iVoyage: Exploring Istanbul via Azamara Club Cruises
After traveling almost half-way around the globe, I arrived in Istanbul in time for dinner on Azamara Quest. Upon waking I set out for an entire day of sightseeing in Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city, located at the Bosporus. Since I had been to Istanbul before, I opted to go it alone (plus I wanted to sleep in). For those that wanted the organized tour from the ship, there were three to choice from, which I would recommend for anyone that wants to avoid getting around on their own and having to deal with getting tickets to the sights.
To avoid disappointment, make sure to plan ahead. For those that arrived with enough time to explore the city could do so because Azamara Quest overnighted and then stayed in port long enough to accommodate two days of touring.
The cruise ships dock at the northern side of the Galata bridge which is situated at the Karaköy neighborhood of the Beyoğlu district. There is a tram that will transport you around (4 Euros each way) from the port area to the Galata bridge. There is the BigBus Istanbul that has a variety of of pricing options that start at 30 Euros for a city tour of the major sites. The bus is good if you want to pick and chose your landmarks and tour independently. I got on the bus for one stop because the driver did not know how to sell the tickets on the open-air coach. The up side is that I was able to get onto a water tour of the Bosporus, which is a must for full immersion into the area.
History and culture galore: great mosques, ancient churches, museums, and bazaars
Istanbul has played an important role for Christianity during Roman and Byzantine time, and became Islamic with the Ottomans conquest in 1453. Most of the cultural highlights of Istanbul are concentrated in the old town.
Fun fact: Istanbul is the former capital of these four empires: the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman Empire. This explains the multitude of palaces and imperial mosques in town.
The Old City – Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)
The Blue Mosque is renowned for its architecture. There are a total of six minarets (not all of them are in the photo), which makes it unique. Not to miss is the Blue Mosque, which I only saw from the outside today because I had already been inside on a previous visit. The architecture and story about this famous mosque is inspiring. Women need to make sure to bring a scarf or be prepared to wear a shoulder covering if going inside.
Topkapi Palace, a former home to Sultans and state headquarters
Within walking distance of the sites in the old town is the Topkapi Palace. This throwback to the Ottoman Empire was the home of the Sultans and their harem. Since the mid-1400s this summer palace was the house of power for three centuries.
Once a church and now a mosque, the Haiga Sophia is a must see for anyone coming to Istanbul. The enormity of the space is impressive as well as the fact that it took 10,000 people to construct the site, which was originally commissioned by Constantine the Great in 326.
Scenic boat tour on the Bosporus – sightseeing off the beaten path
Istanbul is unique for many reasons. One of the reasons is that it is a city that spans two continents: Asia and Europe. Bridges help connect the two in modern times. About a ten minute walk from the port, you can find a Hop-On – Hop Off boat tour of the Bosporus. Seeing the sites from the water is a great way to get another perspective of the city. Stops along the way included Beşiktaş (for the Naval Museum, and Yıldız Palace and Park), Emirgan, Küçüksu, and Beylerbeyi.
Follow along on social media
I will be using social media to create a digital travel journal of my trip, make sure to follow me on Twitter (@CrusieBuzz) or check out Facebook (CruiseBuzz). If you are into Intagram, I am also posting there too.
— Carrie Finley.Bajak (@CruiseBuzz) November 2, 2014
To see a recap of all my posts, check out my iVoyage summary page. As always, share with your friends and if you have any tips for me, do leave a comment.