ROL Cruise recommends…
1. Test your haggling skills
Istanbul is home to the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest covered markets in the world, complete with more than 60 streets and thousands of shops. Amongst its myriad goodies are jewellery, ceramics, leather and spices. It’s also the perfect place for a bite to eat and some people watching – there are between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors every day.
2. Observe the Blue Mosque’s intricacy
For some quintessentially Turkish architecture, pay a visit to the Blue Mosque, so called because of the ornate blue tiles used in its interior decoration. Built in the early seventeenth century, this active place of worship comprises six minarets and more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, beautifully adorned with over 50 different tulip designs.
3. Take a tranquil moment
While Istanbul is renowned as a hive of activity, you can find an oasis of calm in Emigan Park, nestled beside the Bosphorus Strait. This 100-acre open space, which dates back to the sixteenth century, features the Ataturk Arboretum along with a stunning collection of tulips which bloom in April. There’s even a festival held in honour of these gorgeous flowers.
4. Witness centuries of history
One of the most notable landmarks in Istanbul is its Hagia Sophia, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. With a name that means ‘holy wisdom’, it was built in the sixth century and is best known for its impressive dome. It was converted into a museum in 1935 by Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
5. Go down into Istanbul’s depths
An underground reservoir might not normally be at the top of your itinerary, but when it’s as impressive as Basilica Cistern, it should be right up there. Created in the sixth century, this staggeringly impressive attraction features 336 marble columns, each 9 metres in height. Look out for two striking Medusa heads carved into the column bases amongst the breathtaking architecture.