Scenes from Istanbul

Mosques and minarets over the spice market in Istanbul

#Bucketlist this: Turkey


The city of Istanbul is as much informed by its past as it is by its present. It sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, it straddles both the continents – split by the Bosphorus, much of the ancient city, Independence Avenue and Taksim Square sit on the European side, while the Asian side is a glimpse into how the locals live and the gateway to the rest of the country.

In its secular leanings, it is a modern place, with a population that reflects the respect of all faiths. In its mosques and museums, we see a respect for these works of architectural art that, at one time, were spurred by faith. Painstaking reconstructions and renovations are constant at such holy places as the Hagia Sophia who, in her some 1,400 years, has been the most important Greek Orthodox Basilica, a Mosque and currently, a museum. Muslim rulers of the past saw the wisdom (in fact, Hagia Sophia in Greek translates to church of the Holy Wisdom) in retaining religious symbols, mosaics and paintings, and when Hagia Sophia became a Mosque in the 1400s, architects either gently removed or plastered over Christian depictions and artefacts. Now, many have been unearthed and on glorious display, a testimony to how faith can drive art.

The Blue Mosque, which faces Hagia Sophia in the Sultanahmet district of the old city, is its equal, if not perhaps as an architectural marvel (the dome at Sophia has withstood earthquakes and fires, after being shored up by architects in the 7th Century), but in its stunning blue ceramic tile work.

The city is a hot spot, for travel and for travel experts alike. Raffles, the global luxury hotel group, has chosen Istanbul for its latest luxury property, while the Four Seasons recently opened its second outpost there.

But travel is as much the little things, as it is the grand, bold and luxurious. Here, we take a snapshot, an insider view of the city, alongside Yesim Guris, a travel director with Trafalgar.

Interested in learning more about guided tours to Turkey? Go to, call (800) 352-4444 or see your travel agent.

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2-A-Hagia-SophiaThe architectural marvel that is the dome at Hagia Sophia

3-INST_B-Sophia-InteriorInside Hagia Sophia, where chandeliers and archways share the spotlight

3-C-Sophia-MosaicsInside Hagia Sophia, where the Virgin Mary is depicted with the baby Jesus, in a preserved mosaic

4-B-Blue-MosqueThe Blue Mosque, with its infamous six minarets


4-C-Blue-Mosque-InteriorInside the Blue Mosque, resplendent with stunning blue-toned ceramic tile work, with patterns that have a historical significance to Istanbul

5-CisternsGoing underground in the city’s ancient cisterns


6--INSTMedusa, upside down, underground in the city’s ancient cisterns

7--INSTAll roads lead to Istanbul

8--INSTThe simple beauty of Turkish coffee, as served at Panelli Restaurant, in Istanbul’s Spice Market


9--INSTThe cacophony of colour and heady scent come from the impressive range of spices for sale at Istanbul’s Spice Market


10--INSTThe visual and tasty delight that is Turkish Delight, at the Spice Market


11--INSTFreshly squeezed pomegranate juice stands are as ubiquitous as our hot dog stands are here, only much better for you!


The entry gates to Topkapi Palace

13-INSTDolmas, or stuffed grape leaves, are a regional specialty. Here, we find them at Kantin Restaurant

14-INSTPears done chef Şemza Denizsel’s way, at Kantin Restaurant

15-INSTDockside at Lacivert Restaurant, along Istanbul’s Bosphorus river

16-INSTLobster and avocado at Lacivert


17-INSTAfter dark drama at 360 Istanbul, a restaurant on the pedestrian hotspot Istiklal (or Independence) Avenue, perched on the penthouse floor of a 19th century building, for 360 degree views of the city




18-INSTThe view from Raffles hotel, where the Bosphorus divides Europe from Asia