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Maria Asaad
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Istanbul doesn’t compare to a lot of other cities around the world. It has a vibrant cosmopolitan vibe and is lined with irresistible tasty street food, making it a top destination for tourists hungry for great culture and food. Considered the central hub of the world, here are some of the unmissable things to do in this wonderful city.



Marvel at the majestic Hagia Sofia

The Hagia Sophia is one of Istanbul’s most iconic and popular sites with thousands of tourists lining up to walk around the massive architectural wonder. Once you enter, you won’t be able to stop gazing at the huge, transcendent roof dome and taking in the beauty of the Byzantine mosaics with representations of Christ that adorn the walls.

Hagia Sophia once served as a Cathedral before it was converted into a mosque in the early 15th century, and then a museum in 1935. It was completed in the 6th century under the orders of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. It was the largest Cathedral in the world for an entire millennium until the completion of Seville Cathedral in 1520.  

If you do pay a visit to the Hagia Sofia, keep an eye out for runic inscriptions engraved into the marble parapets on the top floor gallery. It is thought that these were graffitied by Byzantine Emperor’s personal bodyguards. 


Explore the exquisite tiles inside the Blue Mosque

This historical Sultanahmet Mosque was built in the early 17th century during the reign of Ahmed I and is another of Istanbul’s famous architectural sites. It is now known as the Blue Mosque due to its magnificent and iconic interior.

The interior walls of the Blue Mosque are covered with over 20,000 hand-painted blue tiles. These gorgeous tiles perfectly reflect the incoming sunlight from more than 200 windows, creating a captivating and dazzling scene of wonder.

It is important to note that the Blue Mosque still serves as a functional mosque, so it is forbidden to pay a visit during prayer times. 


Barter your way through the Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is a must-do in Istanbul as it is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. There are thousands of shops and stalls spread across dozens of streets selling everything from souvenirs to sweet treats.

Just wandering around the market and soaking up the historical atmosphere and buzzing surroundings is enough of a great day out, even if you don’t plan to buy anything.

If you do plan on making some purchases, then be sure to put on your bargaining hat and barter as much as you can!


Go back to Byzantium at the Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern was built in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian I to store 80,000m3 of water and channel it to surrounding palaces. Is it now one of Istanbul’s most interesting attractions and provides an intriguing underground experience.

The cistern is an artifact of the Byzantine Empire’s water system that visitors can explore first-hand and take in the ancient Ionic and Corinthian columns. Two columns even feature the upside-down head of Medusa at the base for visitors to enjoy.

The Basilica Cistern is a dark and cool underground complex that can be great for escaping the hot sun of the day for an hour or two to cool off!


Pay a visit to the Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace was once the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for over four centuries. It is situated at the exact point where the Golden Horn meets the Marmara Sea and is a must-see in Istanbul.

The palace is filled with impressive rooms and chamber houses, as well as fascinating objects, including the 86-carat Spoonmaker’s Diamond.

Visitors have a chance to enjoy the array of illustrious collections of precious jewels, religious artifacts, and weaponry on display at this luxurious palace. There are also constant temporary exhibitions for those visiting to enjoy.