While many Western travelers go around the world and explore so many different countries and cultures, there are many that never visit the Middle East. The reasons vary, but whatever they are, missing out on some of the most extensive and robust history and culture on the planet is a sin that no well-traveled gentleman should endure. Let go of any preconceived notions or ideas you may have about the region and today let us share a few of the reasons why Istanbul needs to be on everyone’s bucket-list.
The Turkish city is ancient and has survived some of the greatest and most powerful civilizations the Earth has ever known. Throughout the city there are landmarks from both the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire that must be seen to be believed. For those familiar with Europe, the architecture and artistry of these ancient buildings will feel like something from an entirely different dimension of human history and while the grandiosity and lavish beauty is no less impressive than their European counterparts, the city, people, history and culture have a flavor all their own.
The city is littered with the bazaars and open markets that the Middle East is well known for and feature a wide variety of other-worldly antiques, fashion, and artistry. Exploring the bazaars is such a wonderful and unique experience, but figuring out how to get your haul home can be a bit of a hassle unless you sailed in and have some extra cargo space. The street food is exquisite as well, and while there is no shortage of extraordinary restaurants in the city, grabbing some fresh baked pastries, like a simit or çatal, for breakfast while exploring the city is an easy choice and you’ll have no trouble finding them. Istanbul is well known for stands that freshly roast chestnuts and if you’re feeling carnivorous, there are usually vendors selling çiğ börek, which are phenomenal meat pies.
The city is buried in attractions, such as the remnants of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires that we mentioned earlier, like Hagia Sophia, churches, and palaces. There are also plenty of art galleries and museums that feature a wide array of exhibits and works ranging from historic to modern and offer a refreshing and unique perspective and style from their Western counterparts. The famous Turkish bathhouses are both beautiful to look at and quite an experience and of course no one can leave without walking the waterfront alongside the Bosphorus and grabbing a balık ekmek (fish sandwich) at one of the quaint little cafes looking out over the straight.