Exploring the Highlights of Istanbul

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If you only have one day to spend in Istanbul, here's what to see.
There’s so much to see in Instanbul!

This article is brought to you by Swissotel Hotels and Resorts, providing luxurious accommodations around the globe.

Istanbul is where East meets West, Europe bumps up against Asia and old meets new. On my quick visit to Istanbul, known as the “Queen of Cities” during the Middle Ages, the opulence of the Topkapi Palace, intricately designed domes of the Blue Mosque, historical significance of the Hagia Sofia and the cacophony of the Grand Bazaar combine into one exotic day in this Turkish city on the Bosphorus.

Swissotel Istanbul accommodations overlooking the Bosphorus. Stay here when exploring Istanbul. Photo courtesy Swissotel.
Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul accommodations overlooking the Bosphorus. Photo courtesy Swissotel.

Of course I recommend a longer vacation to truly explore the city. If you’re planning travel to Istanbul, stay at the 5-star Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul for a centrally located headquarters. And while you’re there, don’t miss these Istanbul highlights.

Looking up in the Blue Mosque

Visit the Blue Mosque on a trip to Istanbul. If you only have one day to spend here, follow our suggestions.
At the Blue Mosque, looking up begins even before entering the building.

Six minarets stretch to the sky as I wait in line to visit Sultan Ahmed Camii Mosque, known to many as the Blue Mosque for the line of blue tiles decorating the interior. After placing my shoes in a plastic bag that’s handed to me and covering my head with a scarf that I brought along—I’m dressed modestly enough to make wearing one of the complementary robes unnecessary—I enter and immediately look up. My neck remains in that position for most of the visit, as the elaborate ceilings of the seven cascading domes demand my attention.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul features intricately designed ceilings. Read our tips for Istanbul travel.
This is the reward for looking up inside the Blue Mosque.

Lamps hanging throughout the Blue Mosque were originally decorated with gold and jewels. And the 260 windows contained elaborate stained glass windows, which have been lost and replaced with lesser copies. In its prime during the 17th century, the opulence must have been overwhelming. But, for now, I’m content to gaze up and photograph the beautiful domes.

Walking With Time in Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is a must-see on a trip to Istanbul. Read more of our Istanbul travel suggestions.
Islamic and Christian symbols hang side by side in Hagia Sophia.

From Sultan Ahmed Camii Mosque, I walk across a small park to Hagia Sophia, where an immense building seems as old as time. Originally a Greek Orthodox Church, later a mosque and now a state museum, Hagia Sophia is an extraordinary mix of Islam and Christianity. Through the centuries, the building has suffered fires, insurrections, earthquake damage and the plastering over of golden mosaics during its years as a mosque. The main floor is vastly empty but galleries on the second floor display some of the Byzantine mosaics that have been uncovered during restoration.

Imagining Life at the Topkapi Palace


Include a visit to Tokapai Palace when you travel to Istanbul. Be sure to read more of our tips for visiting Istanbul, Turkey.
Imagine sitting in the lounge of the Tokapai Palace.

Standing on a terrace at the Topkapi Palace, I gaze at the Bosporus and imagine what life would have been like as the wife of one of the many sultans who called the palace home. Of course I would have lived in one of the opulently tiled rooms where the harem resided. I wonder which of the jewels displayed in the treasury rooms I would have been allowed to wear?

Shopping in the Grand Bazaar

Be sure to include a shopping trip to the Grand Bazaar on your Istanbul travel itinerary. Be sure to read more of our tips for visiting Istanbul, Turkey.
Shopping in the Grand Bazaar is part of the fun on a trip to Istanbul

Later at the Grand Bazaar, old meets new as locals and tourists alike gather to browse the estimated 4000 shops. From flat screen TV’s to gold jewelry to tourist trinkets, there’s something for everyone. Practice your bargaining skills because that’s part of the fun. And don’t let browsing the shops distract you from protecting valuables from pickpockets. If you are not into shopping, do what I do—take a seat in one of the restaurants for a meal accompanied by people watching.

Planning for Next Time With Swissotel

At the Swissotel Istanbul, relax in the living area of a short-term apartment rental. Then follow our tips for what to see when you travel to Istanbul, Turkey. Photo courtesy Swissotel.
Living area in the Swissotel Living concept. Photo courtesy Swissotel.

Of course I‘ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to travel to Istanbul. On my next visit, I’ll stay at the 5-star Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul. Centrally located, and with a lovely view of the Bosporus, the recently renovated property offers rooms, suites and the new Swissotel Living concept, providing short-term luxury apartments that would make any travel princess happy. I think relaxing in the 65 acres of historical gardens would be a good ending to vacation days spent wandering the exotic streets of Istanbul.

Disclosure: Swissotel Hotels and Resorts sponsored this article. Be sure to connect with them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And you’ll want to follow the hashtags #SwissotelTravels to discover more City Spotlights at Swissotels in Sydney, Chicago, Bangkok, Singapore and Berlin.

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