10 Amazing Sights to See on a Study Abroad Weekend in Istanbul
By College Tourist Contributor of 05/14/15
With its central location in between Europe and Asia, Istanbul is the perfect getaway while on Study Abroad.
1. Blue Mosque
Directly across from the Hagia Sophia, this beautiful mosque is known as the Mosque of Sultan Ahmet and in fact, contains his tomb. It was built in the early 1600’s and the interior is decorated with ornate blue tiles which give the Blue Mosque it’s name. It’s is still an active mosque and appropriate attire is required. You must remove your shoes before entering and long pants for men and head coverings for women are also required. Cotton scarves are available for those who did not bring their own and may be used by women to cover their hair or by men and women who are wearing shorts or leggings. Carry your shoes in the plastic bags provided.
2. Hagia Sophia
Considered the 8th wonder of the world by many historians, the Hagia Sophia is a short walk from the Blue Mosque. It’s worth picking up an audio headset to hear it’s story from Christian Basilica to Mosque. No depictions of animals or people are allowed in Islam, however the depictions of angels, Jesus and Mary were only plastered over when the site became a mosque. After becoming a museum in 1935 the beautiful mosaics are being revealed.
3. Grand Bazaar
Get yourself lost amongst the 3,600 stores in the oldest and biggest closed bazaar in the world at the Grand Bazaar. Founded in 1461, the bazaar is home to all types of secret courtyards and corridors with the main areas offering a wide range of handmade and locally produced goods from all over Turkey. The bazaar is the perfect spot to souvenir shop, don’t be intimidated with the pushy store owners, take your time looking and remember to negotiate the price, especially if you are buying more than one item.
4. Spice Market
The Spice Market or Egyptian Market was constructed in the 1660’s as part of the neighboring New Mosque. The rent from the shops supported the upkeep of the mosque. Back in the day of the camel caravans this was the last stop before leaving for the Silk Routes from China, India and Persia. While you can buy Turkish Delight and dried fruits, nuts and spices, there are many stalls that sell souvenirs and trinkets. Many of the stalls will vacuum pack your edible purchases to ensure they make it home.
5. New Mosque
The Yeni Cami, meaning “New Mosque” originally named the Valide Sultan Mosque after its partial reconstruction and completion between 1660 and 1665. It has the characteristics of Ottoman architecture, it is located in a very crowded part of the city on the Golden Horn at the Southern end of the Galata Bridge. It boasts 66 domes and two minarets, making it a famous landmark in Istanbul.
6. Galata Tower
One of the city’s most striking landmarks, this tower was built in 1348. It provides a 360 view of the city. You can reach the top of the tower either via an elevator or walk the 9 flights of stairs. The circular balcony is very small and traffic moves clockwise. Don’t fight your way back in the opposite direction. Be sure to take your camera for the amazing views. The tower was once used to spot fires in the Ottoman era but has a restaurant at the top of the tower providing a commanding view of the Bosphorous .
7. Bosphorous Tour
The Bosphorous Strait divides the continents of Europe and Asia, it connects the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea. Its the center of attraction in Istanbul, full of history, culture and geography. Well worth taking a trip along, College Tourist had the pleasure of a tour with Turkish Airlines. There are many points of departure along the Bosphorous.
8. Coffee House of Pierre Loti
For a break from the city, take a cable car to the top of Pierre Loti Hill in the Eyup District. It’s a great place to enjoy a wonderful view of the Golden Horn, (which is a horn-shaped estuary that divides European Istanbul) and the old parts of Istanbul. Get inspired with the panorama and enjoy tradition turkish coffee and snacks.
9. Rahmi M.Koç Museum.
A private museum from one of Turkey’s wealthiest dynasties, a visit of Rahmi Koç to the Henry Ford Museum inspired him to create this museum and open it to the public. The museum is dedicated to the history of transport, industry and communications, it contains thousands of items from miniatures to a full sized submarine all on the shores of the Golden Horn. Covering over 27,000 square metres space consists of three main part: Historical Lengerhane Building, Historical Hasköy Dockyard and Open Air Exhibition Area. The Museum holds educational programs and workshops for students and teachers with a number of permanent and temporary exhibitions. The displays are functional and interactive for visitors.
10. Topkapi Palace
This was the palace of the Ottoman Dynasty and is now the home of numerous holy relics and jewels used by the Sultan’s family. Make sure you get a chance to see the ‘Spoonmaker’s’ diamond which is a whopping 86 karats and is considered the pride of the Imperial Treasury. This spoon shaped diamond apparently got its name from the jeweler who craftily paid the naive fisherman who found the diamond 3 spoons for the ‘shiny rock’. True or not, it’s a sight to behold. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed to be taken of the diamond. Take some time to see the holy relics and soak up the view of the Bosphorous from the palace terrace.