My daydream today takes me to Turkey, where National Geographic Travel helped me out with some great sites to see in Istanbul.
Palace of sultans from 15th- to 19th-century; housed thousands of imperial servants. Center of the historic district, overlooking city across Sea of Marmara, Golden Horn, and Bosporus. Magnificent treasury of jewels (86-carat Spoonmaker Diamond), elaborately tiled harem chambers and kiosks.
Built in 1663 as a stop for camel caravans traveling the Silk Road. “Turkish delight to precious saffron, caviar to henna, almost anything can be found.”—Saffet Emre Tonguç, author, 101 Must-see Places in Turkey. Locals flock to its arched stone corridors for traditional remedies.
Rüstem Paşa Mosque
A 1516 Mimar Sinan Ottoman jewel box, up a hidden flight of stairs near the Spice Bazaar. Every surface covered in exquisite İznik tiles. Tip: If you visit only one mosque, make it this charming one.
Christendom’s largest cathedral for almost a thousand years; Emperor Justinian’s influential architectural masterpiece from the sixth century. Centuries of gold mosaics of the Virgin Mary, archangel Gabriel, and Byzantine emperors and empresses. Converted into a mosque, now a museum with exhibits.
Hauntingly lit sixth-century columns and vaulted ceilings; the largest of several hundred ancient water reservoirs beneath the city’s surface. Cool respite from summer heat; occasional art installations; or music and dance performances.
Last stop on the Silk Road. Labyrinthine market of more than 3,000 shops established in 1461 by Mehmet the Conqueror. More than 50 streets of jewelry, textiles, pottery, glazed tiles, bronze, leather, carpets. Head for the heart, İç Bedestan, once the area harboring the most valuable goods.
Bosporus Boat Tour
Excursions along shoreline best reveal the city’s grandeur and other attractions hidden from street view. Board local ferry, Istanbul’s municipality boats from Sea of Marmara to Black Sea, private boat tours, or ride like a sultan in a regal caique replica.
Archeological Museum Complex
Turkey’s first museum, founded in 1891. Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Urartian, Hittite, Greek, Roman, and Hellenistic artifacts. Tip: Don’t miss the Persian-style kiosk, the oldest secular Ottoman building in Istanbul.
Yıldız Palace and Park
Hilly woods dotted with imperial pavilions now serving as tea houses and exhibition sites. Originally on the grounds of nearby Çırağan Palace, absorbed by later Yıldız Palace, where Sultan Abdul Hamid II moved the seat of the Ottoman government in the late 19th century.
Mmmmmm, and all the hummus I can eat!