Top 10 Things To Do In Istanbul

Istanbul has something for everyone. For most travelers, there are several key things that they simply must do in Istanbul.

Istanbul is one of the oldest cities in the world. If you can't find ten amazing things to do there, you're probably still in baggage claim at the airport. Istanbul is a city well worth visiting. Regardless of your particular interests, Istanbul has something for you. For most travelers, there are several key things that they simply must do in Istanbul. Following are the top ten:

1. Enjoy the Local Cuisine

The first thing you should do in Istanbul is sample the local cuisine. The best place to start is with a kebab house. Kebab is a typical South Eastern Turkish food and although you may be familiar with the western version, there is nothing like a true Turkish kebab. A traditional kebab may be cooked over a flame or grill, but if you prefer something in the form of a sandwich, look for a Doner Kebab which is roast lamb, sliced very thin, on flatbread with vegetables and a delicious yogurt and garlic sauce. Fresh fish and seafood can be found in abundance in Istanbul. For those who like a drink with dinner, Raki, a traditional (alcoholic) beverage made with anise and grapes, goes particularly well with fish. Unseasoned drinkers should beware of the strength of Raki. It is distilled liquor and can be particularly strong. There is a reason the locals call it "Lion's Milk"! For those who don't care to sample locally distilled liquors, Turkish coffee is a fine choice. Made by boiling finely ground coffee to a froth, Turkish coffee is a treat for any coffee lover. Sip it slowly and just remember not to drink the muddy substance at the bottom of the cup (it's those finely ground coffee beans) unless you really need a serious boost of energy!

2. Shop at the Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is known the world over. There are some 4,000 merchants selling their wares on this series of covered streets. Anything you may want to buy in Istanbul can be found here. You'll find gold and silver, carpets, slippers, boots, books, purses, foods and much more. For those of you from the west, where purchasing for the asking price is expected, shopping in the Grand Bazaar should be quite a treat. In Turkey, merchants are generally offended if you simply pay the asking price. They expect you to try to talk them down on the price. They price high, you make a low offer, they counter offer. This can go on for quite some time until somebody tires and gives in. Just don't be surprised if you tire and start to walk away only to find the merchant calling out to you with a fair price. Shopping in Istanbul isn't for everyone, but for those who can, it is a sport in itself!

3. Enjoy the Turkish Baths

Whether you'd prefer to soak, steam or to have a massage, a stop at a Turkish bath can be a wonderful break. Just be sure to check the hours of the local bath according to sex. The sexes bathe separately according to specific hours for men and others for women.

4. Visit Istiklal Street

This street is one of the city's finer shopping and entertainment districts.

5. Enjoy the local color of Anadolu Kavagi

This is a small fishing village at the end of the Asian side of the Bosporus. See the Byzantine fortress there on the cape and then enjoy some fresh, inexpensive seafood at one of the local restaurants.

6. See Topkapi Palace

For nearly 400 years, Topkapi Palace was home to the Ottoman sultans. Here, in addition to the amazing architecture and gardens, you will see swords and daggers, royal clothes, carpets, textiles, ceramics, jewels, armor, and many other wonderful treasures. Take the day to enjoy the splendor of the artistic and architectural delights that can be found in Topkapi Palace.

7. Visit the Hippodrome

The Hippodrome, on the square next to Sultan Ahmet Mosque, was built 480 meters long by 117 meters wide and could contain 100,000 people. This massive amphitheater occupied a very important place in Byzantine life. In Roman times, the chariot races were major social events. In Ottoman times, the hippodrome hosted polo games as well as circumcision ceremonies of the crown princes.

8. See the Egyptian Obelisk

During the Roman era, in 390 A.D., this column was brought to Constantinople (now Istanbul) from Egypt. The Emperor, Theodosius, placed this obelisk on a square pedestal in the center of the Hippodrome. The reliefs on the pedestal depict Emperor Theodosius watching the races in the hippodrome and how he erected the column. Egyptian hieroglyphics on the column itself tell of the sacrifices that Egyptian Pharaoh Tutmosis made to the god Amon-Ra.

9. Stand at Point Zero

This stone, standing at the corner opposite to Hagia Sophia, was known during the era of the Eastern Roman Empire to indicate the center of the known universe.

10. Cruise the Bosporus

Enjoy the beauty of Istanbul from the river and marvel at the influences of the many cultures involved in Istanbul's history and how they have left their mark on the local architecture.

© High Speed Ventures 2011