Long regarded as Turkey’s national sport, oil wrestling has been practiced since ancient times. It’s a bizarrely captivating sight, as bare-chested participants, clothed only in a pair of kispet — wrestling tights that resemble lederhosen made from water buffalo hide — slather themselves in olive oil and attempt to wrestle each other to the ground. The hottest ticket of the wrestling season is the Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling festival in Edirne, which, with a history dating back to 1392, is regarded as the oldest wrestling contest in the world and has even been placed on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage list.
Straddling the border between Europe and Asia and teeming with exquisite architecture, lively bazaars and historic sites, there’s nowhere quite like Istanbul and there’s so much to see and do in Turkey’s cultural capital, it can be hard to know where to start. Istanbul Super Savers are a great choice for saving both time and money, with the chance to combine popular tours and make big savings.
Spread across the border of Europe and Asia, and home to some of the world’s most impressive Islamic architecture, there’s nowhere quite like Istanbul and however long you have to spend in the city, you’ll likely want to stay longer. From visiting the top attractions to sampling local delicacies or exploring off-the-beaten-track sights – here are 40 unforgettable experiences to have in Istanbul. See how many you can squeeze into your itinerary.
With its quaint cobblestone lanes, scenic coastal promenade and cluster of arts and crafts stalls, Istanbul’s Ortaköy district is a world away from the bustling streets of Eminönü and Beyoğlu. With a prime location stretched along the banks of the Bosphorus, Ortaköy is one of Istanbul’s most fashionable neighborhoods, home to many of the city’s top hotels and most glamorous nightclubs, as well as an array of shops, restaurants and cafes.
Once one of the greatest fortifications in the world, Istanbul’s mighty Walls of Constantinople have stood watch over the city for centuries, with the first set of sea and land walls built by Constantine the Great in 324AD. It was the unprecedented double land walls built by Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II in the 5th-century though, that really completed the city’s fortifications. With a 2-meter-thick outer wall and a 5-meter-thick, 20-meter-high inner wall, separated by a moat and guarded by a mind-boggling 96 towers, it’s not surprising that the walls remained un-breached for more than a thousand years.
One of the world’s largest cities by population, Istanbul is so big that it’s spread over two continents and choosing where to stay is no easy task, especially for first time visitors. Thankfully, many of Istanbul’s top attractions are located in close proximity and the city’s excellent tram service means it’s easy and relatively cheap to get anywhere you want in the city, so the best area to stay depends on what you want to get out of your trip. To help you choose, here’s our best advice for where to stay in Istanbul.
Istanbul has been at the crossroads of cultures since the beginning of civilization. A city that finds itself on two continents and has influences from all over the world. Nowhere can those influences be seen better than in the city’s food. Most people think of Turkish food and think of kebabs and shawarma. It is, but it’s so much more too. On the Istanbul by night food tour we got a chance to discover some local Istanbul specialties.
The Turks are the first people to tell you that belly dancing is not really a Turkish thing. The torso-twisting dance of the Orient is considered a relic of the pan-national Ottoman Empire, imported from Arab cultures in the south. Indeed, most of the belly dancing in Istanbul is not actually performed by Turks, but dancers with Romani, Armenian, and Russian backgrounds, including today’s biggest star, Didem Kınalı
Our Istanbul coffee tour and coffee-making class was a caffeine-filled, three-and-a-half hours amidst three coffee shops, two bazaars, and one coffee lesson. Our cab ride sent us into the Old City as we learned that the fate of our friendship (that of myself and my close friend Vivian, who took these photographs) would be sealed for another 120 years by the end of the tour.
Of Turkey’s top aristocratic families, the name Sabancı stands among the uppermost of the hierarchy, with it famous blue and white double bubble logo embossed on a seemingly endless line of businesses, foundations, universities, banks—you name it. Happily for art lovers in Turkey, a slice was dedicated to establishing the Sakip Sabanci Museum in his former home in Emirgan, a well-to-do neighborhood on the west bank of the Bosphorus.