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Blick auf die Bosporus-Brücke, Bild: Sanatkar / shutterstock

Istanbul – Metropolis on two continents

Istanbul is a modern city and yet visitors dive deep into the past. The metropolis on the Bosphorus is packed with historical sights of all eras. Bazaars, stalls and street vendors line the streets of the old town and in the new town noble boutiques await wealthy customers. In between, the tram chugs and the ferries and excursion boats meander through the harbor. Istanbul in Turkey is the only city in the world that spans two continents. Once you have taken the Turkish city to your heart, you will travel back again and again.

Shopping in Istanbul: shopping day and night at markets and bazaars

Over 2000 jewelry stores in the Grand Bazaar

Istanbul - Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Image: Breslavtsev Oleg / shutterstock

The Grand Bazaar is the shopping highlight of the city. One day is not enough to explore the many shops. Over 4000 shops are lined up and Mark Twain once described the Grand Bazaar as a monstrous beehive of small shops. The old bazaar extends under a pillared hall with 15 domes. Here you can find antiques and clothing of all kinds. The 2000 jewelry stores stretch over the eastern part with its 60 streets and alleys. If you don’t act here, it’s your own fault and maybe the seller will even invite you for a tea. The bazaar has well over half a million visitors every day and yet you can stroll undisturbed along the quaint shops.

Street vendors and markets on every corner
Just in time after the morning prayers, the street vendors set up their stalls again. Some are even open around the clock. Balat in the Jewish Quarter is one of the most beautiful markets in the city. From household goods and clothing, spices and books to fresh fish and fruit, you can buy everything here. Visitors should also definitely stop by the fish market. Here you can not only buy fresh fish. The prepared fish delicacies are particularly delicious. If you are still looking for a holiday read, pay a visit to the book market. Here you will find the Koran in all shapes and colors, many classics in all languages and works of world literature. Gold jewellery and leather goods are popular souvenirs. The usual souvenirs, such as fridge magnets or postcards, can also be bought at almost every street vendor.

Istanbul – meter-high bridges, magnificent palaces and mosques and a charming cistern

Istanbul, Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, Image: Nate Hovee / shutterstock

Istanbul’s bridges and a charming cistern
A cruise on the Bosphorus is a must for visitors to Istanbul. This gives you an overview of the gigantic bridges. One of the most beautiful is by far the Galata Bridge. Its original building dates from 1912. But the first and second Bosphorus bridges also have their charm. The excursion boats set off on trips several times a day. Directly opposite the Hagia Sophia is the famous cistern from the 6th century. Like a sunken castle, the many columns triumph in the water and there is a mystical atmosphere. There are over 70 cisterns throughout the city.

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Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, St. Sophia's Church
The Hagia Sophia (St. Sofienkirche), Image: Boris Stroujko / shutterstock

The mighty Topkapi Palace and the venerable Hagia Sophia
Topkapi Palace is one of the most beautiful palaces in the world. It is one of the most visited sights in the city and is considered the epitome of the Orient. From the garden you can enjoy an unforgettable view over the Bosphorus. The Hagia Sophia is enthroned on a hill in the center of the old town. For over a thousand years, the church was the most beautiful and venerable place of worship in the world. Inside, gold and mosaics shine and above everything floats the dome as a symbol of the sky. The most beautiful view of the church is from the water.

The most beautiful mosques in the city

Istanbul, Ortaköy Mosque
The Ortaköy Mosque, Image: muratart / shutterstock

Mosques can be found on every corner in Istanbul. One of the most famous is by far the Blue Mosque. It is the city’s landmark and is the only one to have six minarets. It was given the name Blue Mosque because of its unique tile decoration. Over 20,000 blue and white faience tiles were used. The scrolls of the Koran are made of gold and there are red carpets under the dome. But its location high above the shores of the Sea of Marmara is also impressive. Smaller but no less fascinating is the Fatih Mosque. It is also enthroned on a city hill. The Beyazıt Mosque, which was built between 1501 and 1506, is also worth seeing. The architecture of the dome was based on the Hagia Sophia. It has a total of 24 domes that rest on ancient columns. Don’t forget: Before visiting the mosque, tourists also have to take off their shoes. In front of the mosques, shoe racks are available for storing shoes.

The most beautiful parks and the most impressive squares in the city

Istanbul, Emirgan Park
Waterfalls in Emirgan Park in Istanbul, Image: yusuftatliturk / shutterstock

Parks to relax in the middle of the metropolis of millions
The city’s numerous parks are an oasis of peace. Here you can relax from a stroll through the city. One of the most beautiful parks is Emirgan Park on the Bosphorus. More than 1000 species of tulips bloom here in spring. The watering hole is built of white marble. In summer, music concerts are held here. Directly at the Topkapi Palace is the Rosenhaus Park. Its 15-metre-high garden column is imposing. This is a granite monolith. It is intended to commemorate Emperor Claudius II. Turkish mothers meet in the parks at lunchtime and the children romp around in the green spaces. But despite the lively atmosphere, you can always find a quiet place.

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A boulevard and a square full of people

Istanbul, Meydan Square
The Meydan Square, Image: Kononchuk Alla / shutterstock

The boulevard Divan Yalu was once the center of the Byzantine capital. It leads from the Hagia Sophia to the Topkapi Palace and is an ideal starting point for visiting the sights. Here you will also find excellent restaurants that tempt you with a reasonably priced lunch menu. Meydan Square is the heart of the city. It is located between the Galata Bridge and the Yeni Mosque. Hundreds of street vendors bustle here every day and crowds of people stream across the square to the Grand Bazaar. This is also the main stop for buses and shared taxis.

Istanbul is a wellness oasis and culinary canteen

Pure relaxation in the Turkish baths
Istanbul is a wellness oasis. The most beautiful and famous hammam in the city is located directly at the Hagia Sophia. The bath dates back to 1741. The bathroom also provides visual relaxation with a dome room and a marble podium. After the massage, you rinse your body on a wall fountain. The atmosphere in the baths is reminiscent of Cleopatra’s time. If you want to swim cheaply, you can relax in the Cemberlitas Hamam. The Turkish bath was built in 1584 and stands next to the Constantine’s Column. Modern wellness pleasure is offered in the many spa hotels in the city. Most of them have a Turkish bath, and a pool area is also part of the basic facilities.

Freshly baked bread rings, fresh fruit and the classic kebab pocket

Street stalls and kebab skewers

Istanbul, Kebab
A kebab shop in Istanbul, Image: emasali stock / shutterstock

It’s hard to escape the culinary delights. It smells good on every corner and the small restaurants in the old town are ideal for getting to know the real Turkish cuisine. The best way to satisfy hunger in between is with fresh fruit or with a freshly baked bread ring, which is sold at stalls or on handcarts. A kebab skewer is spinning on every corner. But you shouldn’t limit Turkish cuisine to that. Even the kebab pocket tastes different in Istanbul. The bread is usually freshly prepared. The ingredients also vary greatly. In addition to meat slices, many cooks stuff everything the kitchen has to offer into the dumplings. Visitors should definitely try Ayran. The drink made from yoghurt and salt is a very good thirst quencher and tastes refreshing.

The dessert is worth a sin
Anyone who has ever strolled through the streets of Istanbul is usually surprised. There are as many kebab stands as there are pastry shops. There are good reasons for this. The people of Istanbul prefer dessert and they eat plenty of it. By the way, not only as a dessert, but also simply on the fist in between. The best known is Blakava. These are wafer-thin puff pastry pockets filled with walnuts or pistachios and plenty of sugar syrup. Every cake and sweet pie is a calorie bomb. It’s a good thing that some cafés also have fresh fruit salad on the menu. You can also order coffee with the cake, but tea is actually served in the cafés and pastry shops.