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THE MAGIC CITY OF SULTANS: ISTANBUL
July 15, 2015
I’ve no doubt that Istanbul is one of my fave destinations! I want to go back there a thousand times. I was there with Andrei during our honeymoon, that it includes Cappadocia too. And we spent amazing days in the land of sultans.
Istanbul is a city that brings together two continents (Europe and Asia), two cultures and it has for a long time, been the heart and soul of Turkey.
We decided to stay on the European side, which is divided into two parts, one old, which is a UNESCO World heritage site ( Sultanahmet) and one modern (Taksim). To learn as much as possible of the city, we were 9 days, 5 days at the old town and 4 days at the modern.
In Sultanahmet, we stayed at Eternity, a boutique hotel very well located, romantic and with a great service. We were very well attended. The hostess hit the target all suggestions of tours! If you stay there, please, don't skip the breakfast! It’s so delicious. As they say: “the path to one’s heart goes through the stomach”. In the land of delicacies you should start your day with a big meal.
The hotel is very close to the most important landmarks: the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. Super quiet and easy especially for walking at night in the neighborhood exploring restaurants, stores and pubs and see those bright spots!
In Taksim, we stayed at Hilton ParkSa, and our room had a breathtaking view to the Bosphorus. This region is full of good restaurants and shops such as Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Dior, Burberry.
The list of historical landmarks goes on and on. So I'm going to share my favorites:
1) Blue Mosque: this incredible Mosque of 1616 portrays the brilliance of Mimar Sinan, the most respected architect of the Ottoman period. In fact, the mosques are a show piece, especially at the time of the call to prayer. It's exciting.
2) Hagia Sophia: previously a church, mosque and now museum, perfectly combines significant artefacts of two of the world’s biggest religions.
3) Topkapi Palace and the Harem: it was constructed between 1460 and 1478 by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror and it served as the home of the Ottoman sultans and their court until the middle of the 19th century. The Topkapı Palace Harem was the living space of the Sultan, the Queen Mother, the sultan’s women, children, brothers and sisters and servants and concubines and Black Eunuchs who were the protectors of the Harem.
4) Basilica Cistern: a magic place. Constructed for Justinianus I, the Byzantium Emperor (527-565), this big underground water reservoir is called as “Yerebatan Cistern” among the public because of the underground marble columns. It also contains the upside heads of Medusa.
5) Grand Bazaar: since 1461 it is one of the largest covered markets in the world with 60 streets and 5,000 shops, and attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. It’s AMAZING.
6) Spice Bazaar: It is the center for spice trade in Istanbul. It’s a delightful tour.
7) Bosphorus: Take a boat and enjoy the atmosphere. Major wars have been fought and many men have died for control of this strategic strait of water. The Byzantine Empire seriously neglected its importance, therefore helping the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed to take control of Constantinople and ultimately finish their reign. In turn, the Ottoman Empire formed a fashion trend for the rich and fabulously wealthy to own summer houses (yalis) on the shores.
8) Turkish Bath: This is a unique experience! There are a lot of places to do it there. We chose the Suleymaniye Hamam, because was where the Suleyman Sultan used to go. I utterly loved it! It was awesome!
9) Galata Tower: One of the best view of Istanbul.
10) Galata Bridge: Enjoy the fresh sea breeze. Also it is the place where cheap and delicious fish sandwiches are sold.
11) Food: The food is a special chapter. I love Turkish cuisine. With its mixture of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences and its bountiful fresh produce, it’s no surprise that Istanbul has established itself as a mecca for foodies from across the globe. From tender, perfectly spiced kebabs to indulgent sweet pastries, the diversity of potential food to eat is mind boggling. And what about the Baklava? Oh my God! I love this dessert. Thanks to its tantalizing taste and texture, baklava has become a popular dessert worldwide. Made using seemingly endless layers of filo pastry and stuffed with pistachios, and held together with sticky honey or syrup, these delicacies may not be good for your waistline, but they’re certainly a treat for the senses.
Here are our top 3 restaurants there:
1) Aloran Cafe & Restaurant: Very good food, very good service and also you can give a Turkish eye to protect yourself! I didn’t find its website, but you can find it at Trip Advisor website, and the address is: Cankurtaran Mah. Akbiyik Cad. Adliye Sok. No.11 Next To Four Seasons Hotel, Sultanahmet.
2) Seven Hills: from its rooftop you get the best night view of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Awesome!
3) Anjelique: It’s beautiful, fancy and delightful. It’s a restaurant and a night club too.
History, culture, food, people and breathtaking views and places made our honeymoon more than perfect. Without the shadow of a doubt Istanbul is one of the most impressive and magical cities in the world.
Our next destination was Cappadocia another amazing trip. I’m going to share with you in the next post!