Stooped in fascinating history
On par with the Blue Mosque in terms of wow-factor is the Byzantine cathedral: Aya Sofya. This huge-domed cathedral, punctuated by the surrounding minarets, is as spectacular inside as it is on its exterior. Pay a visit to another one of Istanbul’s fascinating attractions, the Topkapi Palace – for over 400 hundred years the centre of the Ottoman Empire. Learn about Turkey’s great sultans and the colourful lives they led. Included within the palace grounds is the Harem, where the sultan’s wives and concubines once lived.
Aya Sofya and Topkapi Palace are a 15-minute walk from the Cankurtaran train station.
A trip to Turkey doesn’t count unless you’ve braved an authentic Turkish bath, the purpose of which is to cleanse the body and for relaxation. A popular hamam in Istanbul, is Çemberlitaş Hamamı, where you can enjoy a traditional bath, massage and kese (a scrub using an abrasive mitt). Do not fear – you wear a towel throughout the session and nudity is not part of the package! You’ll leave feeling rejuvenated and like a new person!
Çemberlitaş Hamamı is a 15-minute walk from the Cankurtaran train station.
Hookah smoking has been a popular pastime of the Turks since the seventeenth century. It involves sitting around a table with friends and smoking shisha (flavoured tobacco) from a communal hookah. Hit American Pazari – a pedestrianalised stretch laden with these smoking cafes. Erenler Çay Bahçesi has got a chilled studenty vibe. As the sun goes down, make a beeline for Taksim Square for its throbbing epicentre of Istanbul’s night scene, where you’ll find a mix of bars and clubs offering Turkish, as well as international music.
Taksim Square is served by a metro station of the same name.