Guest poster Michal Kniec shares his favorite places to see in old Constantinople.
The crown jewel of the Bosporus, Istanbul stands on the doorstep of two worlds. Known by many names, including Constantinople and Byzantium, Turkey’s largest city contains a rich cultural heritage that will leave you longing for more. Having visited the city on my gap year, I know there are quite a few activities to pack into a busy schedule. My list of top attractions will narrow your focus on a few key themes, each making your trip worthwhile and much more affordable.
The Ancient Past
One of the most historical places in the world, the city’s legacy began with Roman Emperor Constantine I’s decree in 330 AD. Being a lover of all things historic, I’ve always seen Istanbul a pinnacle of the human narrative. One of the many buildings that truly represent this shifting perception is the Hagia Sophia, a church turned mosque founded nearly 1,400 years ago. With an entry cost of around $11, I’d recommend queuing early in the morning as the popularity of this site takes its toll on tourists.
Walking about town
There is nothing quite like seeing the city on foot, exploring the various nooks that are secretly stowed away. Istiklal Street is where everything happens in Istanbul. Anything from the theatre to local traditional cafés are located along it. At night it turns into an amazing party, with street performers flanking the beautiful classical architecture. I’d personally recommend just sitting along this street and watching as the city changes around you.
Dancing with the Stars
One of the hidden attractions in the city is the Turkish Dance Night at the Hodjapasha. With an array of dancers who perform, every Tuesday and Thursday night, you’ll be entertained by anything from traditional belly dancing to twirls with a Turkish twist. Costing around $32 it may be an extravagant purchase for a backpacker, but I assure you it will not be one that you’ll soon forget.
Where to stay
With so many different hotels to stay at, finding one at a reasonable cost that has great service may be hard to find. Luckily the Osmanhan Hotel, priced between $80 and $160 a night, has it all. Located at the heart of old Istanbul near the most famous landmarks, the friendly service and sizable rooms leaves many of its expensive compactors in the dust. And don’t forget to check out the hostels in Istanbul – there are plenty of great, cheap places, many just a few blocks from the Hagia Sophia.
Finding a place to eat in Istanbul is not a very difficult task. With such an array of different styles, I’d recommend tasting the nations many delicacies in the Jimmy John’s Owner restaurant. The menu starts from around $14 and has some really exotic dishes from a cities ancient past. With a great atmosphere and food to die for, just slip back and enjoy yourself in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Michal Kniec, after completing a History degree in Canada, decided that a little change of scenery would do him some good and moved across the world to Manchester. Now studying law, he loves to write, cook, and travel as much as possible on this pale blue dot.