Istanbul - a city that never sleeps
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Istanbul… the city that never sleeps

Turkey is the perfect place to spend an unforgettable holiday. Regardless of the season, you cannot get bored in Istanbul! Istanbul is a unique place. Some will love it at once, others may feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the city. However, it will certainly evoke strong feelings in everyone.

Istanbul

Istanbul is Turkey’s largest and most populous city. Currently the city is inhabited by more than 15 million people. Add to that the number of tourists, which is really high, and especially in the tourist areas you can expect considerable queues. During the first five months of the year, more than 5 million tourists visited Istanbul. The city is particularly visited, for many reasons. Many tourists come to visit the beautiful monuments from the Byzantine period.

 Due to Istanbul’s location, many tourists want to experience how people live changing the continent every day. What life is like at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. How the location influences the architecture, culture or regional dishes. Istanbul is a unique place. On the one hand, modern districts, high skyscrapers, buildings with unusual shapes.   On the other hand, places with small blocks of flats, slowly losing their original colours; old, dilapidated buildings. Wealth on one side and poverty on the other. It is a very important place in both Islamic and Christian religions. Throughout the city you can see beautifully decorated mosques, hear the muezzin calling. Not far away are majestic churches, the sound of bells, and beautifully decorated nativity scenes in winter. Some churches offer masses in Polish, it’s worth going to them at least for a while. Many pilgrims also come here to visit ancient Christian sites. 

Turks love animals, especially cats. There are many points in the city, as well as specially prepared buses, where veterinarians work taking care of street animals. 

Istanbul, the most populous Turkish city where all cultures, religions, nationalities mix. It is one of the most beautiful places in the whole of Turkey. The Turks themselves consider this city to be particularly special. The city that never sleeps, full of contrasts, both architectural and taste. 

Byzantium, Constantinople and finally Istanbul.

The town has a truly impressive history. It was probably in the Stone Age that the first areas were settled. The town developed intensively over the centuries and changed completely. A big role in the development of the city had its location.

Byzantium, shortly after being renamed Constantinople, became the capital and at the same time the most important place of the Eastern Roman Empire.

The city was then surrounded by walls, the remains of which can still be admired today. During the reign of Emperor Justinian, it was decided to build the church of Hagia Sophia. In the 6th century the city became the centre of the Orthodox Church.

On the 29th of May 1453, under the leadership of Mehmed II, the city was conquered by the Turks and from then on became the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Then also the most important place of the Islamic world. During this time the construction of magnificent palaces, new mosques and the conversion of parts of churches into them began.

In the 19th century the Europeanisation of the city began, replacing traditional Turkish buildings with Baroque and Rococo architecture.

On March 28, 1930 the city got a new name – Istanbul (the Turkish name of the city is Istanbul). The name was changed mainly because of international contacts.

Eating in Istanbul – Turkey on a platter

Turkish food is truly delicious. There is a huge variety of dishes, both vegetable and meat. However, meat dishes are the most common. Turks mainly eat beef and mutton. Pork is not a meat that can be found everywhere, as Turks do not eat it for religious reasons. 

Turks love soups, especially those in cream form. Mercimek Corbasi is the most popular Turkish soup. There are several types available, depending on the colour of the lentils used. The real Turkish kebab is also very different from the one we can find in Poland. 

Turks pay a lot of attention to food, its taste and quality. They do not like fatty and complicated dishes. The main sauces used in Turkey are lemon juice, grape vinegar and pomegranate sauce. 

Breakfast is the most important and largest meal of the day for Turks. They eat egg dishes, meat – mainly sucuk – or beef sausage, vegetables, chips, cheese, jams, pancakes, chocolate creams, challah and even soup! 😀  

There is a tradition of drinking tea in Turkey. Every Turk drinks 3.5 kilograms of dried tea in a year! Turkish tea is distinguished by its deep aroma. This is achieved by the time-consuming process of preparing the brew. Turkish teapots have two parts. The lower part is filled with water and the upper part with concentrated tea. 

Turkish coffee is also famous. Brewed in special saucepans over gas or fire. Drunk in tiny cups. Served with water and lokum. The Turks firmly believe in the prophecies read from these cups. To read your future, all you have to do is turn the cup upside down after drinking the coffee and wait 10 minutes.

While in Turkey, you should also try the Nargile, or water pipe. There are usually many flavours available, so everyone can choose the most suitable for themselves. In Istanbul, you can easily find cafes where you can smoke Nargile. Many of these places also offer the characteristic Turkish games – Tavla and Okey.   

Transportation

There are many different means of transport in Istanbul, including tram, metro, metrobus, bus, minibus, taxi and ferry. So you can easily get to any place. In practically every kind of public transport there are screens showing the name of the station and in some of them also a map of the city. 

Prices and tourist attractions in Istanbul

Due to the current inflation, the conversion rate from Turkish Lira to other currencies like Euro vary from day to day. Check the current conversion rates before your trip.

The city contains many tourist attractions, located on both the European and Asian sides of the city. By ferry you can also get to the nearby Princes’ Islands.

Places to visit:

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, or the Church of the Divine Wisdom, is a magnificent building dating from the 6th century. It was built as a basilica, then converted into a mosque. Now it functions as a museum. It is located in the Sarayburnu district.Near Hagia Sophia are the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, Topkapi Palace and the Yerabatan Cisterns.

The building was created during the reign of Emperor Justinian. He wanted to rebuild the Roman Empire with its capital in Constantinople. Hagia Sophia is one of the most important monuments in the history of world architecture, mainly because of its size and functionality. Its first name was Megale Ekklesia, or Great Church, and from the 5th century onwards it was referred to as Hagia Sophia – Holy Wisdom. Hagia Sophia, during the Roman Empire served as a cathedral, the largest church in the capital, where rulers were crowned. All surfaces except the marble walls of Hagia Sophia are decorated with beautiful mosaics. Materials of gold, silver, glass, terracotta and coloured stones were used for the mosaics. Hagia Sophia was the place where coronation ceremonies of emperors took place.  For this reason, on the right side in Hagia Sophia you can see the circular and patterned floors that were the coronation site of the Eastern Roman emperors.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque – Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque is one of the most important sights of the city, admired by all tourists visiting Istanbul, both local and foreign.  

It is located opposite the Hagia Sophia Museum and has had its beauty and grandeur surpass it several times over. Although it is not the work of Mimar Sinan, this structure contains his traces. This mosque was erected in the 17th century. By the order of Sultan Ahmed I. The Blue Mosque got its name from the blue tiles decorating the interior of the building. This magnificent structure is one of the most important works of the Ottoman Empire.

Kapalıçarşı – Grand Bazaar

One of the largest and oldest covered bazaars in the world, the Grand Bazaar is 30,700 square metres. It contains more than 60 streets and alleys and 4,000 shops.

According to an Ottoman traveller, Kapalıcarsi reached its current size in the 17th century. At that time there were more than 4,000 shops and nearly 500 stalls. 

In addition, there were various other facilities for the merchants who worked there: restaurants, a Turkish bath and a mosque, as well as at least 10 smaller tombs or prayer halls. Today it also contains a police station, a clinic, a post office, branches of most major banks and a tourist information centre.

Eminönü

It is located on the European side of the city. It is the most famous place in Istanbul. A huge market, both open and closed. You can really buy everything there. For this reason, both tourists and locals often visit this place. For this reason, when deciding to go to Eminonu, you have to be patient, especially at the weekend. 

This place smells of coffee, oriental spices, Turkish sweets or perfumes from afar.  The Egyptian Bazaar is also located in the same place.

Eminönü, located on Istanbul’s historic peninsula, is surrounded by the Golden Horn to the north, the Sea of Marmara to the south, the Bosphorus to the east and the Fatih district to the west. It is one of the most vibrant places in the city centre. At the beginning of the Ottoman period, the place was called Eminönü due to the presence of the sea customs and became the main district of Istanbul in the early years of the republic.

Galata Bridge 

It is a bridge connecting the two parts of the European side of Istanbul. They are separated by water from the Bosporus Strait. The Galata Bridge connects the Eminönü and Karaköy districts. It is built on the Golden Horn in the recess of the Istanbul peninsula.

It was built in 1845. 

In the late 19th century, due to increased pedestrian traffic, a police station was built at the end of the Galata Bridge to better control public order. In the old days, the Galata Bridge was especially protected against fires. To prevent the wooden floors from burning, pedestrians crossing the bridge during the day were forbidden to smoke and the bridge was closed at night.

Galata Tower – Galata Kulesi

A historic building with a height of 69.90 metres, walls 3.75 metres thick, an inner tower diameter of 8.95 metres and an outer diameter of 16.45 metres. The body of the structure is believed to weigh around 10,000 tonnes. 

As for the Cisterns of the Basilica and the Tower of the Virgin, the people of Istanbul have created legends for the Galata Tower as well. According to the most famous legend, when you climb the tower for the first time with your loved one, you are sure to marry them.

Kız Kulesi – Maiden’s or Leander’s Tower

It is located about 200 metres from the Asian part of the city, in Üsküdar. It is a small place, but one of the most recognized places in Istanbul. 

The Leandra Tower, literally translated as the Maiden Tower, currently serves as a restaurant, cafe and traffic control on the waters of the Bosphorus. There is no exact information about when it was built, but it was probably completed by 341. Its earlier names were Damalis and Leandros.

 Many legends have been written about the tower. The most famous of them is the story about the famous emperor, who was told that a venomous snake would bite his beloved daughter on her eighteenth birthday. The emperor wanted to protect his daughter from tragedy and decided to lock her in a tower in the middle of the Bosphorus. On her eighteenth birthday, the father gave his daughter a basket of fruit, as he was very happy that the prophecy had been avoided. However, among the fruit was a venomous snake which bit the girl. She died in her father’s arms, and to commemorate the situation, the tower was named Kız Kulesi, or Tower of the Virgin. 

Kız Kulesi was opened to the public for the first time in 2000, and since then many tourists visit this unique place every year.

Pierre Loti Tepesi

It is located in the Fatih district on the European side of Istanbul. There is a tea house on the hill with an excellent view of the Golden Horn stretching from Eyup to Eminonu.
In addition, there is a huge historical cemetery on the hill. The hill can be reached by cable car, by car or on foot.

Camlica Hill

It is one of the most popular places to visit in Üsküdar. There is a restaurant on a 260m high hill with a wonderful view of Istanbul . An ideal place for breakfast or dinner. 

Camlıca is both one of the most beautiful and highest places in Istanbul, it is divided into two parts. The more popular Büyük Çamlıca is 265 metres above sea level. The Camlica hill has an Ottoman-style coffee place, a restaurant and a picnic area.

The hill is additionally a stopping point for the large migratory birds that migrate from Europe to Africa in late September and early October.

Emirgan Park

There is a beautiful park full of all kinds of flowers with a breathtaking view of the Bosphorus. Every year in April there is a tulip festival which attracts many tourists. 

Ortaköy Square

Ortaköy is one of Istanbul’s vibrant districts. Famous for its nightlife, bars, beautiful cafes and restaurants, a square overlooking the Bosphorus, souvenir shops, handicrafts and baked potato places. Popular entertainment venues stretch along the Ortaköy coastline. It is also home to one of Istanbul’s most recognisable mosques.

Dolmabahce Palace

The construction of Dolmabahce Palace began in 1843. The completion of the surrounding walls was celebrated in 1856. Stone was used on the exterior of the building, brick on the interior walls and wood was laid on the floors. The Palace offers 45,000 m² of space, 285 rooms, 43 lounges, 68 toilets and 6 baths. The library, which is located in the same section, is an extraordinary place.

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern, or Cisterna Basilica, is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul, Turkey. It was built in the 4th century by Emperor Constantine and enlarged by Justinian in 537 AD. During Byzantine times it was used as a water storage for the Great Palace and for the Topkapi Palace under the Ottomans.

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace was the residence of the Ottoman Sultans, now a building that also serves as a state administration and training centre. The palace was built between 1460 and 1478 and is located in the Sarayburnu basin on the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. The palace is surrounded by high walls.

In the early 1950s, the sultans moved to Dolmabahce Palace in the 20th century. Such a move was necessary because the current Palace was not sufficient to meet the requirements of 19th century state protocol and ceremony. The treasury, biblical relics and the archives of the empire were preserved in Topkapi Palace. 

The Topkapi Palace was converted into a museum on 3 April 1924. The plan of the Topkapi Palace consists of several courtyards and gardens, flats for state affairs, buildings and the residence of the ruler and buildings for officials living in the palace. The extremely rich collections and history of Topkapi Palace, make this palace one of the most worth seeing palaces in the world.

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