In my short 23 year tenure spent on this earth I have been fortunate enough to visit a few of the globes best cities. But If I had to pick a favourite, Istanbul would sweep in and take first place in pretty much every category. Straddling Europe and Asia on the Bosphorus Straight, this magnificent city encapsulates the many cultural influences of the numerous empires that have shaped it over time.
Blue Mosque at night time – Istanbul
Prior to travelling to Istanbul I really didn’t know what to expect, I knew the city had a historical past..but what city doesn’t? and I knew it was likely going to be hotter than England..again not particularly uncommon. Both my assumptions of the city were correct; Istanbul’s historic center is actually listed as a world heritage site, and it was about 28 degrees. But there was so much more the city had to offer. Due to its location there is a rich variety of cultures throughout Istanbul, which blends Mediterranean influences with Asia and creates a perfect balance that would be impossible to achieve anywhere else in the world.
One of the many evening markets in Istanbul
The first thing you notice when arriving to the center of Istanbul are the number of gigantic mosques that dominate the skyline, they can be seen from pretty much every point of the city and are a constant reminder of the great Ottoman empire that stood here, most of the Mosques actually housing the bodies of the sultans that built them. It would be stupid not to get up close and personal with some of the mosques to appreciate their sheer size as well as the complex individual details that have gone in to each one. One of the main ones to visit is the Aya Sofya which now serves as a museum that bares innovative architectural form, rich history, religious importance and extraordinary beauty. If you a particularly interested in the history it would be easy to spend a full day wandering the vast galleries inside Aya Sofya, however if you didn’t come on holiday for a history lesson visiting the monument is still a must to witness it’s sheer beauty. Other notable mosques worth visiting are the Blue Mosque (Pictured above) which is easily the city’s most photogenic building and the Süleymaniye mosque which stands high as a landmark for the entire city.
The Grand Bazaar located in the center of Istanbul
Next on the agenda? Shopping. The best way to experience shopping in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is to get completely lost and spend hours roaming around looking at the endless stalls offering everything from local spices to intricate hand made rugs to knock-off football kits. The Bazaar offers a welcome escape from the midday sun and can be explored for what seems like an eternity. For more shopping check out the floating markets along the river, or head in to the cities main shopping street Istiklal Caddesi for a more contemporary selection of well-known brand. A personal favourite of mine was wandering down the hilly side streets just off Istiklal Caddesi and finding vintage record shops and trendy art cafes that gave a much needed laid back vibe, a stark contrast to the otherwise bustling tourist nature of the historic center.
Don’t be fooled by the historical background of Istanbul though, as the locals certainly know how to enjoy themselves. Start off the night and one of the thousands of great restaurants located around the city center offering both traditional Turkish cuisine (Which is incredible by the way) and more modern eateries housing some of the worlds best chefs. Then there are endless amounts of little bars dotting the streets of the city as well as picturesque rooftop cocktail bars for a more scenic drink. For night owls, Istanbul houses some of Turkey’s biggest nightclubs and attracts resident DJ’s famous throughout Europe and beyond most weeks. The thing that makes Istanbul so appealing is the perfect mix of the old with the new; it is a place that like most cities has a variety of modern attractions, but what sets it apart is the grand historic monuments and dusty old Ottoman streets everywhere you turn. It gives the city an almost theme park feel, in a good way.
If you’re heading to Istanbul in the summer months it will be undoubtedly sunny, giving you the perfect opportunity to show off this seasons best sunglasses.
For men these Super by Retrosuperfuture panama sunglasses are perfect for understated cool in a modern frame.
For women these Alexander McQueen sunglasses offer a sleek cat-eye shape with a subtle brown gradient lens perfect for wandering the streets.
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