A city of contrasts, a city of cultural encounters, and the symbolic point where Europe and Asia shake hands, Istanbul offers a fascinating chance to delve into the secrets of not one, but three cultures: ancient Byzantium, Constantinople, and modern-day Turkey. There are fabulous things to see in Istanbul in one day; and here are the top 10:
1) With the astounding Blue Mosque on one end, and Hagia Sofia on the other, the Sultanahmet square is the perfect place to start the morning stroll.
2) The Blue Mosque, built by Sultan Ahmed I in the 17th century, is one of the few mosques in the world that boasts 6 slender minarets outlined by a cascade of domes. The interior, thoroughly decorated with blue İznik tiles, gives the mosque a heavenly atmosphere.
3) The port and the Galata bridge, lined with peculiar restaurants, offer not only a fascinating view of the Galata Tower, but also the best fried fish in town
4) As you treat yourself to fresh fish and delicious tea on the Galata bridge, you will notice the Suleymaniye mosque rising among restless seagulls. Walk up the hill and enter the mosque, which boasts some of the most astounding views of the Blue Mosque and the symbolic Bosphorus bridge that links East and West.
5) Take a ferry along the Bosphorus and observe the romantic-looking yalis, wooden mansions built between the 17th and 19th centuries, along the river. Most ferries do several stops on both the Asian and European side.
6) Get off the ferry on the Asian side and climb Anadolu Kavagi, where you will be able to catch a breathtaking glimpse of the Black Sea.
7) As you make your way back to the European side, get lost in the labyrinth of alleys that make up the Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s most renowned markets.
8) Enter Aya Sophia. A Byzantine masterpiece built by Emperor Justinian in 537, it became a Mosque after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Today, the Byzantine mosques still stand as the backdrop of beautiful Islamic calligraphy, symbolizing religious coexistence as no other building can.
9) Walk along the picturesque Yerebatan street in Sultanahmet, where colorful houses and restaurants seem to submerge you into a world of fantasy.
10) No visit to Istanbul is complete without a view of the sunset from the Galata Tower, as you hear the Adhan (call to prayer) sound like a mesmerizing song.
This article was originally published in BarakaBits in January 2015.