The One Thing You Don't Want to Miss
Journey to Istanbul's Sultanahmet neighborhood to experience the astounding Ayasofya (also know as the Church of Holy Wisdom or the Hagia Sophia), an incredible example of Byzantine architecture. The original cathedral was completed in A.D. 537, using columns and marble from other temples around the empire. Earthquakes, crusaders and successive rulers have all left their mark on the Ayasofya. The original mosaics, which were once plastered over, have been gloriously restored. Simply put, this is a sight you will always remember.
Other Fun Things to Do
- Take a tour of Topkapi Palace, which was the political center of the Ottoman Empire until the 19th century. It contains holy Muslim relics, including a footprint, tooth and hair belonging to the Prophet Mohammed.
- Equally affecting is the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii), a grand, bulbous monument to Islam. With 260 stained glass windows, six minarets and liberal use of decorative tile, the Blue Mosque is an amazing visual adventure.
Get a Taste of Local Flavor
For an appetizer, don't miss out on barbunya pilaki, roasted baby eggplant topped with garlic, tomatoes and olive oil-fried onions. There are many types of kebabs (meaning roasted) to sample. The well-known shish kebab simply consists of chunks of roasted lamb. Fresh fish is typically served grilled and topped with olive oil and lemon. Popular desserts include baklava and puddings made from yogurt and eggs. And don't forget to try Turkish Delight, or lokum, a candy that's been around for about five hundred years, made from starch and sugar, often flavored with lemon or rosewater.
Shopping for Bargains
Turkey's leather goods are some of the best in Europe. You can purchase customized leather items for far less money here than at home. Carpet shops are abundant, so make sure you shop around. Visit the Grand Bazaar, with its thousands of shops, selling everything from brass, copper and jewelry to textiles, leather, carpets, and more. Prices are generally flexible, so be ready to bargain.
The Lira (TL) is the official currency of Turkey. Banks and exchange offices are generally open only on weekdays - you may find it hard to convert your traveler's checks on weekends. ATMs are common in Turkish cities, towns and resorts, and many of them connect to worldwide networks such as Cirrus® or Plus® and to credit cards.
Weather in Istanbul, Turkey
|| 3.9 in
|| 9.91 cm