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Istanbul highlights in photos: Sites of heritage & history

It's been a crazy few months running Cruiseable, so I'm just now uploading my photos from my Viking Star ocean cruise from Istanbul to Venice. Earlier I shared this Visual List of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

We had two 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.

All of this happened just a few weeks before the first terrorist bomb went off, sending much of Istanbul's cruise tourism into a nosedive. Quite sad, but understandable that the cruise lines are responding to travelers' fears (though tourism continues apace in Paris, which has been hit harder).

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 co-founder, Editor and chief cat herder at Cruiseable. Follow your cruise bliss to any land where it may lead. Let's connect! I'm @jdlasica on Twitter.