Sultanahmet, the ‘Old Istanbul’, is home to most of the cultural heritage of the city. Once known as Constantinople, wealthiest city in Europe, Istanbul managed to preserve many of its architectural edifices from the Byzantine and Ottoman empire. The Blue Mosque and the Ayasofya, two massive and exquisite constructions facing each other from opposite ends of Sultanahmet Park, are the most prominent sights. Although I did not managed to see everything on my two-day walking tour, Topkapi Palace and the Basilica Cistern are worth a visit, even without a tour guide.
Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport is the biggest airport in Turkey and is a convenient hub for worldwide flight connections with Turkish Airlines. A return ticket from London to Istanbul won’t cost you more than 160€ in low season and takes barely two hours; one of the many reasons why Istanbul has become the perfect weekend getaway. It was my first flight with Turkish Airlines and I was positively surprised by their customer service: an IT problem had charged my credit card twice during the online booking process, and a refund was initiated right at check in.
Oriented around the famed seven hills, Istanbul treats you with the most breathtaking views you can imagine. A great way to get an overview of the metropolis is to take a half-day Bosphorus cruise. Istanbul is also packed with great rooftop bars, where you’ll be able to escape the hustle and bustle catch a fresh breeze as the sun begins to set behind the silhouettes of the city’s 3,113 mosques; a wonderful and unique blend of history and modernity that you won’t forget anytime soon.
Although some might consider it a daunting experience, you need to visit a Hamami (Turkish bath) at least once. What used to have hygienic purposes, is now considered a popular after work activity. Istanbul has many traditional and historical hamams featuring highlights such as a large marble dome, several water basins and an impressive göbektaşı — the central, raised and heated platform. Treatments usually include a short massage and a rather rough body scrub. As my attendant twisted my half-naked body on the central platform he asked ‘You hurt??’ – ‘Umm, YES!’ – ‘Good!’.
No pain, no gain.
Via: Jeff Schneider