Initially, Bosphorus Cruise was not inside our tour itinerary since we have chosen to visit Dolmabahçe Palace. But since that we still have some time, we decided to take on the cruise as well.
Many people said it is a must-do activity in Istanbul, but I would say that if I were to choose between the Palace and the Cruise, go for the Palace instead. For me, visiting the Palace is the experience to feel the historical and culture of Ottoman Turkey. The Cruise is for those who prefer to sit down and relax, enjoying the view of both the bridges connecting Asia and Europe and see the number of palaces on both sides of the straits.
Blue seas, clear skies and cooling weather make our cruise trip worth the money. Since that we are in a big group, we could go on a private cruise. Not exactly a cruise, it was more into a ferry with an open-deck seats. It’s going to be very windy, so avoid wearing skirts for ladies unless you want to keep doing Marilyn Monroe pose…
Bosphorus Bridge seen from our ferry
An hour and 30 minutes cruise tour for me is more than enough, and just sit back, relax and enjoy the breeze…
Before going to Dolmabahçe, my local tour guide said that this Palace is the most beautiful palace he ever seen. So I really looked forward to enter and see with my own eyes how beautiful the Palace is. The Palace is one of the most historical place in Turkey since it was the residence of 6 Sultans and Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. He passed away in this palace and then it was converted in to a museum.
Dolmabahçe is built during the reign of Abdülmecid I. It took 13 years to build this Palace, from 1843 to 1856. Dolmabahçe means “Filled up Garden”, because it was built on the bay-site of the natural harbor, filled up time to time, eventually became a unique gardens of Bosphorus. Similar as the Topkapi Palace, Bosphorus lies just behind the Dolmabahçe.
There are regulations that need to be followed to enter the museum. Visitors could not enter freely, but with guided tours. Not only that, we have to wear a shower-cap-plastic-like shoes cover and strictly NO PHOTOGRAPHS are allowed to be taken inside and it is forbidden to touch the displays.
Bosphorus as seen from the back gate of Dolmabahçe
Being the largest palace in Turkey, the interior is built on a symmetrical plan with paintings on the ceilings. The Palace is divided into 3 sections:
- Selamlik ( Men’s administrative section or Mabeyn-i Humayun)
- Grand Hall / Ceremonial Hall, the highest and the large and magnificent square hall where the largest Bohemian crystal chandelier, weighing around 4.5 tons and a Hereke carpet in the size about 120m², are placed.
- The Harem (Harem-i Humayun), the private section of Sultan and his family. Any man, except for Sultan himself, are prohibited to enter. Since that the wives and Queen Mother stayed in the Harem section, the interior are pinkish and more feminine compared to the other two section.
I was lucky to be able to see because usually Harem section is closed and I was able to see almost all part of the palace.
Well, after exploring the Palace, indeed, it is one of the most beautiful palaces in the world. It is so unfortunate that I could not take picture of the interior and post it here. But, now you have a reason to see it with your own eyes right? ;^)
Topkapi Palace is the royal residence of the Ottoman Sultans in Istanbul, Turkey for 400 years. It is no longer serves as the main residence and revert into a museum. It has hundreds of rooms and chambers, but only the most important are accessible to the public today.
The palace is divided into 4 Courtyards. The First Courtyard consists of the main Gate of Salutation. The Second Courtyard which consist of the hospital, kitchen, imperial harem (female members of the family) and chief official and soldiers quarters. The Third Courtyard is where the imperial treasures are kept. Last but not least, the Fourth Courtyard which is the innermost private sanctuary of the sultan. I did not go to the Fourth Courtyard because it was not opened to public.
Gate of Salutation
The palace is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the palace complex, important holy relics of the Muslim world are displayed such as the cloak of the prophet Muhammad, swords, a bow, one tooth, hairs of his beard, his battle sabres, autographed letters and the Sacred Trusts. Not only that, Ottoman treasures and jewelry and the largest diamond in the world is also here as well as the staff of Moses and the turban of Joseph.
However, when entering the museum, photographs are not allowed. The security is very strict and each room is guarded by the security to avoid any visitors taking picture secretly.
Third Courtyard section, where they keep the Moses’s cloak as well as the sword and cloak of Muhammed
Magnificent view of Marmara Sea seen from Topkapı Saray
Ayasofya or Hagia Sophia was initially built as a church under the Latin Empire, but it was converted into mosque after Fatih Sultan Mehmed ruled Istanbul. Afterwards, it was used as a mosque for 482 years. Under the order of Atatürk, Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum in 1935.
The museum is located directly the opposite of Sultanahmet Mosque. So after visiting the Sultanahmet Mosque or Blue Mosque, I could walk over about 5 minutes. Going inside the museum, I was welcomed by chandeliers and felt as if I were in Harry Potter’s World :p
Walking over to Ayasofya from Sultanahmet Mosque
Rows of chandeliers
The unique thing about Hagia Sophia is that the interior of church still remains although it was ever changed its function as a mosque. Only the bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels and other relics were removed and the paintings of Jesus, his Mother Mary, Christian saints and angels were also removed or plastered over.
View from the Upper Gallery
Sultanahmet Mosque or Blue Mosque from outside
Sultanahmet Mosque is also known as Blue Mosque. It is my first attraction that I visited on the first day after I landed in Istanbul after 20-hour of flight. It is located just opposite of Ayasophia (Hagia Sophia) museum.
It is popular as Blue Mosque because of its blue tiles in its interior. The mosque is still used for prayer but on the other hand, tourists still can visit the place. Before entering, there are specific dress code for the visitors. Woman must wear a hijab / scarf on their head and skirt or pants below the knee. Of course, no tank top or sleeveless shirt. As for man, no shorts and sleeveless shirt are allowed. Shoes must be taken off and place in a plastic bag provided.
Indoor interior with chandeliers, stain glass and big domes
It has 1 main dome and 8 secondary domes. The interior is made with handmade ceramics, mainly white with blue paint dominates the upper levels. Chandeliers are also hang quite low as the big stained glass windows allows the sunlight to light up the interior.
As built in the influence of Ottoman architecture, Blue Mosque is synthesized with architectural traditions of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, with vast inner spaces confined by seemingly weightless yet massive domes, and achieving perfect harmony between inner and outer spaces.