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ISTANBUL: TOP 7

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The Bosphorus by Boat
The Bosphorus is the famous salt-water strait separating the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, and varies in width from less than a mile to over two miles. The strait connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and so is an important waterway for international shipping; it’s also used by the ferries that cross from one side of the city to the other. You can take a Bosphorus tour all the way up to Anadolu Kavağı, at the entrance to the Black Sea – a great way to see the numerous “yalı”s (waterside mansions) that line both sides of the strait. See www.plantours.com for information on private boat tours or www.sehirhatlari.com.tr for municipal ferry information.

Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, and – with thousands of stores in its labyrinth of covered arcades – is a shopper’s paradise. There are numerous entrances to the Bazaar, but the ones you’re likely to use are the Nuruosmaniye Gate and the Beyazıt Gate. Get off the tram either at the Çemberlitaş stop (for the Nuruosmaniye Gate) or the the Beyazıt / Kapalıçarşı stop (for the Beyazıt Gate).

Hagia Sophia
This gigantic structure was completed in 537 AD under the Byzantine emperor Justinian, and for nearly thousand years was the largest church in the world. Converted into a mosque by the Ottomans after the Conquest of Istanbul, it has been a museum since 1935. With its huge dome (unsupported by pillars), its lavish gold mosaics, and the atmosphere of mystery that pervades its vast interior, Hagia Sophia is an absolute must-see for any visitor to Istanbul.

Dolmabahçe Palace
This over-the-top, opulent palace was commissioned by Sultan Abdülmecid I and designed by architect Garabet Balyan and his son Nigoğos (Nigoğayos) Balyan. It was completed in 1856 and was the residence of most of the last Ottoman sultans. The design of Dolmabahçe blends elements from Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical, and traditional Ottoman styles and inside there is an extraordinary crystal staircase in the shape of a double horseshoe. Unlike Topkapı, Dolmabahçe Palace can only be visited on guided tours.

Blue Mosque
Built in the early 17th-century, Sultan Ahmet Camii is known to foreigners as the Blue Mosque on account of the more than 20,000 blue-white-red İznik tiles that adorn its interior. Its large dome is supported by four thick columns known as “elephants’ feet.” The mosque’s six minarets (a rarity in Turkey as elsewhere) are an integral part of the Istanbul skyline, and can be seen from many parts of the city. The mosque grounds include other historical buildings such as a medrese (religious school) as well as the tomb of the mosque’s patron, Sultan Ahmet I, who died at the young age of 27. To get here, simply take the tram to the Sultanahmet.

Adalar (Princes’ Islands)
Located in the Sea of Marmara, they were called as the Princes’ Islands by foreign chroniclers because of Byzantine emperors' practice of sending bothersome princes there to be blinded, exiled or executed, but today's citizens of Istanbul call them simply Adalar ("The Islands").They consist of four larger islands, Büyükada , Heybeliada , Burgazada  and Kınalıada. During the summer months, The Princes' Islands are popular destinations for day trips from Istanbul. As there is no traffic on the Islands, the only transportation is carts; they are amazingly peaceful in contrast with the city of Istanbul.

Spice market (Egyptian Bazaar)
Vividly colored spices are displayed alongside jewel-like lokum (Turkish delight) at this Ottoman-era marketplace, providing eye candy for the thousands of tourists and locals who make their way here every day. Caviar, dried herbs, honey, nuts and dried fruits are also available. The number of stalls selling tourist trinkets increases annually, yet this remains a great place to stock up on edible souvenirs, share a few jokes with vendors and marvel at the well-preserved building. The market was constructed in the 1660s as part of the New Mosque, with rent from the shops supporting the upkeep of the mosque as well as its charitable activities, which included a school, hamam and hospital. The market's Turkish name, the Mısır Çarşısı (Egyptian Market), references the fact that the building was initially endowed with taxes levied on goods imported from Egypt. During its heyday, the bazaar was the last stop for the camel caravans that travelled the Silk Road from China, India and Persia. On the west side of the market there are outdoor produce stalls selling fresh foodstuff from all over Anatolia, including a wonderful selection of cheeses. In addition, here is the most famous coffee supplier in Istanbul, Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi, established over 100 years ago. This is located on the corner of Hasırcılar Street, which is full of shops selling food and kitchenware.