For a trip that will let you grab life by the golden horns, why not go to Istanbul? The world’s fifth largest city proper, Istanbul straddles the Asia-Europe border, a bevy of spices and sights and shops. With a river that tenaciously remains a spectacular shade of teal and a host of hills to give the cityscape intrigue, this city is pretty and sure to pique everyone’s interest.
1. Step off the beaten path and catch a ferry to the Buyukada. A popular summertime destination for Turks, this island boasts a wonderful display of romantically dejected, ever-beautiful architecture. No cars are allowed on the island, so you can explore this region’s roads in peace. Most stunning perhaps, are the island’s trees, which blown about by the wind, seem to have stepped out of a VanGogh painting.
2. Often overlooked, Rüstem Paşa Camii is one of Istanbul’s most impressive mosques. Often less crowded due to its slightly hidden entrance, Rüstem Paşa is brimming with incredible examples of Iznik tiling. Almost completely covered in the ornate blue arabesques of this type of tile, Rüstem Paşa is dazzling, even after a day full of touring more famous mosques.
3. One of the best places to go for traditional Turkish fare, Çiya Sofrasi in the Kadiköy district is just what food should be – inexpensive and delicious! With a huge variety of dishes to choose from, this cafeteria-style eatery is a find. Whether you’re hungry for some karniyarik or some kofte, Çiya Sofrasi has delights to satisfy every type of taste.
4. You’ll read about the Grand Bazaar in any guidebook you pick up, but despite its touristic associations, this marketplace is a great place to wander. If you’re not bargaining for souvenirs, make sure you take the time to admire the covered bazaar’s architecture. A bizarre juxtaposition of history and materialism, the Grand Bazaar will dazzle your eyes for hours.
5. Try to catch a performance of the whirling dervishes at the Mevlevi Monastery. You’ll be enchanted by the wide circles of the dervishes’ garments as they float, borne upon the currents of movement. On your way out, make sure to take a look at the nearby cemetery. Each tombstone is unique, scrolled with Ottoman inscriptions, and certain gravestones are topped by a hat to demarcate the rank of the deceased.
Have you ever been to Istanbul? Share your thoughts!