Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Istanbul: A Grand Bazaar

 French Poet, author and politician Alphonse Lamartine said, “If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.”

When Lamartine first laid eyes on Istanbul, it was love at first sight as the ‘city of contrasts’ captured both his heart and imagination.

Architecture that dates back from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires stand beside skyscrapers; while modern women clad in mini skirts stroll beside those in traditional Burkas.

At every turn the city emphasizes a precarious balance between the old and new, the religious and the secular and the east and the west.

Istanbul boasts the unique contrast of being both European and Asian, as it is the only city in the world built on two continents.

Most of the cities historical sites can be found within Sultanahmet or the old Stamboul area, where you can literally travel through the civilizations.

Start your journey at the Roman hippodrome and the Yerebatan Cistern and then visit the awe-aspiring Ayasofya, which was once the largest church in the world before it became a mosque, and then a museum.

Afterwards head over to the Blue mosque, a symbolic part of Istanbul’s skyline, before spending the afternoon discovering the opulence of Topkapi Palace, home to the Ottoman sultans for centuries.

Remember to visit Topkapi Palace’s Harem, for a fascinating insight into the home of the Sultan’s wives and hundreds of concubines.

One of the cities most incredible landmarks is the Grand Bazaar (known as Kapali Carsi to the Turkish), which covers a vast area of over 65 streets and contains a treasure trove of 2,600 shops, teahouses, restaurants and persistent sales people.

It is said that if you can’t find something in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, then it doesn’t exist. 

After you’ve honed your bargaining skills at the Grand Bazaar move on to the Egyptian spice bazaar, where your senses will be overwhelmed by the vibrant colours and strong fragrances of spices, dried fruits, nuts, herbs and oil.

If time permits, make sure to visit the Beyoglu area, Istanbul’s modern half and the city’s centre for art, music and education and take a boat trip down the beautiful Bosphorus strait.

Finally, for the ultimate indulgence treat your self to a hamam, or Turkish bath where all of your troubles are guaranteed to melt away.  

If you feel like spoiling yourself

Be treated like royalty at the Ciragan Palace Hotel, home to the last Ottoman sultans.

Located along the Bosphorus, you couldn’t hope to find more indulgent or luxurious accommodation.

For the ultimate luxury shopping experience visit the Bebek and Nisantasi areas, where you will find upscale Turkish boutiques as well as internationally renowned designers.

Then for a real treat make sure to dine at 360, a restaurant with a stunning circular view of the city below.

If you’re on a budget

If you are looking for a great hotel at a bargain price, look no further than Hotel Empress Zoe.

Located in the heart of Sultanmahet, the rooms are charming and clean and the hotel offers an unparalleled view of the city from its rooftop terrace.

From your room at the Empress you can hear the calls to prayer from three different mosques.

There are a number of tiny restaurants along the Bosphorus where you can get great seafood dishes and you can get other cheap Turkish delicacies from the many street vendors around the city.

Shop in the Grand Bazaar and don’t forget to bargain for the best price!

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