Istanbul
Europe Luxury Traval Vacation Guide - Turkey Luxury Travel Vacation Guide
Istanbul

For 2000 years, Istanbul has been capital of succession of the world's wealthiest empires.  And its streets, palaces, mosques, museums, burst with well-kept historic attractions.  It's also the leading city, although not the capital of, Turkey and so also has thousands of modern places to see trendy cafes to bustling markets.

Istanbul is definitely worth a visit (or three) by a Luxury Traveler.

Attractions in Istanbul

Istanbul is one of those cities that makes it hard to create a "short" list of great sites; like London, Rome and Budapest its more a matter of the time you have to visit.

With that in mind, the absolutely must-be-seen list includes:

Haghia Sofia (Aya Sofya)
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 9:00AM-7:30PM.  Phone: 0212 5221750.
Location: Sultanahmet Square (by tram: Sultanahmet).
Entry: ?10 Apx. Cash only.

The Spiritual home of the Eastern Roman & Byzantium Empires, the Haghia Sofia was transformed into a Mosque during the Ottoman Empire. It now stuns visitors as a Museum. The items on display are captivating but it's the interior of the building, including the famed gallery mosaics, that is well worth the price of admission.


Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi)
Location: Bab-i Hümayün Caddesi (by tram: Gülhane/Sultanahmet).  Phone: 0212 5120480.
Open: M,W-Su 9:00AM-5:00PM.
Entry: ?10 Apx. Cash only. Harem and Imperial Treasury extra

The Ottomans Sultan's Palace is an exercise in luxury travel at it's finest.  The heart of the Palace are the 4 courts, each more beautiful that the last, including the State Treasury (displaying wondrous treasures) and the official Harem (now sadly displaying treasures only of a historical sort).

The imperial enclave of the Ottoman emperors for three centuries. Lavishly decorated, with four courts of increasing grandeur. In the second court in the entrance to the Harem (admission extra) and the State Treasury, housing a weaponary display. The third court has the Imperial Treasury (admission extra). The views from the Fourth Court over the Bosporus are spectacular. approx $10 (no concessions, cards accepted, Harem and Imperial Treasury extra).


"Blue Mosque" AKA Sultanahmet Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii),
Location: At Meydam Sokak 17, Sultanahmet (by tram: Sultanahmet),
Open: Nov-Apr:9:00AM-7:00PM, May-Oct 9:00AM-9:00PM. Avoid Fridays.  Phone: 0212 5181319.
Entry: Free. Through the courtyard on the SW side.

The most impressive of the Mosques in Istanbul (at least from the outside),With its six minarets and sweeping architecture. Long pants, covered shoulders (shawls are provided) and the removal of shoes will be required as this is a working mosque.  entry is through the courtyard on the SW side.


Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici).
Location: Yerebatan Cad., Sultanahmet.
A big underground manmade hole doesn't sound that impressive but it has to be seen to be understood. It was originally constructed as a cistern (water reservoir) then consecrated as a Basilica.  The mix of lights and music add to the atmosphere as does the wooden walkway winding between the giant supporting pillars.


Galata Whirling Dervish Hall (Galata Mevlevihanesi).
Location:  Galipdede Caddesi (near Tünel's Galata station).
Open: Best time to come is  3-5pm on Sundays for Ceremonies of whirling dance.  Buy tickets in advance.

The Whirling Dervishes are subject of Western Folklore but one of their great halls was in Istanbul.  The building was the home of the Mevlevi order, but was shut down in 1925, and now houses the Museum of Divan Literature.  Adjoining there is a small graveyard which has different types of Fez to indicate the deceased membership in the order.

Safety

Istanbul is a great city but has its share of robbers, thieves and more.  Apply normal Big City security precautions, use trustworth Taxis, avoid dodgy bars and overeager locals (various scams exist), and avoid tapwater.

 
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