Istanbul cruise shore excursions

Istanbul in Turkey is one of the world’s great cities. This ancient port, which links Europe to Asia across the Bosporous, is actually the only city in the world to have parts on two continents, never mind two countries. With a rich history encompassing Roman, Byzantine and Ottomon eras, as well as the development of modern Turkey, anyone cruising the Eastern Mediterranean should make a point of stopping and taking a shore excursion here.

One place that should be included in any excursion of this type is the Kariye (Chora) Museum. This venue originally formed the centre of a monastery complex during Istanbul’s Byzantine era. The church section of this complex, which was dedicated to Jesus Christ the Saviour, has survived largely intact. When the Turks arrived in the city, this complex was converted into a mosque. In 1948, however, it was converted again, this time into a museum with very little left in place as testament to its Islamic past except a 19th century minaret which stands in one corner.

St Sophia’s

For visitors who want to know more about the Byzatine era of the city’s history, then the St Sophia Museum is a top venue to take in on any tour. This was built when the city was still called Constantinople, in the days of the Emperor Justinian. This building has a stunning interior, decorated with pillars from Ephesus as well as marble and precious stones. The dome is a massively imposing and impressive structure.

Sultanhamet Mosque

The Sultanhamet Mosque, also called the Blue Mosque, also makes for an interesting stopping off point for anyone taking a shore excursion in Istanbul. There are no less than six glorious minarets adorning this elegantly designed mosque, which enjoys a status as one of Istanbul’s most iconic landmarks. As well as the outside features of this building, there is also plenty to enjoy in its interior. The stunning decorations feature over 20,000 Iznik tiles.

Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is a magical place which is an essential part of any trip to Istanbul. Shops selling similar products tend to congregate together in the same street, a legacy of Ottomon days. There is a dizzying array of items for sale in its 61 covered streets. There are over 3000 shops to browse, all in the unique atmosphere of this most impressive location. Some local trade organisations claim that this could be the most visited tourist attraction in the world. Between a quarter and half a million visitors come here each day, making it a hectic and exciting slice of Turkish life.

Istanbul is a great place from which to start your Mediterranean cruise, but it is also a good idea to end your holiday here. The facilities for shopping for souvenirs and other things are superb, whilst there are also plenty of places to socialise. Make sure that a visit is inked onto your itinerary and complete your cruise with some time spent in one of the world’s most arresting and interesting cities.

Istanbul Topkapi’s Palace

Topkapi Palace is Istanbul’s most opulent tourist attraction today, with a multitude of tales to be told spanning its vast and exciting history. Since 1924, after the end of the Ottoman era in 1921, the Palace was transformed by government decree to a museum. It was also made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, and is included in within the ‘Historic Areas of Istanbul’. The Palace contains the most important holy relics of the Muslim world, including the Prophet Muhammed’s cloak and sword. Also the building itself if absolutely incredible, and is known as the finest example of the Ottoman architecture.

The roots of the Topkapi’s Palace

It was built by order of Sultan Mehmet II, the conqueror of the capital of the Roman Empire Constantinople, which is the site that the city of Istanbul now stands. Construction started in 1459, and at the palaces peak it housed over 4000 people. The Palace housed the Ottoman Sultans for over 400 years, and as well as being the primary royal residence it was also host to countless state occasions and royal entertainments. It was home to Selim the Sot, who allegedly drank too much champagne and drowned in the bath; Ibrahim the crazy who lost his mind having been locked up in the palace Kafes for far too long; and also Roxelana, the consort of Suleyman the Magnificent, who was as beautiful and as malevolent.

There are so many parts to Topkapi Palace it is almost like a city within a city. Today only some of the thousands of rooms are open to the public, and the whole place is heavily guarded by both the city’s elite police force and the Turkish Military. Outside you will find a board telling you which rooms and areas are currently closed at that particular time, as there is a lot of restoration work going on at present.

The Imperial Gate and beyond…

The first thing you come to and will pass through is Imperial Gate; note the detail of the intricate Turkish rococo decoration. Through here you will come into the Court of the Janissaries, also known as the Parade Court. Janissaries, merchants and tradespeople could circulate in here as they wished, however access to the second court was limited. The same is true today as you need a ticket to enter the Second Court. Just passed the ticket windows you can see a small fountain, which is where the executioner would was his tools after executing a noble or rebel who had displeased the Sultan. The head of the decapitated victim would be exhibited on a spike above the gate.

Highly recommend a visit!

There is much more to discover from here on in, such as the Imperial Council Chamber on the west side of the court, where the council would sit and commerce as the Sultan eavesdropped through a metal grill. It is a beautiful ornate building, but when you come to enter the third court almost at the heart of the palace, you can feel the strange throng of a bustling past. It would have been full of Eunuchs and Imperial Pages going about their business in full royal robes. Only very few important people were allowed in here. It is truly a more than fascinating place, and an intriguing spectacle to behold.

Samuel enjoys the finer things in life and only books luxury villa’s from HouseTrip.

A travel guide to Istanbul

Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey. During its long history it has served as the capital of Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire, the Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Istanbul is one of the most visited destinations. The progressive city has been unstoppable in developing restaurants, bars, galleries and clubs around town that over populated the numbers of Ottoman mosques. The city’s generous historic buildings and exciting new art galleries and museums provides visitors with more than enough to see during the day, but it’s at night that the place is very active. Locals are flocking to see and be seen at an ever-growing array of bars, clubs and restaurants, bringing with them an infectious sense of joie de vivre and a discerning ability to judge these places on their standard of service, drinks, music and food as well as their position in the what’s-hot-and-what’s-not stakes.

Due to its vast size, diverse topography and marine location, Istanbul has distinct microclimates. Summer is on July and August which is relatively warm but extreme heat visits the place only five days per year. There are only five rainy days per month and visit summer too. Winter is on January and February, wet and often snowy. Spring and autumn are mild but often wet.

Where to Go?

Spice Market in Eminonu
Locally known as Misir Carsisi, this still functioning marketplace opened in the 1600s. Although its actual name is ‘ Spice Market’, you can also find herbs here. Handicrafts, dried fruits, Turkish delight and caviar are all regular items. Serving tourists and locals alike, this marketplace is an excellent people-watching destination.

Suleymaniye Bath in Suleymaniye neighbourhood
The Hamam (or Turkish bath) has been a very popular attraction for tourists to fulfill their ultimate Turkish experience. Traditionally, the baths have a changing room, a cold room and a hot room. In the past, both men and women were segregated in the Hamam. But because there are families that would like to enjoy the bath with their family members, it was decided to have the same gender on one bathing time.

Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara
These islands are situated in Istanbul’s Asian shore; it is composed of nine islands that is definitely a day – worth trip. It offers a long and interesting history, with attractions to match their heritage like the Victorian villages and hilltop chapels. Regular ferry trips to hope to each island of Bostanci, Burgazada, Eminonu, Heybeliada and Kinaliada are offered. Buyukada is called as the “Great Island” and it is the biggest of all islands.

The place is peaceful, quiet and tranquil; locals regularly retreat to these islands for picnics, beach-side attractions and general respite. Cozy rental homes, along with a number of historic buildings, create a pleasing atmosphere. As automobiles are prohibited, transportation consists of horse-drawn carriages and bicycles, creating a strong feeling of history. Residents of Istanbul tend to refer to the nearby Princes’ Islands as simply the ‘Adalar’, which translates as ‘The Islands’.

Istanbul’s traditional food includes skewered lamb kebabs that are the town’s ubiquitous mainstay, served in pita pockets alongside a garden salad. Their local meal begins with mezes (reminiscent of Spanish tapas) before moving on to main courses serving fresh, local seafood. Despite the city’s tenor of Islam, alcoholic beverages are still readily available. The anise-flavored raki liqueur is the ideal complement to an authentic dinner in Istanbul.