With only two and a half days in Istanbul, I barely managed to scratch the surface of the treasures this vibrant city has to offer. Each way you turn, spires from the minarets of mosques rise up above the buildings and the air feels rich with history and spice aromas. Stepping inside the cool stone walls of the Hagia Sophia, I instantly forgot the heat outside and was absorbed by this ancient church adorned with beautiful fading frescoes. The high vaulted ceilings made me feel truly small in comparison to this timeless structure.
In my limited time, I felt the greatest impression Istanbul left on me were the people – charming, beautiful and full of laughter. Haggling in the Grand Bazaar is an experience that reflects the heart and soul of this city’s character. With over 4,000 shops, the Bazaar itself is a labyrinth of winding lanes and tiny alleys all crammed with miniature stalls bursting into your path and a storekeeper offering you, and only you, the best price they can name. A dizzying array of colour and elaborate, intricately decorated ceramics fill your vision. It is a rush to the senses trying to comprehend it all. This may only be topped by the Spice Market, where Turkish spices and sweet delicacies are offered to you for sampling. The stalls all competing with one another to stand out using vivid neon light displays flashing from all corners to capture your attention long enough to win your custom.
I concluded my final day by spending the afternoon walking through neighbourhoods in the Old City with Istiklal Avenue as another high light. Serving as a large thoroughfare, there is a distinctive beat to this wide pedestrian street as it contains an eclectic mix of stores, restaurants and traditional Turkish ice cream (Dondurma) vendors. These can be found in abundance as both tourists and locals alike enjoy the performances from the servers. Laneways and arcades can be found leading away from the main avenue, including Istanbul’s French Street, Fransiz Sokagi, which offers an escape from the frenetic energy of the main avenue with quiet, but gorgeous restaurants, fresh fish and some of the most imaginative displays of fruit.
Istanbul with its chaos and charm captured my heart and I look forward to one day returning for a lengthier stay, as I feel this city has endless excitement to offer.