|The view of the Istanbul skyline from Gulhane Park|
1. The Hagia Sophia. I posted about this magnificent structure earlier and I cannot emphasize the power of this building to inspire. Do not let the lines at the entrance or the fee to enter deter you. The experience of drinking in the majesty of this building is more than worth everything!
2. The Yerebatan Cistern: Built under the city as a source of drinking water during the Byzantine era, this subterranean palace is not to be missed. Go early (we went right when they opened at 9am) to avoid lines and crowds. This experience is every bit as awe inspiring as the grandest cathedral if you can see it when it is quiet. As a side note, there is another cistern open to the public (the Cistern of Philoxenos) but it is not as large or as awe inspiring as the Yerebatan Cistern.
3. Istiklal street - if you are walking the length of Istiklal anyways, you might as well take a side trip to Galata tower and a ride on the Tunel Funicular (2nd oldest underground in the world) as neither of those take much time. Istiklal on its own is worth visiting because it has so many hidden wonders - from a chocolate cafe which serves possibly the best hot chocolate in the world (I loved their hot pepper flavored chocolate) to magical book shops with fantastical staircases. This street is definitely something that must be experienced.
|Hot Chocolate from J'adore Chocolatier in a short alley off Istiklal|
|another extraordinary Istanbul street|
For anyone visiting the city during the winter months, have no fear this city is worth it even if it is cold and snowing. Happy travels!