Istanbul, where there is another fairy tale in every season with its history and its beauties, whispers a different talisman in every corner of its every street. It has been the center of the world for centuries, and it will be the city that will continue to be the apple of the world’s eye.
With its thousands of years of history, world famous Bosphorus, centuries-old mansions, historical artifacts, many cultures, cosmopolitan structure, palaces, mosques, churches and museums, Istanbul is a city of unique beauty built on lands stretching from Asia Minor to Europe.
If you are wondering what Istanbul is famous for, the main places to see and the main tastes to taste, you should keep reading this article.
9 Famous Historical Places of Istanbul
Sultan Ahmet Mosque
If you have dropped by Istanbul and want to visit historical buildings, you should definitely take a stroll around Sultanahmet and Beyazit Square. These towns, considered to be the center of the Ottoman period, are home to many different temples, which are also important for Orthodox Christianity. Therefore, I recommend that you start walking around Istanbul from Beyazıt Square. Sultanahmet is one of the most popular routes in Istanbul.
The Sultanahmet Mosque, built in the 1600s, will attract you directly to a charming atmosphere with its magnificent six minarets. Sultanahmet, which has a beautiful view from the sea, is a highly qualified work in terms of architecture. The Mosque, which has become a popular destination not only for Muslims but also for foreign tourists, allows many religious activities around Ramadan.
Located next to Sultan Ahmet, the Hagia Sophia is a place where you must visit to see both its magnificent architecture and the historical value. Hagia Sophia Konstantiniyye, which was built after 400 BC, is one of the most important historical monuments of Istanbul.
The Hagia Sophia, which had important meanings for Christians, served as a mosque after the conquest. After the conquest of Istanbul, the church was turned into a mosque and the mosaics and icons were closed while a dome was installed by Mimar Sinan. Thus, serving as a mosque until 1935, Hagia Sophia has been converted into a museum after that date and take its final shape.
Among the hundreds of mosques in Istanbul, Suleymaniye has a special place. Suleymaniye Mosque, which was built by Mimar Sinan in honor of Suleiman the Magnificent, has been transformed into one of the symbols of Istanbul with its magnificent silhouette that appears especially from the sea.
Geometric patterns of architectural elements in many different ways around the Suleymaniye along with its natural texture will host you in a nostalgic environment.
Topkapi Palace, which is located in the historical peninsula of Istanbul, must be at the top of the list among the places to visit in Istanbul. It will be the right choice to spend a full day to visit the Topkapi Palace. Topkapı Palace, which is established in a very wide area, consists of hundreds of different sections.
Topkapı Palace is a masterpiece in its own right along with historical artifacts, religious relics belonging to the Islamic civilization, robes of the Ottoman sultans and of course a magnificent sea view.
Among the palaces in Istanbul, Dolmabahçe Palace has many different meanings both for the history of the republic and for the Ottoman era. Dolmabahçe Palace, which is the product of a very elegant architectural design, was built by Sultan Abdülmecit. In the Dolmabahçe Palace which is the most elegant example of Baroque architecture, there are rooms and artifacts that is built by the sultans. The rooms, which are arranged in wood format, can preserve their natural texture even today.
Dolmabahçe Palace, which has housed 6 different sultanates until the establishment of the Republic, was also used as an office by Atatürk. The great leader breath his last in a room in Dolmabahçe Palace. When you visit Dolmabahçe today, all of these rooms will be waiting for you. In addition, the garden of the Dolmabahce Palace and its backyard is quite suitable for taking pictures of a beautiful Bosphorus view.
The Basilica Cistern, which is located right next to Sultanahmet and Hagia Sophia, is an important building that meets the water needs of the city in Ottoman times and it is still open to visit today. Basilica Cistern, which is home to hundreds of columns, draws attention with its authentic structure and nostalgic air.
Nowadays, fish are swimming in the water at the bottom of the columns. The reverse Medusa, located at the bottom of the cistern, also attracts visitors.
Haydarpasa Train Station
Being one of the most important historical buildings of Istanbul, the Haydarpasa Train Station is one of the imposing works of Baroque architecture.
Haydarpasa Station, which was built in 1873 as the center of the railway line, has undergone various restorations over time.
One of the symbols of the city, the Maiden’s Tower is a spectacular place to watch from the Üsküdar coast while drinking a cup of tea. The Maiden’s Tower is a Byzantine fortress dating back to the 12th century.
The Maiden Tower, which has a variety of urban legends and historical myths, is an important route you should visit when visiting Istanbul.
Rumeli Fortress, which is one of the places that must be seen in Istanbul, is an exceptional building where you can walk away from the crowds and the noise of Istanbul. The castle and the city walls, which have survived until today, are remarkable as a magnificent historical monument. Rumeli Fortress which has been restored in 1950, serves as an Open Air Theater.
Rumeli fortress, where many different concerts are performed, has become one of the most elite places in Istanbul. In addition, at the bottom of the Fortress, the blooming Judas trees preparing a feast for the photo enthusiast especially in April.
6 Famous Natural Beauties of Istanbul
If you love nature, you must visit the Atatürk arboretum in Istanbul. Arboretum, which is designed as a scientific research and observatory center, contains different species of flowers and plants.
A very convenient venue for a nice weekend trip with clean air and walking routes.
You must also visit Gülhane Park which is among the finest natural beauties of Istanbul. Gülhane Park, witnessing the breaking moments of Ottoman history, is ideal for sitting in the spring and summer with its wonderful lawns adorned with tulips.
Gülhane Park, which houses centuries-old trees, is located just below the walls of Topkapı.
If you want to look at Istanbul from the top, the great Camlica Hill should be set as the first in the list of the places to be seen in Istanbul. You can watch Istanbul’s Bosphorus from the hill which is really high. Çamlıca Hill, where there are cafeterias and tea gardens, was preferred as a place in many historical novels as well.
Çamlıca hill, which is open to visitors every day, remains as a tradition where the couples take pictures of themselves.
All the places and structures mentioned above are of course in the foreground and symbol for Istanbul. However, the first place that comes to the mind of the whole world when you say Istanbul is always the Bosphorus. The Bosphorus, which brings Asia and Europe together, continues to be the most exclusive corner of Istanbul for centuries with its natural texture and unique culture.
Bosphorus culture can be felt on both sides. It has a very different meaning, especially for photographers. Bosphorus fish restaurants, cafes, and sightseeing routes where you can capture magnificent snapshots 365 days a year should also be included in your trip plan.
Ortaköy, located just next to the Bosphorus and is the leading of the intellectual spaces, is a special place to drop by for those who visit Istanbul. The Ortaköy Mosque, which is positioned especially overlooking the Bosphorus, attracts attention as a place where many statesmen visit and take photos.
In addition to its mosques, churches, and synagogues, Ortaköy is also a very active place in terms of artistic activities. You can also see many street artists in Ortaköy where different activities are made every day.
Emirgan Grove, which is one of the most authentic places, embodies all shades of green. You should definitely visit Emirgan Grove in April when the Tulip Festival is held.
In this way, you will experience a very natural texture in a colorful world.
Famous Social Life of Istanbul
If you are interested in entertainment life, you should definitely visit Istiklal Street and Beyoglu. These two interconnected routes are very close to each other. Istiklal Street, which is one of the symbols of the city in European Side, was converted into a cultural center which is in demand by the westerners who lived in Istanbul especially after the Tanzimat Period.
There are many art galleries, cinemas and cultural centers in İstiklal Street, which has been restored in recent years. Also at the end of the Istiklal Street, which is home to the churches that have been built in different styles, there are the Galatasaray High School and the flower passage which are some of the most extraordinary and authentic places in Istanbul. İstiklal Street, which still hosts a huge crowd, is also a preferred area for celebrations.
15 Famous Food of Istanbul
Istanbul is the only city that connects the continents of Asia and Europe. This unique and splendid city is very popular with its unique tastes. For this reason, Istanbul cuisine, blended with many cultures, has an important place among world cuisines. Istanbul’s rich food culture dates back to Ottoman cuisine. So much so that, after you taste the lamb, sheep and veal meat dishes you may be addicted to the cuisine of Istanbul. In addition to meat dishes, rich pastry varieties, dry beans, olive oil vegetable dishes, bulgur, and rice pilafs are also indispensable for this unique cuisine. I have compiled the famous food of Istanbul for you.
These traditional tastes are also very popular, because, each different neighborhood has distinct tastes. For example, I can list many delicious flavors such as the jacket potato of Ortaköy, the fish sandwich of Eminönü, the steamed burger of Beyoğlu, the pastry of Sarıyer, the boza of Vefa, the kebab and the cream of Eyüp, the lamb feet of Beykoz, the dry pastry of Karaköy bakery, the pickle of Üsküdar Şemsipaşa and the sugar candies of Hacıbekir. Everyone who comes to Istanbul should taste these flavors even once.
Historical Sultanahmet Meatballs
To visit Sultanahmet and not to eat Sultanahmet meatballs is unacceptable. There is also a fact that one who eats the meatballs prepared with this historic recipe, is eager to eat again.
This famous meatball is one of the most important flavors that can be mentioned in Istanbul.
Famous Flavor: Kanlica Yogurt
Kanlıca yogurt, which is one of the traditional flavors of Istanbul, is known to be produced in 1893 and passed on from generation to generation.
For years, they managed to maintain the same flavor which is quite famous! If you still haven’t tried, enjoy this taste without losing time.
One of the Unique Tastes: Sweetbread
It is a kind of food made by the intestine, liver, geranium or heart of a lamb or calf. The most delicious sweetbreads are made in March, April, and May.
It is known as an extremely famous meal in the Sütlüce district.
It is known that each region has its own type of pilaf. This pilaf which was extremely famous during the Ottoman period has become the main course in important events such as holidays, births, weddings, funerals, and it continues to be.
In addition, the names of the sultans who loves this rice very much have given to the dish itself. Sultan Reşat pilaf or Ali Pasha pilaf are among these examples. Istanbul pilaf, which is a taste that who eats it will be enchanted, is also sold on the streets as a street dish.
Sarıyer – Pastry
In the poverty period of the Ottoman Empire in 1895, it was put on the market as a plain pastry with powdered sugar on it.
Its special feature is the thinning of the dough by hand and not by a rolling pin. Most preferred are the ones with minced meat.
Vefa – Boza
Boza is a drink that is made of millet semolina, water, and sugar. It is yeasted and has beneficial food bacteria. In 1876, Hacı Sadık Bey introduced the boza, which he produced in his house, at night around the palace with copper pots.
After a while, he opened the Vefa Bozacısı and started the tradition in Vefa District.
Beyoğlu – Chocolate
It was founded in 1954 by the Ganapulos family as a chocolate workshop. While struggling with the country conditions and difficulties of the period, it is aimed to spread the chocolate culture that a certain segment consumes as a luxury flavor.
In the first period of the 1960s after the brand produced and sold the product under the name of the Beyoglu Chocolate, it takes its place in history as the famous Beyoglu Chocolate.
Bebek – Almond Butter
The shop, which was opened in 1904, is still standing with delicious almonds in one branch. In fact, the first place of the establishment was Mudanya, however, the shop was moved to Istanbul with the love of Anastasia and Mehmet Halil.
Anastasia’s father did not want to send his daughter to Mudanya. Mehmet Halil Bey did not want to give up Anastasia as well, so he opened a shop here and started to sell almond butter.
Moda – Ice Cream
Since 1969, there is an indispensable ice cream shop in Moda District. Famous Dondurmacı Ali Usta (Ali Kumbasar), started his career as a child and continues to make ice cream on a daily basis.
Ali Usta, who uses real fruit and sugar, makes also 3 kinds of diet ice cream as plain, fruit and chocolate. There are almost 70 kinds in total.
Ortaköy – Kumpir
In Yugoslavia, potatoes cooked in aluminum foil with salad was called “krumpir”. When these potatoes were brought to our country in 1991, it was filled with rich appetizers and became a brand new product named as Kumpir. First, it spread rapidly in our country, then it conquered other countries.
Kumpir made in Turkey is a product prepared by using baked potato, butter, cheese and a variety of delicious salads, appetizers, and sauces. Because of its shape, it was named after the Yugoslav “Krumpir”. However, since it is baked in an oven and has its own content, kumpir is a product of Turkish cuisine.
Çengelköy – Cucumber
One of the famous tastes of Çengelköy is “Çengelköy Cucumber”.
The freshness of this small cucumber brings together many of its lovers at the streets of Çengelköy.
Eminönü – Fish Sandwich
After you complete your tour of the historical peninsula in the beautiful landscape of the Golden Horn, the fish sandwich is one of the best alternatives to feed your belly.
You should also drink pickle juice with it.
Suleymaniye – Dry Beans
Suleymaniye is famous for its dry bean dish along with the magnificent Suleymaniye Mosque.
The restaurant established in 1924 prepares dishes in copper pots and pans and rests in coal fire since aluminum and similar materials are harmful.
Karakoy – Baklava
The first baklava shop in Istanbul, opened in 1949 in Karaköy, is also the first baklava shop outside of Gaziantep.
Since then, Karaköy Güllüoğlu has been the first address of baklava in Istanbul.
Taksim – Steamed Burger
Unlike a regular hamburger, with plenty of sauce, ketchup, garlic, and margarine, the steamed burger is a different flavor you must try.
Once you taste it, be sure that you will not regret!
Famous Istanbul Cuisine
Istanbul is at the top of the list of cities to be seen in the world. Of course, it is not coincident for it to be so popular and important. Every square meter of Istanbul has a huge historical and cultural background. With its history, culture, art and geographical location, it is a cosmopolitan megacenter that fascinates everyone and inspires many people.
Istanbul which is the capital of the great empires for centuries and home to many civilizations has also a marvelous cuisine. Each district of Istanbul offers you a distinct flavor. You can enjoy Turkish cuisine in Taksim, Kadıköy, Sarıyer, Anadolu and Rumeli Kavağı, Fatih, Üsküdar, Sultanahmet, Bağdat Avenue, Nişantaşı, Bebek, Etiler and many other neighborhoods.
Ottoman – Turkish Cuisine
Turkish cuisine, the heir to the Ottoman culture, influenced the Balkan and Middle Eastern cultures as well as influenced by them. You can find Turkish dishes that vary from region to region such as Black Sea cuisine, Southeastern Anatolian cuisine, Aegean and Mediterranean cuisine, and their specialties in Istanbul. If we divide Turkish – Ottoman cuisine into categories, we can start from the meat dishes, which are the favorites of most people as a classical taste.
Adana and Urfa kebabs, doner kebab, meatballs, lahmacun, pide, and offal are the main dishes of Turkish cuisine and their fame has exceeded their limits. Don’t miss traditional Turkish tastes like casserole, lamb kebab in curl paper, and stew which are all juicy meat dishes. You can find the best of these dishes in Kadikoy, Taksim, Fatih, Bakirkoy, Samatya, Eminonu, and Aksaray. While you are here, you should definitely eat the local Turkish meatballs, steak tartar a la turca, ravioli, tantuni, and pastries.
Fireside culture includes kebab, chicken, skewers, liver, and, of course, rakı. You may sit on a large table and eat, or you can sit around the fireside.
Rakı, Fish, Bosphorus
There is also a raki-fish culture, you must absolutely try. You can find fish restaurants all around the city. Especially on the coastline, between Sarıyer and Ortaköy, you will come across a fish restaurant at every step. Moreover, in most of them, you can see the spectacular views of the Bosphorus and the sea.
On the Anatolian side, Kuzguncuk, Çengelköy, Anadolu Kavağı and of course the islands are good places to eat fish. Under Galata Bridge, there are many restaurants and cafes where you can eat fish and other seafood if you don’t want to drink raki.
The tavern culture of Istanbul is very colorful. Taverns are indispensable members of Turkish cuisine. Perhaps they are the most important culture in Turkish cuisine. Hundreds of different kinds of appetizers, raki, and wine are all pleasure. There are a thousand kinds of taverns in this town such as Greek taverns, alehouses, quiet and calm taverns where you can drink rakı and rest your head, and modern taverns adapted to our day. Appetizers have a very important place in Turkish culture.
Anyone going to the tavern prefers appetizers instead of a main dish. When you go to a tavern, the most important appetizers you should have in your dining table are: haydari, hummus, Circassian chicken, fava, fried eggplant with tomato sauce, peppermint salad with pomegranate sour cream, shakşuka, borlotti beans in olive oil, artichoke salad, sea bean, leaf wrap, topik and barren. Don’t think about how you can eat them all; they come in small plates so you can taste them all. The main place of the taverns is Kumkapı. Go to Kumkapi and see how different they are.
If you are more interested in vegetable dishes, you must try the indispensables of Turkish cuisine such as stuffed grape and cabbage leaves (with meat or olive oil), dry beans, zucchini, eggplant, and stuffed green peppers, eggplants with minced meat, and artichokes.
There is a dry bean-rice duo which is epic with cacik (yogurt with water and cucumber, as well as salt and mint for coloring).
The first and foremost of the Turkish cuisine, which is also very rich in terms of dessert, is of course baklava. You can find baklava anywhere in Karaköy. You should try other desserts such as kadayıf, lokma, and künefe. If you like milky desserts, there are options like custard, keşkül, kazandibi, tavuk göğsü, and güllaç.
Another desert, halva, which is inherited from the Ottoman Empire is one of the flavors you should try as well. You can easily find halva with varieties such as plain, pistachio and cocoa in districts such as Taksim, Kadikoy, Eminonu, and Sultanahmet. When you have the opportunity, you should also eat Turkish Delight.
Turkish coffee is the lifeblood of the Turks. You can have a good Turkish coffee in Sultanahmet, Çemberlitaş, and Tophane, where the heart of Old Istanbul beats. A tip for you: A good Turkish coffee should be sparkling. You can tell whether it is good or not by just looking at it. You can even try the hookah while you’re there. Hookah-coffee duo is a Turkish tradition. In the vicinity of Taksim and Kadıköy, the coffee culture began to spread recently. The other interesting drinks you should try are boza, ayran and turnip juice. You can drink the best of Boza in Fatih. Turnip juice and ayran are usually taken with meals and you can find it in many places.
It must be difficult to leave a city where the culture of eating and drinking is so rich. If you have plenty of time, try all of these special flavors. You will not really regret it.
Famous Gifts You Can Purchase in Istanbul
Istanbul, one of the world’s largest and most energetic metropolises, welcomes millions of visitors every year with great hospitality. There is a distinct property of every district of this world city. Therefore it is almost impossible to fully recognize Istanbul and to discover everything. Every street, avenue, and district of this mysterious city can surprise you at any moment.
Since Istanbul is full of surprises, shopping becomes more meaningful. You can find the best of the gifts that will make you feel special.
The Grand Bazaar
In the Grand Bazaar, the world’s largest bazaar, there are traditionally produced souvenirs reflecting the mystical atmosphere of Istanbul. Serving since 1461, this bazaar which has a maze-like structure and 4 thousand shops in it, is both a historical work and a shopping paradise. You can find everything in each street of the Grand Bazaar, which provides affordable shopping opportunities thanks to the product prices determined by the state.
You can get gifts with an authentic design for your loved ones such as jewels, traditional Turkish motifs, rugs, tarbooshes, antiques, embroidered fabrics, gift cups, backgammon, and chess sets.
The Spice Bazaar
The Spice Bazaar is an old shopping center that smells the history of Istanbul. This bazaar, which is located in Eminönü, has 6 gates that are famous for their enormous size. This makes it easy to explore the bazaar. The Spice Bazaar is famous for its spices and delight types.
You can get the best quality of traditional confectionery that will sweeten your mouth. You can also find elegant souvenirs and bags in the bazaar in ceramic workshops and leather shops.
Galata’s shopping options, which have at least historical value as the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, are much different from these two bazaars. The souvenirs which are sold in small and colorful shops lined up on the Galata slope, represent the modern face of Istanbul, and the customer base consists of young people.
Galata puts its signature under the souvenir culture with the leather bags that can be used in daily life, interesting shoes, Istanbul magnets that have embraced the retro style, various souvenirs, wallets, boxes and of course jewelry that will impress you with its design. You will have fun shopping in Galata, which will help you with interesting design shops and friendly sales representatives.
Ortaköy comes to mind when it comes to jewelry. The shops, which are set on the narrow streets of the region descending to the coast of Ortakoy, showcase a perfect view with handmade jewelry. You should allocate a large portion of your day to these shops having reasonable prices and any style of jewelry.
There are also tables, and cups that summarize Istanbul in these shops. Do not say that I know Istanbul very well unless you enjoy shopping in Ortaköy just before your beach trip. You will find the most interesting and affordable souvenirs here.