Istanbul is the largest city and most populous city in Turkey. It is considered to be the cultural, historical and financial hub of the country as it bridges Asia and Europe geographically. Beyoğlu is the artistic center of the city where you will find many young and old Turkish artists residing. There you will also find the modern art museums such as the Istanbul Modern and Santrallstanbul. However, the older historical museums like the Istanbul Archeology Museum, still holds more popularity to these newer ones. Istanbul also has a variety of shopping centers, both old and new. The Grand Bazaar, one of the largest covered markets in the world, is also among the world’s oldest. The Egyptian Bazaar is Istanbul’s major spice market and located near the Grand Bazaar. If you’re keen to visit modern shopping centers, drop by the Akmerkez which has been awarded the titles of “World’s Best” and “Europe’s best” shopping mall.
Istanbul has many sights and attractions to offer. One such attraction you should not miss is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or more popularly known as the Blue Mosque because of its blue tiles that adorn the interior walls of the mosque. It is a historic mosque in Istanbul and was built from 1609 to 1616. It also contains the tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. The mosque is still used by the locals to this day so if you plan to visit, make sure you time your arrival properly. Take note that prayers happens five times a day with the first one starting at sunrise and the last one at nightfall. Every prayer time, the mosque is closed for 90 minutes.
Another place to visit in Istanbul is the Hagia Sophia which was a former Greek Orthodox Church. It was converted into a mosque in 1453 and was considered to be the principal mosque until the opening of Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It was later converted into a museum in 1935. The Hagia Sophia Museum is open from 9 in the morning to 7 in the evening during summer months and closes earlier at 5 in the afternoon during winter months.
How to get around Istanbul
Istanbul has an extensive bus, rail and ferry system. Their public bus system includes city-run buses, private buses and a high-speed Metrobus line. Meanwhile their light rail system include four Metro underground lines, four Tramvays aboveground lines, two Fünikülers, two mini-lines called the Teleferik and the Marmaray underwater lines. Lastly, their ferry lines travel the Bosphorus which is the world’s narrowest strait that is used for international navigation and forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia.
Something to remember when navigating around Istanbul is the fleet of private dolmuş minivans. These yellow-colored minivans follow a prescribed route and do not depart until they are full. Unlike the city’s public transportation system, these minivans run all night long.
How to get to Istanbul
Istanbul has two airports, the Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST) and the Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW). Most airlines go through the Atatürk Airport which is 20 kilometers away from the city center. From the airport, it is fairly easy to get into Istanbul. You can take a taxi which should be available at the airport. An express bus service is also available at the airport called the Havataş. It departs every half hour from 4 in the morning to midnight. Public busses are also available but has fewer departure times. Lastly, there is the city’s metro which can take you directly to numerous stops within Istanbul.
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