Istanbul is a unique and alluring city, a fascinating destination that I have always dreamed about! The metropolis spread over two continents, eternally caught between the Occident and the Orient, has always been enveloped in an aura of mystery and magic. Istanbul is one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of almost 20 million people and tens of thousands of tourists arriving each day from the four corners of the Earth. With an amazing past that spans millennia, passing through the times of Byzantium and Constantinople, this destination has been the capital of three empires, a meeting place of cultures and religions, a prime commercial and political hub.
Today, beautiful Istanbul is definitely one of the most beloved and enchanting travel destinations, with an astonishing historical and cultural heritage, but also a fascinating natural setting. Those that set out to frantically explore this metropolis cannot avoid but fall in love with its rhythm and soul, caught in the hurricane of sounds and smells. Among luxurious palaces and imposing mosques, through bazaars and hammams, along the Bosporus or the Golden Horn, Istanbul reveals itself to patient travelers with its countless secrets and treasures. If some took a lifetime to discover this destination and others chose to call it home, a visitor interested in its most interesting and beautiful places and experiences should plan at least a four day trip.
No other city or place on Earth seems to be so full of life and exciting as Istanbul. Filled of charm and mystery, a bridge between worlds, cultures and religions, it is the meeting spot for the most diverse travelers you will ever encounter. Istanbul is crowded, noisy and colorful, sometimes even kitsch and often overwhelming, but at the same time fascinating to its deepest details. If there is one thing to say about Istanbul as a destination is that it has soul and this soul is definitely a vibrant one, filled with strong sensations and deep emotions. Istanbul is the city of mosques and palaces, of peddlers and cats, of mouthwatering stalls and intense colors. It is a trip through time and memories within a city that seems to have a life of its own, with millions of stories that are waiting to be uncovered. There is fascination and atonement in Istanbul, there are wonders and secrets at each step, with travelers lost in the universe of an eternal city.
Getting around Istanbul
Although it is one of the largest cities in the world, stretching over a huge area, public transportation within Istanbul is fairly well developed and organized. Firstly, to reach the center from the Ataturk Airport, where most international flights land, it is best to take the subway. It has a station right next to the airport and depending on your destination, you can change with a tram or bus. Before anyththing else, I recommend you buy an IstanbulKart city transport card. You then have the possibility to charge any value onto it and pay any transportation ride, also getting decent discounts compared to buying individual tickets. The card can be bought at any IstanbulKart or BiletMatik ticket machine usually found in most stations. You can insert a 10, 20 or 50 Lira bills, the card costs 6 Lira and the difference goes towards future travel credit. You can recharge the card anytime you need to, a trip on any metro, tram or bus line costing under 3 Turkish Lira (transfers are cheaper). In the central historical areas of Sultanahmet and Taksim, where most travel attractions are found, you will mostly be traveling on foot or with the T1 tramway. If you want to explore further or cross over to the Asian side, you can use the subway or ferries.
DAY 1 in Istanbul
Morning – You can make the first contact with this superb destination by visiting one of its symbols, a unique monument with an incredible history. It would be advisable to already have or buy a Museum Pass card, but you will still most likely have to be patient and wait in long lines. Especially in front of the Hagia Sophia there is a line almost always, even before it is opening time. If you already have the card, the separate line will be shorter and you will only have to pass through security control that exists at every important attraction in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia is located right at the gates of the huge Topkapi Palace, dating back to the sixth century and being one of the most renowned and important architectural and cultural structures in the world.
The massive cathedral once dominated the skyline of Istanbul together with the close-by Hagia Eirene. For almost one millennia, it was the most important church in the world, its construction requiring over ten thousand workers. After the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, it was transformed into a mosque and renamed Aya Sofya, with major architectural modifications. Today, it is open to visitors as a museum and you can uncover the treasures inside. Next to the impressive exterior, the interior offers the opportunity to admire the huge dome and marble columns. At the upper level where you can get through a narrow corridor, you will discover the byzantine Christian marble collection. Hagia Sophia of Istanbul is open every day from 9 am to 7 pm (5 pm during off-season), while the ticket costs 40 TL or free with the Museum Pass. In the same complex you can also visit the Tombs of the Sultans with a separate entrance or the Carpet Museum (separate ticket).
Afternoon – Right behind the Hagia Sophia is the huge complex of buildings that compose the Topkapi Palace, symbol of the Ottoman Empire for centuries and one of the most fascinating places in Istanbul today. The palace occupies the tip of the peninsula between the Golden Horn and the Marmara Sea, also known as the Seraglio Point or Sarayburnu. The complex was built shortly after the Ottoman conquest, being developed as a pavilion and garden ensemble disposed along four inner courtyards. If you have the Museum Pass, you will avoid most of the long waiting lines. Nevertheless, the interior is almost always packed with tourists, so you will have to be patient to see the whole place, because you will need at least 2-3 hours. The normal ticket is 40 TL for the museums inside the palace, 20 TL for Hagia Eirene and 25 TL for the Harem. The first two are included in the Museum Pass, but you will have to pay separately if you wish to enter the Harem. Anyway, there are plenty of places to visit and collections to discover. The most important include palace kitchens, arms and armor collection, watches museum, silverware and ceramics collection, imperial costumes but maybe the most important is the holy Islam objects collection, a true pilgrimage place for the Muslims. Apart from all these, there are a lot of pavilions, fountains, gardens and interesting corners. In the first courtyard, you can also enter the Hagia Eirene to admire the large and austere interior. With a past of millennia, this church appears to have been the first Christian structure in the city, still preserving its unique architectural features.
Right next to the Topkapi Palace and part of the same complex, the Istanbul Archaeology Museum is divided into three themed locations. The largest building hosts the Archaeology Museum, where you can admire extremely interesting and valuable collections and exhibits. These include the Sidon sarcophagi collection with the impressive sarcophagus of Alexander, containing the remains of a lesser known king but with scenes from the battles of Alexander the Great. Another room exhibits a collection of statues discovered in the Anatolian archaeological sites. In the same courtyard you can visit two other buildings, the first hosting the Ancient Orient Museum, with collections from the Middle Orient that was once part of the Ottoman Empire. The second is known as the Tiled Pavilion, a superb mosaic building dating back to 1472 and housing a ceramics collection. The museum is open daily except Mondays, between 9 am and 4 pm, the entry ticket being 20 TL (free with the Museum Pass).
Evening – One of the most pleasant ways to end a first day in Istanbul is an evening cruise with dinner included. Although there is also an option to explore the splendid Bosporus strait, that is more of a day trip from Istanbul. There are a lot of private cruises that offer a pleasant evening with a romantic dinner and even traditional music and dancing shows.
DAY 2 in Istanbul
Morning – Built with over a millennia after the superb Hagia Sophia, another important symbol of Istanbul is the Sultanahmet Mosque, known by all as the Blue Mosque. This Ottoman architecture masterpiece profoundly changed the landscape of the peninsula. It was built between 1609 and 1616 for the sultan Ahmed I, being the first mosque with six minarets. The exterior of the Blue Mosque is truly striking, with the semi-domes leading the eye to the main dome and the six harmonious minarets, creating an unforgettable sight. The main entry is the one from the Hippodrome side, although most visitors enter from the garden towards Hagia Sophia. The inner courtyard is equally beautiful, surrounded by a corridor with columns and having the central fountain for the Islamic ablution ritual. The interior of the Blue Mosque, although austere, is truly impressive through the blue color of the Iznik mosaic tiles that adorn the walls and immense columns. Another impressive feature is given by the 250 stained-glass windows that create a mesmerizing atmosphere throughout the day. The low-hanging huge chandeliers are also worth a look. The entry is free inside the Blue Mosque, like most other mosques within Istanbul, but you have to respect daily prayer times and leave the shoes at the entrance.
Close to the mosque, you can also visit the Grand Palace Mosaic Museum, housed inside the Arasta Bazaar and showcasing superb examples of ancient mosaics, some perfectly preserved and other restored. The next visit will take you close to Hagia Sophia, but on the road you can take a look around the Ancient Hippodrome, today an elegant plaza decorated with interesting monuments of the past (Egyptian Obelisk, Constantine’ Column or the Serpent Column brought from Delphi). Walking through the gardens that separate the two mosques, you will eventually reach the entrance of The Basilica Cistern, a marvel of Byzantine engineering. A true underground palace, the water reservoir occupies a huge space beneath the city, being the most unusual tourist attraction of Istanbul. Along a path created through the columns and arches that create a mysterious atmosphere, you will admire an ancient wonder, perfectly preserved in the underground of the city and only recently re-discovered.
Afternoon – After you have lunch in one of the restaurants around Sultanahmet tramway station, start walking along the Divan Yolu boulevard. This is one of the most important roads of the city from Roman times. It is flanked by interesting monuments, starting with the Cemberlitas Column and its troubled history. It has survived for two millennia, passing through earthquakes and fires, still standing as the larger porphyry column in the world. There are a few smaller mosques close-by if you have the time to take a look. A little further you will reach a grand square, almost always busy with students from the nearby Istanbul University. The square stands on the place of an ancient Roman forum and is now called Beyazit square. It also includes the large Beyazit Mosque, built between 1501 and 1506 and being one of the oldest classical mosques of Istanbul. One of the largest and most beautiful mosques of the city can be found following a road from Beyazit Square towards the Golden Horn.
The majestic silhouette of the Suleymanyie Mosque is visible from almost anywhere in the city, dominating the skyline. It is the masterpiece of Mimar Sinan, the most famous architect in the Ottoman Empire. Many people consider this as the most beautiful monument of Istanbul, being constructed for the 30th rule anniversary of sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. Impressive both on the outside and the inside, Suleymanyie must be on any Istanbul travel itinerary. From here, you can descend on the shore of the Golden Horn, where you can stop to admire the Rustem Pasa Mosque, built by the same architect and featuring superb green Iznik mosaics. Close to the Eminonu ferry hub and the Galata Bridge, you should enter the Egyptian Bazaar, also known as the Spice Market. A superb covered market, perfectly renovated and stocked with the most incredible variety of spices and sweets. Among others, you should try the countless varieties of Turkish delight.
Evening – For the second evening in Istanbul, you can attempt a cultural immersion by being part of a unique and spectacular show. The mystical ritual of the Whirling Dervish order is now also open to visitors that can attend a 1 hour Sema ceremony, a truly incredible experience. There are a few places that offer such shows, one of them being Hodjapasha (24$), close to Hagia Sophia. Optionally, you can end the day by visiting one of the traditional establishments where you can enjoy a Turkish tea and the different scents of the Turkish water pipe.
DAY 3 in Istanbul
Morning – Start day 3 in fabulous Istanbul by reaching the Eminonu area, always busy and noisy with people in their daily routine and dazzled travelers. First admire the the New Mosque (Yeni Camii). Started in 1597 by the mother of sultan Mehmet III and finished almost 70 years later by the mother of sultan Mehmet IV. It is part of the monumental mosques of the city with impressive floral mosaics and other interesting architectural elements. One of the most famous sights of Istanbul is the Galata Bridge, always filled with hundreds of amateur fishermen. Under the bridge, there are many restaurants with fish specialties, while the shores have busy ferry terminals. After you cross the bridge towards the Beyoglu district, climb the hill towards the the silhouette of Galata Tower or take the cable car to the top.
The Galata Tower is also considered a symbol of Istanbul, dating back to the 14th century and constructed by the Genovese that used to live in this area. Thorough time, it has served as a prison, a lighthouse and today is a tourist attraction. If you want to admire a 360 degrees panorama of the city from the top of the tower, the ticket is 25 TL, but there’s always a long waiting line. From the tower, search for the start of the Istiklal Avenue, maybe the most elegant and interesting street of Istanbul. It is flanked with famous shops, historical hotels, mosques and churches. Perhaps the most exciting element of this street is that it is completely pedestrian, except for the famous red tramway that goes up and down a few times an hour. If you can find room through the crowds that always swarm on Istiklal Avenue, you can admire some of the most interesting attractions found close-by, including the St. Peter Church, Pera Palace, St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral, Aga Mosque and others. The end of the trip is in the famous Taksim Square, less of a tourist highlight and more of a meeting place for all types of demonstrations.
Afternoon – If you descend from Taksim Square along Inonu boulevard towards the sea, you will eventually reach the Besiktas stadium and the nearby Dolmabahce Palace. This is one of the top destinations in Istanbul and I truly think that it should be on every itinerary of the city. The entrance is through the front park whee you can admire a beautiful clock tower from the end of the 19th century. You must wait line to buy tickets as this palace is not included in the Museum Pass. There are various sights that you can visit together or separately, the ticket for the main palace tour (Selamlik) being 40 TL, with other tickets for the Harem and several smaller museums. If you do not have much time, take at least the main tour because it is fully worth the price (you can rent audio guides for free).
The Dolmabahce Palace is open daily from 9 am to 4 pm, except for Mondays and Thursdays. The first impressive features are the charming gardens and magnificent architecture. The somewhat unusual baroque style and its location on the shore of the Bosporus shows the 19th century influence of the West. If the old palace is a complex of separate buildings with different purposes, Dolmabahce appears as a huge palace with homogeneous architecture, although it continues the tradition of separating public spaces from those dedicated to the sultan’s personal life. The tour of the rooms and halls of the palace will reveal unbelievable luxury elements, especially regarding their value and uniqueness (furniture, chandeliers, ceramics, paintings, carpets). You will get to admire impressive features like the crystal staircase, the sultan’s rooms, but also the huge ceremony hall that you will visit lastly. The gardens add to the fascinating charm of the whole complex, with the panorama of the sea beyond its white gates.
Evening – Upon leaving the Dolmabahce Palace, take the T1 tramway from the nearby Kabatas station and descend after you pass the Galata Bridge. From the nearby bus station find a bus that goes towards Eyup, on the shore of the Golden Horn. One of the most beautiful panoramas of the city, especially during and after sunset, is from the Pierre Loti Hill. You can reach the top by either walking or by using the cable car to the small terrace cafe. You will discover an unforgettable view of the Golden Horn with the silhouettes of the mosque and the three bridges over the golf. Pierre Loti was a French writer that wrote about and fell in love with Istanbul. You can descend on foot if you like, the road being surrounded by an old Ottoman cemetery.
DAY 4 in Istanbul
Morning – Maybe the most authentic cultural experience of Istanbul can be found inside the Grand Bazaar. It has become over time a symbol of the city and its commercial spirit. The bazaar has not been for a long time just a place where one could buy an astonishing variety of goods, becoming an amazing tourist attraction for the decades. Start your last day in Istanbul with a visit of the Grand Bazaar, just before the tourist crowds begin to assault this miniature universe. Before you enter and get lost in this infinite labyrinth, admire the Nuruosmanyie Mosque, located right next to the main entrance of the market. It is among the most beautiful mosques within the city, recently renovated and the first baroque mosque of Istanbul. It is worth entering for a few minutes to admire the ample space and beautiful stained glass windows.
You will need at least two or three hours to explore the covered alleys and hidden corridors of the Grand Bazaar. Nevertheless, no matter how much to try to get your bearings, the best thing is to get lost and wander around until you get tired or find the things you are searching for. Dating back to 1461, it is one of the biggest and oldest in the world, with almost 5000 shops and stalls, crammed along its covered alleys. Although the main streets will display the same things that tourists are drawn to (souvenirs, sweets, tea, spices, gold, ceramics, textiles), many of the smaller lanes will retain their authentic charm, with old inns and artisans crafting goods. Along the way, you will uncover small secrets and treasures from times long gone. You will be mesmerized by smells and vibrant colors, by the calls of vendors and the extreme diversity of travelers that arrive here.
Afternoon – There are still many things to see and do in Istanbul during this last day in this amazing city. After you have explored the fascinating bazaar, you can choose the next destination depending on available time and preferences. You can either take the metro to Uskudar, in the Asian side of Istanbul. From here, you can begin to explore a lesser known destination, but nevertheless offering plenty of tourist opportunities. Right at the exit of the Uskudar metro station, you can admire several interesting mosques, starting with the Yeni Valide Mosque, built by the sultan Ahmed III for his mother in 1710. If has several interesting architectural elements, including a beautiful ablution fountain and an elegant courtyard. You can also visit the nearby Mihrimah of Iskele Mosque, built for the daughter of sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in 1548 by the famous Mimar Sinan.
Continuing along the seaside, you will also reach the superb Maiden Tower, located on a rocky islet off into the sea. Dating back to the 19th century, it occupies the place of an antique fortress. Surrounded by fascinating legends, the tower creates an incredible image with the Sultanahmet peninsula and the Golden Horn in the background, especially at sunrise and sunset. The Maiden Tower houses a restaurant and a cafe which can be reached by boat. Around Uskudar and neighboring areas there are other interesting mosques like the Rum Mehmed Pasa, the Ayazma or the Atik Valide mosques, but also many streets that have kept their authentic charm and atmosphere. You can also explore the famous and elegant Bagdat Street, with its brand stores and refined restaurants.
As an alternative, if you want an incursion into the most distant past of the city, when it was still named Constantinople, take a bus towards the Chora Church (Kariye Mosque), one of the most fascinating attractions of Istanbul. Filled with mosaics and frescoes of unique value and beauty, this worshiping place survives from the 11th century, although there were older churches on spot. Although the exterior shoes an interesting byzantine building, the true treasures are found inside, today a museum. It is a wonder how so many superb scenes on the walls have survived for centuries under the Ottoman rule. You can continue to explore this extraordinary area that features other churches and ruins, but also the old city walls.
Evening – For you last evening in Istanbul and for an unforgettable memory of this experience, you can choose to admire the stunning panorama of the city from the Asian side on Camlica Hill, or to spend a few hours lavishing in a traditional Turkish bath. The Camlica Hill offers a unique experience, a large panorama of Istanbul, truly remarkable especially at sunset. It is also one of the preferred promenade spot for the locals, with nice historical tea-houses, restaurants and terraces. One the other hand, visiting a historical Turkish bath is not just a perfect relaxation method, but also an authentic cultural experience, in which you will discover the long tradition of these establishments.
ISTANBUL HOTEL RECOMMENDATIONS
This hotel is located close to the historical center of the city, next to the Findikzade. It is extremely appreciated by travelers according to its reviews.
With superior quality services, this hotel is located close to Beyazit Square. it offers a traditional Turkish restaurant and other facilities.
This hotel offers accommodation in traditional Ottoman designed rooms, some with Turkish baths. It is located 10 minutes from the center.
This hotel is located within walking distance from Hagia Sophia. The guests can relax on the roof terrace, while the rooms are exceptionally furnished.
Situated a short distance from the Blue Mosque and close to the seashore. It is very well appreciated by travelers for its services and excellent location.
Decorated in classical Ottoman style, this hotel is located at only 500 meters from Topkapi Palace. If offers an indoor pool, sauna and Turkish bath.
It is situated just a few minutes from the Blue Mosque. Having excellent reviews from its guests, the hotel has 20 rooms and a terrace with sea views.
The hotel is located right next to the walls of Topkapi Palace. It is housed in a superb historical wooden building, with a panoramic roof terrace.
This guesthouse is a family run business in a quiet area just 5 minutes from Hagia Sophia. It offers a very pleasant experience, with its roof terrace.
The small hotel I stayed for 4 nights in Istanbul. Extremely good services and conditions, close to the Topkapi Palace. I recommend it for a budget friendly option in Istanbul.
Other Activities in Istabul
Shopping – Maybe the most common and enjoyable activity in Istanbul, besides visiting the immense cultural heritage, is shopping. The markets and bazaars of Istanbul are part of this heritage, a true universe where you can discover thousands of goods and an atmosphere that is worth experienced even if you are not shopping for anything. The Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Bazaar are the most famous and popular shopping destinations in Istanbul, especially if you are searching for bargains and traditional merchandise. If you are a good haggler, you can find the ultimate variety of clothes, carpets, ceramics, lamps, sweets, spices, tea, jewelry and many others. It is not recommended to pay the first asking price, because all the vendors expect a negotiation. You can also find these bazaar shops on other commercial streets, sometimes with lower prices. On the other side, there are also elegant streets with famous brand shops, the mos known being Istiklal and Bagdat. Istanbul also has some of the biggest shopping malls, with hundreds of different shops.
Entertainment – Istanbul is a vibrant city that can rival and even surpass the entertainment scene of any of the great capitals of the world. Together with music and theater festivals, Istanbul has many cinemas and even a renowned film festival. You can spend exciting evening and nights in one of the numerous clubs and terraces of the city, especially in the Byoglu and Ortakoy areas. But traditional to this metropolis are the belly-dance shoes with oriental music, while you can savor a Turkish water pipe. Among the most important cultural events are the Istanbul Music Festival (classical music in June), Istanbul Jazz Festival (jazz and others in July), Istanbul Biennial (September in odd years), International Film Festival (March-April), Tulip Festival (April) and others.
Gastronomy – Istanbul is a city of contrast and diversity, which can also be observed in the extreme diversity of its gastronomy. Even if the base is formed by the traditional Turkish cuisine with unique specialties, you will discover that the city offer many more tastes, among which more usual are Mediterranean, Italian, Japanese, Greek and others. There are many things to try in Istanbul, starting with the street food that includes kebab and other meat recipes, but also the sweets that catch your senses in dozen of colors and aromas. For a more authentic gastronomic experience you have to look for the traditional restaurants that offer other Turkish recipes less known by tourists. If you want to diminish the effect of the spices found in many specialties, try the traditional drinks, starting with ayran, but also Turkish tea and coffee.
Wellness – The Turkish bath of hammam is one of the most interesting aspects of traditional culture. Over the course of time, these practices have spread in Western Europe and are now a common thing in most spas and wellness centers. Istanbul is the place for the authentic thing though and there are a lot of places to experience the pleasure of a Turkish bath, including some historical establishments that have existed for centuries. Before you visit one you should nevertheless know some basic characteristic and rules of these locations. First of all, each Turkish bath has two distinct spaces for men and women. There are also certain rituals and steps that you must follow when entering a hammam, including the order of operations and the etiquette towards employees and other guests.
Istanbul Useful Information
First of all, you have to know that Istanbul is safe, at least as safe as any other European capital. Although there have been attacks and less peaceful demonstrations, present day Istanbul is very safe to travel. You will discover that there are very strict security measures and protocols within the city, with security checks at most tourist attractions. During all of the days spent there, I have not once felt unsafe, on the contrary. Beyond these, there are things that will make the visit of Istanbul a lot more pleasant and hassle free. First of them is definitely the IstanbulKart, the travel card that you charge once with money and you can use to pay almost all travel within the city. Second thing is the Museum Pass card that offers free entrance and skipping the lines at the most important sights, together with other discounts. The card costs 125 TL and can be purchased online or from some tourist attractions. If you at least visit the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and 2-3 other sights, it will already be worth more than the cost of the card. Istanbul is a very crowded city with millions of inhabitants and thousands upon thousands of travelers arriving each day to see the same things as you. The historical center and main streets will always be packed with people, while the traffic is also pretty chaotic so you have to be careful. It appears that the traffic lights and street crossings are mostly informative only for the people of Istanbul. One last advice refers to shopping in Istanbul. Even if all the travel guides advise you to haggle and barter anything in Istanbul, do not apply it everywhere and do not offend sellers by offering very small sums.
DAY TRIPS FROM ISTANBUL
One of the most pleasant trips from Istanbul is a cruise on the Bosporus, sailing this legendary strait between continents and admiring the centuries of history and beautiful scenery. Although there are numerous cruise offers to choose from, the most accessible is operated by the public ferry transport company Sehir Hatlari and leaves from the Eminonu ferry terminal. The price of the cruise is 25 TL and the ship leaves around 10.30 am each day, the full experience lasting for about 6 hours. After you travel the full length of the Bosporus, the cruise ship stops for two and a half hours in the small village of Anadolu Kavagi. You will have time to to discover this charming village, including the fish restaurants in the harbor. You can take a short hike to the nearby ruins of Yoros Castle, where you can admire the stunning panorama of the last bridge over the Bosporus and the distant Black Sea. Along the length of the cruise, you will also have the opportunity to see some exceptional places, both the European and the Asian shores being lined with historical Ottoman villas, medieval castles and other sights.
Among the most pleasant escapade places from the crowds of Istanbul, the charming Princes Islands can found in the Sea of Marmara, a short distance from the shore. This archipelago includes four bigger islands that can be visited with cruises, each one featuring interesting features and a relaxing atmosphere. The cruise ships leave from Kabatas, Bostanci, Kartal or Maltepe ferry terminals in the city, usually stopping on the main islands of Kinaliada, Burgazada, Heybeliada and Buyukada. The name of these islands comes from the past, when Ottoman princes and other imperial personalities used to be exiled there. Today, these represent fascinating destinations, without any motorized vehicles, with authentic architecture and countless historical villas and monuments. There are also several museums, monasteries and other interesting places.
A beautiful city close to Istanbul, Edirne has a much shinier past that you might expect. You can reach Edirne with a bus or train from Istanbul, the trip lasting for 2-3 hours. Although this destination is mostly famous for the Selimiye Mosque, there are also other interesting sights that you can explore. Considered as the biggest and most magnificent mosque complex in Turkey, Selimiye is the pinnacle of Ottoman religious architecture, but also the supreme masterpiece of the famous Mimar Sinan. The superb complex includes a series of auxiliary buildings, one of them housing the Islamic and Turkish Art Museum that you can visit. Among the most fascinating features of the Selimiye Mosque, one can include the central dome, the courtyard fountain, the sultan’s loge and more. The city of Edirne also has other interesting attractions that are worth a visit.
There are but a few traces left of the past glory of Iznik. The small city is located on the shores of a lake, about 90 km from Istanbul. This former capital of the Byzantine Empire when it was still called Nicaea, played a huge role in the history of Christianity. But its most recent glorious period was also during the maximum development of the famous ceramics industry, especially the exceptional mosaics used to build many famous mosques in Istanbul and elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire. Today, you can visit Iznik to discover the traditional culture by visiting the several sights. Among others, these include the Green Mosque, the Hagia Sophia Church, the Archaeology Museum or the City Walls.