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Istanbul highlights in photos: Sites of heritage & history

Now that Istanbul has become a mainstay of eastern Mediterranean cruises again, we thought it would be a good time to re-up my Visual List of the world-class city following my Viking Star ocean cruise from Istanbul to Venice. Earlier I shared this Visual List of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

We spent two glorious days in Istanbul so we managed to take in some of the must-see highlights as well as off-the-beaten-track discoveries, including a couple of charming cafes in the suddenly trendy Karaköy district.

Cuckoo for cupolas

I went cuckoo for cupolas on this trip, as you'll see in the photo gallery above. Not-to-be-missed highlights include:

  • Hagia Sophia, a Greek Orthodox church turned imperial mosque turned amazing museum that dates from 537 A.D. 

  • The Blue Mosque,  or Sultan Ahmed Mosque, has the most visually captivating set of cupolas and domes I've seen anywhere. They're really otherworldly — just unbelievable!

  • Topkapi Palace — make sure you leave an entire afternoon for this wonderland of extravaganzas.
  • Rüstem Pasha Mosque, which dates to the 1400s, has the prettiest cupola I've ever seen.
  • The Basilica Cistern, a trippy underground cavern with a cool carving of the Medusa at the rear. 

This is a Visual List, not a full-on feature, so let me end by saying: If you can possibly get to Istanbul, go! While many of the locals we met had the hard gruffness that characterizes many Middle Eastern countries, others were delighted at meeting Americans and sharing stories about their magnificent culture.

JD Lasica
I'm Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Cruiseable. Follow your cruise bliss to any land where it may lead. Let's connect! I'm @jdlasica on Twitter.