Things to Do and See When You’re in Istanbul For The Very First Time

I’m moving to Istanbul. After a lot of thoughts, considering many factors and passing many sleepless nights, I decided to take a bit extreme steps in my life. I finished my works with my previous organization where I worked in the last six years. Instead of looking for another works, I decided to have a break and live in the city where I always dream to live.

Despite of last political situation within the country and what’s going on in neighboring countries, Istanbul looks less crowded than my last visit on last January in this year. However, the city doesn’t loose its charming and still offers many things to do and see. I am sure, you found a lot of articles about Istanbul, what’s interesting there and many more. And if this is your first time coming to this magic city, perhaps  you can use what I write below as your reference.

Where to Go?

There are hundreds places in Istanbul which are worth to visit. But, if this is you first time, make sure that you don’t miss to visit the areas below and do many fun things there.

Sultanahmet, a neighborhood that is located in the old city of Istanbul where you could find a lot of historical sites in this area, and all are in walking distance. The cobblestone narrow streets filled with merchandise vendors, restaurants and coffee houses where you could taste Turkish cuisine or just relaxing with a cup of Turkish tea. Living in this area is very recommended if you are historical sites lover where you could save time and transport fees to wander around.

The most famous historical sites that you can find here as listed below:

Topkapi Palace. The palace was built after Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered Istanbul in 1453. Its construction itself started in 1460 and completed in 1478 in 700.000 square meters land. It has been palace since Mehmet The Conquered until 31st Sultan, Sultan Abdulmecid, moved his palace to Dolmabahce. It has multiple buildings where you could wander around, imagine yourself living in Ottoman era while enjoying the beauty of the building. The harem is also available to visit with additional different fee.

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Painting at Topkapi Palace

Painting at Topkapi Palace

The Harem, Topkapi Palace

The Harem, Topkapi Palace

Hagia Sophia. It was Byzantium church. When Sultan Mehmet took over the city, the building was changed into mosque. However, the symbol of Christians were left remain, as witness how this beautiful building had been being the holy house for two biggest religion in the word. Today, government of Turkey use it as museum. Entrance fee is required.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Blue Mosque or also known as Sultanahmet mosque.  It is located  opposite to Hagia Sophia and was built by Sultan Ahmet  I after the Peace of Zsitvatorok to reassert Ottoman power. It is also known as the oldest mosque in Istanbul and still operates as mosque until today. No entrance fee. Women and Men are expected to wear the modest clothes.

Sultanahmet Mosque

Sultanahmet Mosque

Basilica Cistern, is known as the largest ancient cistern lying beneath the city of Istanbul (former Constantinople). It was built in 6th century under the rules of Byzantine Emperor. Before converted into a cistern, a basilica stood there, built between 3rd and 4th centuries during the Early Roman age as commercial, legal and artistic center. Well, don’t forget to visit the head of medusa while you are there.

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Head of Medusa in Basilica Cistern

Head of Medusa in Basilica Cistern

Istanbul Archeological Museums. Are you museum lovers? If you are, don’t miss to visit Istanbul Archeological museums. The name is plural since you can find three different museums standing in the same compound. They are archeological museum, ancient orient museum and tiled kiosk museum. You will be amazed with heritages from the past, including artifacts and ancient tombs. Give one day for your selves to explore the whole museums.

Istanbul Archaeological Museums

Istanbul Archaeological Museums

Gulhane Park. Are you tired after walking up and down to see all attraction sites? As the last stop, perhaps you wouldn’t mind to visit Gulhane Park where you can enjoy the fresh air with tall trees on left and right sides. A coffee house and restaurant are there where you can enjoy something to drink after walks.

Gulhane Park, during winter

Gulhane Park, during winter

Taksim. If you want to taste the night life of Istanbul, this is the place that you should visit. Istiqlal street, the famous cobblestone street which is famous with its crowded and Nostalgic Istiqlal Caddesi Tram. In left and the right side, you could find many shops offering clothes with both international and local brands. Restaurants and cafe are there too, if you’re hungry or just want to taste a plate of Baklava. If you keep walking down the street, you will be lead to Galata Tower where you could see Istanbul from its top.

The crowded of Istiqlal Street

The crowded of Istiqlal Street

Nostalgic Istiqlal Caddesi Tram

Nostalgic Istiqlal Caddesi Tram

Galata Bridge / Eminonu. Do you still want to get some walks? Go to Eminonu, where you could find Galata Bridges and watched the locals fishing on the top of the bridge. Under the bridge you could find many restaurants offering fresh sea food coming from the sea. Eminonu is also ferry port to go to Asian part of Istanbul.

View from Eminonu

View from Eminonu

Things to Do?

Eating. Turkish people are really proud with their food. Whether you are a foodie or not, It’s worth to taste their kebab and donner or just give yourself a chance to enjoy their sweet.

One of Kebab I tasted in Istanbul

One of Kebab I tasted in Istanbul

Watching the Sufi Dance. You could go to Sirkeci old train station to watch this performance daily. Or if you don’t want to spend your time queuing the lines, many restaurants offer the dance performance for its customer. What you need to do just make reservation and come on time.

Sufi Dance

Sufi Dance

Sufi Dance

Sufi Dance

Sufi Dance

Sufi Dance

Sufi Dance

Sufi Dance

Sufi Dance

Sufi Dance

How to Get Around?

Istanbul has good transportation system. It has taxi, underground metro, tram, train, and bus running in the city. Mass public transports do not accept cash, so ensure you had transportation card, ‘Istanbul Card’ with you. You could get this card in Metro and tram  station. The card could be recharged with 10 TL, 20TL, 50TL and 100 TL. If you don’t have the card, token is also available. But I don’t recommend it since it’s more expensive than to the card. Using token, it would cost you 4TL for one way, meantime with card it just cost 2,6TL only.

I do hope it’s informative enough for you to be used at your first visit to Istanbul. Enjoy your holiday in the magic city.

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