Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque
The most iconic image of Istanbul is that of the majestic Hagia Sophia and the delightful Sultan Ahmed Mosque which lie so elegantly alongside the Bospherous. Surrounded by trees, these two incredible edifices are spectacular to behold with their minarets so daintily stretching towards the heavens. The latter, now commonly known as the Blue Mosque, draws on Islamic and Byzantine architectural styles in its design and this is in part what makes it so compelling to gaze upon. With blue tiles coating its interior, the mosque is a peaceful and beautiful place to spend some time.
Just a stone´s throw away is Hagia Sophia which dates all the way to 537 AD and is the pinnacle of Byzantine architecture. Formerly an Orthodox cathedral, it was converted into a mosque in the distant past and is now a museum. With its numerous domes glinting in the sun Hagia Sophia is a must-see in Istanbul alongside its delightful counterpart, the Blue Mosque. Simply unforgettable.
This luxurious palace which is so sumptuously decorated was commissioned by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1459. It was from here that he governed the Ottoman Empire and for that he needed to display his fabulous wealth and power. Now a museum, the former palace has hundreds of rooms contained in the complex and it is a popular place to visit due to its beautiful Islamic artwork, lovely architecture and glittering treasures. Walking through the ornamented and ostentatious rooms is a breathtaking affair as extravagant and lavish features spring out at you from every surface. Among guests´ favourites are the Imperial Treasury which is incredible for the jewels and gems kept within and the Harem where Mehmet´s concubines used to reside. With a couple of museums also included in the complex, Topkapi Museum is definitely worth a visit while you´re touring Istanbul.
A magical place to wander around, the labyrinth of shops and stalls that line the narrow alleys of the Grand Bazaar are a must-see in Istanbul. With over four thousand shops, the roofs above protect visitors from the glare of the sun and all in all it is one of the oldest and most expansive covered markets. Tourists and locals alike flock to the bazaar to buy theirs good or souvenirs to take home with them and the intoxicating atmosphere of this bustling part of the city will entice you ever onwards. Lanterns hang from the ceilings, the smell of spices waft over you and rolls of luxurious carpets are stacked against the walls as you lose yourself amongst the crowds. After you´ve had your fill of shopping, stop off at one of the little cafes that dot the alleys and enjoy a strong Turkish coffee. Delightful!
Source: Alex S.
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