Besides the big mosques and museums we also visited several other spots around Istanbul in the course of our explorations.
Galata Bridge is a key connector between Galata and the famous tourist attractions, but locally it is very popular as a fishing spot. There are hundreds of fishing poles lining the top deck here, and we even saw a few catches. As you might imagine, the aroma is rather fishy, but the breeze off the water helps it from being overwhelming.
Just across the bridge is the imposing New Mosque. This may have been our favorite mosque for the combination of beautiful tilework and carpets, plus the surprisingly quiet interior compared to the bustle on the other side of the walls. Definitely recommended.
The pet market is connected to the famous Spice Market. On Saturday, our first trip, we walked through briefly, then returned to explore on two occasions. We returned on Sunday to find the outskirts mobbed with clothing sales, much of it counterfeit, while on Monday the interior of the spice market was busier.
It is quite difficult to decide where to purchase anything given the large number of competing stall, plus people are constantly trying to get your attention since it’s clear you are a tourist. Of course you don’t want to be completely ripped off either… To get some perspective, we started checking the prices of a few common items like dried apricots, where the prices ranged from 20-80 lira a kilo. Around 30 seemed to a good price for the apricots that looked and tasted good, and stores that had a good price on those also seemed to be reasonable about spices too.
With this in mind Leandra stopped at Malatya Pazari and tried a few of the spice selections. She made several choices, and we were pleasantly surprised when they vacuum sealed the spices for her, making travel home much easier. In all she purchased a total of 4lbs of spices!
shopping street; vacuum-sealed dried pepper flakes
East and south of the spice market is a massive clothes area, with storefront after storefront selling wedding dresses, suits, socks, etc. It is truly amazing how much commerce is squeezed into these blocks. I also liked the mix of old and new, stone walls across from bright signage.
closed on Sunday, bustling during the week
North of the spice market is the Süleymaniye Mosque. Located on a hill, all the streets up are rather steep, and there are some handpainted signs to guide tourists. The grounds are enormous with a large grass lawn and mature trees edging the complex, plus a commanding view over the sea and city too. Compared to some of the other mosques the interior was a bit simpler.
From the Süleymaniye Mosque we walked through the Istanbul University campus, then sat on their steps with a view of the Beyazit Mosque. We listened to a call to prayer and enjoyed the people watching around the Beyazit square.
Just a few blocks from Beyazit is an edge of the famous Grand Bazaar, closed on Sunday. Outer parts of market were open, but we decided to return to see things in action on Monday. It is definitely large and confusing, but many of the wares were also redundant – how many lamps/scarves/bowls does one need? We were knew it would be touristy, but we couldn’t really find anything interesting inside, so after about 20 minutes we left.
It helps to make a pass through these areas once or twice before deciding to buy anything, in case you find the exact same item cheaper elsewhere!