Occupying a short stretch of land that strategically divides the Black Sea from the Sea of Marmara, Istanbul is the capital of Turkey and the second largest city in the world by population size. Economically and culturally important to the rest of the country, it’s a fascinating capital with plenty to visit and explore.
Sightseeing in Istanbul
Istanbul has grown over the years from its roots as a trading town with real dependence on the sea. These days the sea is still a major attraction, inviting tourists to come and explore its fabulous beaches, and accepting cruise ships into its historic port. It has a very diverse history filled with battles and wars, each new empire adding to its varied buildings and monuments through the ages. With so much to see and do in Istanbul, here are some suggestions for places to visit that aren’t too far from the port:
Arguably one of the most famous monuments in Turkey, the Aya Sofya was originally built as a church in 537AD, converted into a Mosque and finally turned into a museum. One of its most acclaimed features is its mosaic-work floor designed to depict the portraits of Saints.
This palace was the residence of the rulers of the Ottoman Empire and is the subject of captivating stories including the Sultan who drowned in his Champagne, another who turned maniacal after two decades of imprisonment and another who was particularly evil and had a fondness for collecting harem concubines. Most parts of the Palace can be visited today.
Originally the location for gladiatorial trials and chariot races, this ornate arena is wonderfully preserved and is home to some of the city’s best loved festivals and celebrations. Visitors can tour the complex structure on its own, as well as visit on occasions when it’s being used for public festivities.
Shopping in Istanbul
In Istanbul, shopping is a way of life. The city has a genuine cosmopolitan feel and enjoys everything from low budget marketplaces to high-brow shopping galleries. It’s a busy city, hectic with traffic and vast numbers of pedestrians, so getting around can be challenging, but don’t be put off bargain hunting here. With careful planning there are plenty of excellent shopping locations not far from the port of Istanbul.
If you only get to one location in Istanbul, make it Cevahir, the largest shopping mall in Europe. It is home to designer brands, large chain stores and smaller, local boutiques, and with dining and entertainment all under one roof it’s a great place to head for a day of shopping therapy.
The Kapali Carsi Grand Bazzar, meaning 'covered market' in general terms, is not far from the port and is one of the historic trading centres of Istanbul. It’s a massive indoor emporium filled with traders' stalls, local jewel merchants and tourist souvenirs, all housed under the cover of a very ornate roof.
Eating out in Istanbul
Think you know fast food? Think again. When it comes to good food on the go, Istanbul has its own range of quick-fix meals to enjoy. One of the most popular is Simit, a bagel shaped bread roll with a crispy outer edge and a distinctive taste. It comes in a range of flavours and is usually served with traditional Turkish tea. When your cruise ship berths in the port of Istanbul, you can find local Simit vendors in the streets not far from the dock.