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25 Reasons Why Istanbul is the World’s Greatest City

Audrey Heath  ·  Updated 3rd April 2022

Is Istanbul worth visiting? Without a doubt!

Often preferred over southern beach resorts or Cappadocia’s magical chimneys, Istanbul, Turkey’s metropolis, is where the country’s heart beats.

Let’s look at 25 unique reasons to see world’s greatest city.

1. The city that three empires battled for:

Istanbul World's Greatest City

The Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires all competed for control of the city’s ownership to dominate commerce between the Mediterranean and Black Seas. It was formerly the seat of three powerful empires: the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman. The city’s real land was eventually claimed by the Ottoman Empire.


2. UNESCO World Heritage Sites above and below ground:

Topkapi Palace Unesco

The ancient city of Istanbul is around 650 hectares in size and contains sites such as Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and the underground Basilica Cistern, all of which are protected by the organization.


3. Take a trip back in time to Byzantium:

Cistern Istanbul

The Basilica Cistern, or Yerebatan Sarnıcı as it is called in Turkish, is one of Istanbul’s most interesting sights. It was erected by Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century to store up to 80,000m3 of water and send it to surrounding palaces. It is a vestige of the Byzantine Empire’s water system, with hundreds of old Ionic and Corinthian columns, that tourists may walk through and investigate firsthand.


4. The cost of a one-way ticket from Europe to Asia might be as low as $1.

Istanbul Transportation

As the only city in the world to span two continents, public transportation makes transcontinental travel inside our city quite affordable — and much more affordable if you buy an Istanbulkart from one of the many roadside candy vendors.


5. Turkish coffee is more than just a beverage.

Turkish Coffee

Even though it is said that drinking Turkish coffee with friends is worth 40 years of friendship, the dark grinds in the coffee cup can indicate how loyal those friendships will be in the future. Coffee fortune tellers (kahve falı) can be found in Kadıköy and off Istiklal Street, where curious folk may sit and leisurely drink Turkish coffee before having their fortune told to find out what fate awaits them.


6. Because there is Turkish breakfast-kahvaltı:

Turkish Breakfast

You can eat breakfast in any nation and not come close to a Turkish kahvaltı. Kahvaltı, which translates literally as “before coffee,” is all about leisure and a buffet of breakfast. A Turkish breakfast is not a single dish but rather a variety of Turkish specialties served in bite-size portions. It typically includes cheeses, pastries, dips and sauces, olives, eggs, fresh tomatoes, cucumber, bread, cured meats, honey, and a variety of jams.


7. And the diverse Turkish Cuisine is Diverse:

Turkish Cuisine

Turkish cuisine is prepared using centuries-old traditions from a variety of civilizations. For instance, the Ancient Greeks were the ones who introduced wine growing to Turkey. Persia provided the famed sweets, as well as sugar and grains. The kebabs and sac-baked bread demonstrate a unique Nomadic ancestry. The Arabic influence is evident in the sweet and spicy red pepper paste. Travelers may pick from a variety of Turkish kebabs, mezes (starters), and meat-based meals.


8. Enjoying the breathtaking views:

Pierre Loti Hill Cable Car

There are many excellent locations and viewpoints from which to enjoy panoramic views of Istanbul, ranging from historic locations such as towers, mosques, and palaces to rooftop terraces, groves, and hilltops. For instance, Pierre Loti Hill is a fantastic leisure and tourism destination in Istanbul’s Golden Horn district.


9. Unique Bosphorus

Bosphorus Istanbul

Istanbul’s particular beauty stems from the Bosphorus (Bogazici), a 19-mile-long strait that runs through the city, dividing Asia and Europe, as well as the Marmara and Black Seas. The Bosphorus is one of the most beautiful natural creations on the planet. By speedboat, yacht, or public ferry, you may cruise the Bosphorus and see the coastlines of both continents.


10. Interested in a Unique Fish & Chips Experience? Eminönü’s Fish and Bread:

Istanbul Fish Bread

Balık ekmek (fish sandwich) is one of Istanbul’s most iconic street delicacies and a satisfying meal at any time of day – albeit not suitable for breakfast. Savoring a fish sandwich on the Eminönü coast remains an Istanbul classic and a cherished weekend pastime for families.


11. In Ortaköy, enjoy Turkish jacket potato-kumpir:

Istanbul Ortakoy Kumpir

Turkey’s equivalent to the jacket potato, kumpir is a typical Istanbul street food and an inexpensive way to fill up.


12. Traditional Turkish hammams:

Turkish Bath Hammam

Spa devotees in Istanbul are in for a wonderful treat. This global metropolis is renowned for its centuries-old bathing history and hammams, or spa facilities.


13. Discover the Grand Bazaar:

Grand Bazaar Istanbul

Known as one of the world’s largest and oldest covered marketplaces, it’s an explosion of color and mayhem, home to around 4,000 merchants. It’s the finest location to purchase genuine souvenirs, fine jewelry, and Turkish carpets.


14. Digging for hidden gems at Ferikoy Flea Market:

Ferikoy Flea Market

On Sunday mornings, antique merchants take the place of greengrocers, setting up booths offering a variety of antiques, vinyl records, old books, magazines, original film posters, and other hidden treasures.

15. Istanbul, the City of Stray Cats:

Cats of Istanbul

There are a lot of places that claim to be the City of Cats, but Istanbul takes the cake. Strat cats may be found all over the place and they are adored by the locals. Almost every few steps you go on Istanbul’s streets, you may pet and share your food with them. 


16. Being enchanted by whirling dervishes:

Whirling Dervish Istanbul

At the Galata Mevlevi Lodge Museums, you’ll find musical instruments, calligraphy, Mevlevi clothes, and accessories. The weekly sema (whirling dervish) ceremonial is the museum’s main attraction.


17. Tünel-Tunnel of the Istiklal Street

Oldest Tunnel Istanbul

Tünel, the world’s second-oldest underground train after the London Underground, is still in operation today. It is a popular method of accessing Beyoglu for people arriving at the neighboring Karaköy Pier.


18. Experiencing luxury Istanbul:


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A post shared by Mikla (@miklarestaurant)

Istanbul offers a wide range of high-end and luxury fine-dining experiences. 
Located on top of the Marmara Pera Hotel, Mikla restaurant offers panoramic views of Beyoglu, the Golden Horn, and the Bosphorus, as well as some of the most innovative fine-dining food in Istanbul.

19. Living the four-season:

Istanbul Four Seasons

When the temperatures drop, Istanbul’s seven hills change into a winter paradise. In June, though, we travel to the beaches of the Princes Islands, party at Suma Beach on the Black Sea, or relax by the pool on Suada, a sophisticated artificial island.


20. Sunsets with golden hues can be seen at any time of year:

Istanbul Sunset Maiden Tower

Sunsets are difficult to explain, particularly as the call to prayer reverberates across the city. The Galata Tower, as well as a slew of terrace restaurants and cafés strewn across the Old City and Beyoglu, offer spectacular views of the setting sun.


21. Have you heard of Istanbul’s International Tulip Festival?

Istanbul Tulip Festival

The annual International Istanbul Tulip Festival, which takes place in April, sees 20 million tulips blossom around the city. We proceed to Emirgan and Gülhane parks with our cameras in hand to observe the best of the city’s decorations. Tulips, the national flower of Holland, are also said to have originated in Istanbul and been transported to the Netherlands from there.

22. Uncover the Pera Palace Hotel’s mysteries:

Pera Palace Hotel Istanbul

Because of its long history and illustrious guest list, the Pera Palace Istanbul Hotel is the one hotel that epitomizes royal spirit (Mata Hari, Josephine Baker, Edward VIII, and Sarah Bernhardt, among others). A notable author of detective fiction, Agatha Christie, was a regular guest at the Pera from 1926 until 1932. In literature, the hotel also appears Harry, the protagonist of The Snows of Kilimanjaro, stayed in the Pera Palace.


23. Ideal for contemporary art lovers

Istanbul Contemporary Art

International festivals honoring theatre, film, music, jazz, visual arts, and culture, in general, take center stage every year, supplementing regular activities at Istanbul Modern, Pera Museum, Santral Istanbul, Garajistanbul, and Tophane’s art galleries.


24. Visit the Süreyya Opera House to see an opera or ballet:

Sureyya Opera Istanbul

We stated that Istanbul is a complex synthesis of western and eastern civilizations. Süreyya Opera House is the premier venue for opera and ballet on Istanbul’s Asian side.


25. Discover Istanbul’s new cruise port:

Galataport is just another reason to visit world’s greatest city. Galataport, the world’s first underground cruise ship port, has given Istanbul a new appearance. The port project is situated along Istanbul’s Karaköy district’s waterfront. Several art centers, a world-class cruise port, hotels, and a variety of stores, cafés, and restaurants will be located in the neighborhood.