There are many top reasons to visit Istanbul; so many in fact that a week wouldn’t be enough to be able to explore them all. Nevertheless, you can always count on having a great time in this city. As the largest city in Turkey, it serves as the cultural, historical and economic heart of the country and is located just east of Greece. And during the Byzantine era, it was a religious stronghold. Istanbul now stands as the world’s tenth-most-popular tourist destination.
One of the city’s biggest attractions is its historic center. Tagged as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and formerly known as Constantinople, Sultanahmet provides visitors a glimpse into the Byzantine era, when Greek colonists ruled the area and founded one of the oldest settlements in the world. Here, you will find several ancient architectural relics such as Hagia Sophia and Hagia Irene (which are both Byzantine cathedrals), Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern and the Hippodrome – and these are just the ones found in the center. In surrounding areas, there’s the Chora Church, Valens Aqueduct, and the Phanar Greek College tower, which are are a few of the top reasons to visit Turkey.
You could take advantage of the Istanbul free tours organized by volunteers to get better orientation to the sites in the old streets. And after a tiring walk, head on over to any of the city’s historical baths like Cagaloglu Hamami and Camberlitas Hamami for a refreshing spa afternoon.
In addition to the aforementioned top reasons to visit Istanbul, you should also check out the neighborhoods of Elmadag, Kurtulus, Sisli, and Nisantasi, which are considered the New City by locals. Here, you can escape the Roman, Ottoman and Byzantine architectural styles and revel at the neo-classical and Art Nouveau skyscrapers of the country, the tallest being Sapphire at a height of 238 meters. And if you have the money, you should definitely visit their line-up of modern shopping malls and splurge while in town.
In relation, you might also want to stop by Galata and Beyoglu where the nightlife scene is more vibrant. Yes, there are bars and clubs within the New City. But the two previously mentioned offer the liveliest venues like Indigo, Balans Tonique, Babylon and Mojo. Dulcinea is a bar, café, restaurant, art gallery and club all rolled into one. And Sal is a café in the vicinity that offers a very authentic Turkish hang-out experience.
Other top reasons to visit Istanbul include the Prince’s Islands, Dolmabahce Palace and the Rumeli Citadel at Bosphorus, and the Eyup Mosque Complex located in the Golden Horn district, which houses a mixture of mosques, stores, cemeteries and tombs.