- I was here: 2 and a half days in June 2018.
- Recommended number of days: without museums, in 2 days it can be seen.
- My score: 4/5.
The truth, I would rate it 3/5, for two reasons:
- The works. Maybe it is not the best time to go: Aya Sofia has a good scaffolding inside, the Blue Mosque another that occupies the entire vault, the New Mosque is full in reforms, 2/3 of the Chora Church are under restoration…
- I expected more. I know more than one person who describes Istanbul as “the most beautiful city in the world”, and many others who, if they do not say it is the nicest, do consider it one of them. I do not share that concept of beauty, my opinion is that the most beautiful cities not only have great attractions, they are the ones that are beautiful at every step, and that is not the case of Istanbul, but it does have the attractions. It is also an interesting and original mix between Mediterranean Europe and Middle East, perhaps the only city that can boast of that, sometimes reminiscent of Athens, and sometimes reminiscent of Cairo, but more to the first.
But expecting more does not mean that I don’t give credit:
- In the city of the Byzantine-style mosques, neither the Blue, nor the New, nor the imposing and restored Suleymaniye shade Aya Sofia, one of the architectural marvels of civilization. This colossus over 1500 years old was already standing centuries earlier than any existing European cathedral, and is much older than the rest of mosques in the city. Although deteriorated inside (and how it will not be if they allow stray cats and pigeons to wander around inside, even a small hive in a corner I found…), its magnificent interior remains in golden and blue tones, with Muslim and Christian motifs coexisting.
- The majestic and different palaces of Topkapi and Dolmabahce.
- The Grand Bazaar and the small Spice Bazaar, although modernization has reduced it essence, are still full of color and occasions, being wide and without feeling overwhelmed.
- The Bosphorus Strait offers excellent views to enjoy in one of the many and cheap (not even € 3 per hour and a half) cruises that cross it.
- Although I will not give the approval to the perhaps too new area of Beyoglu, which seems Preciados street in Madrid, or Taksim Square, which may be very important, but it is only a large esplanade.
- Whether in the old part or in the new one, there are tons of restaurants with a thousand terraces on the street or on rooftops.
- With modern transports and new subway lines under construction, the city shows a frank impulse.
Given the power of Turkish Airlines, I have no doubt that I will end up returning, even if it is by a stopover; I hope all works have finished by then.
WHAT TO DO
- AYA SOFIA, THE BLUE MOSQUE AND CISTERN BASILICA
- TOPKAPI PALACE
- GRAND BAZAR, SPARK BAZAAR, SULEYMANIYE MOSQUE AND NEW MOSQUE
- BEYOGLU: NEW AREA, GALATA TOWER AND DOLMABAHCE PALACE
- BOSPHORUS CRUISE
- WHEN TO GO
- GETTING THERE BY LAND
- GETTING AROUND IN THE CITY
- ACCOMMODATION AND RESTAURANTS
- DANGERS AND ANNOYANCES