Looking at Istanbul from afar, when it takes its shape, is like witnessing a spell: Istanbul is a magical meeting point between East and West.

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Before telling you where to go in Istanbul, let’s talk about the Bosporus, since this strait is the main character of the dramatic romance of Hero and Leander (the story is narrated by Ovid in the Heroides, from the Greek mythology).

The myth of the Bosporus lighthouse is a sorry story.

One day Hero, a chaste priestess of Aphrodite, left the Lighthouse where she lived to attend a ceremony in the Temple and it was where she met Leander. The two fell in love with each other and, as soon as they became lovers, Leander was banished to prevent them from being together. Leander, obliged to live on the opposite bank, had to swim at night, guided by the light of a lantern burned by Hero, who wanted to help him find his way. In this way the passionate two went on meeting and loving each other. They succeeded several times in their hard plan until when, one night, a storm blew out the lamp and Leander, confused, died in the waves. By dawn Hero glimpsed the lifeless body of her loved one on the beach and, overcome with grief, she committed suicide by throwing herself into the sea from the Lighthouse.

When you say drowning in an ocean of ​​passion.

Istanbul il magico incontro tra Oriente e Occidente Turchia bosforo in giro in giro blog

Let’snow talk about the amazing Istanbul!

Known throughout history as Byzantium first and Constantinople then, its metropolitan area covers both the banks of the Bosporus, the strait dividing Europe from Asia and connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.

Like in many other cities with a thousand-year history, seeing everything is impossible. In the same way, it’s very hard to choose what gets priority and this is why what we are about to list here is just what we decided to visit in a weekend.

Worth a visit

What to buy

Tips


The Bosporus

Symbolic place of Istanbul and protagonist of the dramatic love story between Hero and Leander.

It can be visited strolling along its banks or sailing it, either way you’ll experience its magic.

In the 1999 film “The world is not enough”, the nineteenth movie of the agent “007” series, Pierce Brosnan is James Bond. The scene of the nuclear weapon on board a military submarine was filmed in the Bosporus.


The Blue Mosque

This is the most extraordinary mosque in Istanbul and one of the most astonishing ones in Islam.

It has six minarets and only the Great Mosque of Mecca has one more. Its name derives from the amazing turquoise atmosphere of the interior and of the dome, created by more than 21.000 turquoise tiles. The Blue Mosque is open from morning to evening, every day.

Istanbul il magico incontro tra Oriente e Occidente Turchia moschea blu in giro in giro blog

The Basilica of the Hagia Sophia

This is one of the main attractions in Istanbul.

Dedicated to the Sophia (the Wisdom of God), from 537 to 1453 the building was an Orthodox cathedral and it also hosted the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except for a short period between 1204 and 1261, when the Crusaders converted it into a Catholic cathedral with Roman rite. In May 1453 it became an Ottoman mosque and stayed so until 1931. On the 1st of February 1935 it was consecrated and became a museum.

Today it’s still a museum and it’s surely worth a visit. The museum is open all day long, from morning to evening, every day.


The Basilica Cistern

A magical place, is the largest underground cistern still preserved in Istanbul.

The 336 9-metre-high columns, built reusing material from the Roman age, support a vault which can be visited walking under it. The waterproof cement used to build the cistern, which was used as a water tank for the imperial palace of Constantinople, is so well preserved that it still stores water and many fish swim on the bottom of it.

Here you can find Medusa and it’ll be your choice whether to look her straight in her eyes or not (you surely remember she transforms onlookers to stone). Medusa has two heads propping out the pillars. The fact that they are upside down makes us think they also had an esoteric meaning.


Sultanahmet Square

Next to the Blue Mosque. Many people died and many others were injured in this square during the 2016 attack.

Here you’ll admire the Obelisk of Theodosius and the Column of Constantine.


Topkapı Palace

Once it used to be the residence of the Ottoman sultan and the administrative centre of the Ottoman empire, from the second half of the 15th century to 1856.

It was erected by the will of Mohammed II on the Seraglio promontory, to overlook the city of Constantinople.

Istanbul il magico incontro tra Oriente e Occidente Turchia topkapi in giro in giro blog

The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar with its shops, booths and stalls is one of the largest and most ancient covered markets in the world, with its 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops attracting between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors each day.

Let’s not forget that in 2014 it took the first place among the most visited attractions in the world. The code word here is “haggle” as long as you can, until you’re exhausted!


What to buy

Istanbul isn’t just a beautiful place to visit, it’s also a great destination for those who want to go shopping.

Here’s what we carried back home.

Tea set

The ritual related to this drink has become very fine and in every single corner of the city you have the chance to find truly refined sets.

We opted for some small glasses with decorated edge and a metal teapot.

Istanbul il magico incontro tra Oriente e Occidente Turchia set da te in giro in giro blog

Spices

The spice bazaar is also known as the “Egyptian bazaar“.

By now we’ve got into the habit of coming back home with local spices.

Here you’ll also find many types of dried fruit, tea and herbal infusions. If you like it, you can also have a black tea, part of everyday life in Istanbul.

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Hookah

It gained popularity in the Ottoman Empire and it’s a kind of pipe with fruit-flavoured tobacco. You’ll often see people smoking hookah in the city centre coffee shops. You can find it wherever and its cost varies from being very low to considerable, depending on how it’s made and how it’s decorated.

Remember to buy flavoured tobacco too and the small disposable plastic covers you’ll use when smoking it, especially if in a group.

Istanbul il magico incontro tra Oriente e Occidente Turchia shisha in giro in giro blog

In the end, if you feel like, go for a stroll around the “fake” boutiques. These showcases look like high fashion ones, they are set up with attention to detail and there you can find bags, clothes and watches of the most important brands in the world.

Tips

  • Before entering the grand bazaar we recommend you to get a map, so you won’t get lost and you’ll spot the areas you’re interested in.
  • Another suggestion is to avoid stopping at a seller’s stall unless you really want to buy something there, since starting a negotiation without closing it is seen as very disrespectful.

Enjoy!

Ciao da Cris e Marco del blog in giro in giro

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