than to serve his naughty ambitions. How cool is that?
3. Go underground at the Basilica Cistern
Another cool Byzantine era site. This subterranean structure is the largest surviving cistern in Istanbul. This amazing bit of Byzantine engineering is staggering underground storage, once carrying drinking water with reservoir conduits from Bulgaria to Istanbul.
Take a walk along the wooden platforms, and feel the water flowing from the vaulted ceiling while enjoying the sight of colorful carps swimming in the water. From its diminishing light and strange traditional music to the spooky sound of dribbling water, it certainly provides a strange and eerie atmosphere worth checking out.
4. Visit the Archaeology Museums
Travelers often skip the Archeology Museums, and that is a shame. The Archeology Museums in Istanbul is a genuine diamond in the rough hidden among other great attractions, that and I’m also an avid archaeology fanatic. These museums sport one of the world’s wealthiest accumulations of established antique pieces. It has three parts – Archaeology Museum (Arkeoloji Müzesi), the Museum of the Ancient Orient (Eski Şark Eserler Müzesi) and the Tiled Pavilion (Çinili Köşk)
Here you’ll find the grand sarcophagus of Alexander the Great, which outline some crucial periods of his life, the blue-tiled Karaman Mihrab, the delightful Tiled Pavilion, and the Treaty of Kadesh.
5. Check out the Süleymaniye Mosque, skip the blue one
Rather than recommend the more famous Blue Mosque, I recommend visiting the less renowned Süleymaniye Mosque instead. Why? Well, the Blue Mosque smells like a room full of wet dogs, and Süleymaniye Mosque is a lot more photogenic.
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Süleymaniye Mosque, unlike the Blue Mosque, isn’t overrun with tourists. The Mosque was engineered by the celebrated engineer Sinan, commissioned by Süleyman the Magnificent and is an awesome tribute to both.
6. Haggle at the Grand Bazaar
Test your haggling mettle here. Extreme deal chasing at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar can be an enjoyable experience, and you’ll learn some new life skills that will help you in your travels. This place is more than 500 years old! It’s the probably the oldest marketplace, like ever. It’s also one of the biggest covered bazaars on the planet.
It has 60 avenues containing no less than 5000 shops, 60 eateries, 18 wellsprings, 12 mosques, and even a school. This is not a tourist trap, local peeps shop here all the time and chances are they’re better at bartering than you so observe and learn. This place is also well-known for its rugs, cowhide, earthenware production, trinkets, and gems.
There are a lot more things to do and see that what I recommended above. But if you’re short on time, like I was, do the above. It’s a great complementary experience to the already fantastic knowledge of the hospitality of the people of Turkey.