10 Things to See and Do in Istanbul OPIS Zagreb / Shutterstock.com

10 Things to See and Do in Istanbul

Istanbul is as much a destination brimming with ancient history as it is a city filled with contradictions. Set in the heart of the Old World, it’s a city renowned for incredible scenic beauty and fascinating ancient monuments. It straddles two separate continents, bridging a gap between Asia and Europe with the Bosphorus Strait. As a crucial trading post, Istanbul has seen its fair share of strife, but it’s also a place where cultures have come together, commerce has flourished, and enticing districts have developed, perfectly blending novel ideas with steadfast traditions.

10. Sultan Ahmed Mosque

Better known simply as “Blue Mosque” for its cerulean interior, Sultan Ahmed Mosque is Istanbul’s most esteemed worshiping grounds. Circa 1603, Sultan Ahmet took up the monumental project which spanned more than a dozen years. The mosque’s exterior is a wonder; the flowing curves of the façade connect with a torrent of domes and lithe turrets creating an extremely mesmerizing image. The interior’s Iznik tiles lend the “Blue Mosque” name to the building, even though it is unofficial. The interior is incredibly ambitious, with almost 300 windows and a palatial, central prayer area. For full appreciation of the Blue Mosque’s magnitude, start your tour through the Hippodrome of Constantinople and not the neighboring park. Ahmed’s tomb is on the mosque’s northern side overlooking famous Sultanahmet Park, a great place for a stroll after a look at the Blue Mosque’s colossal courtyard, as substantial as the mosque itself.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque

9. Istanbul Modern Museum

Highly rated and brimming with fascinating pieces, Istanbul Modern Museum is a seaside museum near Galata Bridge in Tophane district and housed in a former textile plant from the 19th century. Converted into a museum and dedicated to contemporary art, the idea for Istanbul Modern Museum was sparked by the inaugural International Istanbul Biennial (art exhibition) in 1987. Both temporary exhibitions and a permanent collection are featured, presenting fascinating modern art photography and paintings from Turkey illustrating the evolution of modern Turkish art from local and regional artists. Though the museum offers free guided tours, note they’re only in English. The best bet for English speakers with a vested interest in the arts, is to pick up a free audio guide for exhibition details. Apart from collections, the museum features a vast library, cinema, design store, and al fresco restaurant with commanding views of Bosphorus Strait.

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