Special contribution by DLX guest writer, Aniesia Williams.
Istanbul – the place where continents collide.
As one of the oldest cities in the world, a strata of history is waiting to unfold before you.
Better known in history books as Constantinople, this city has been a pillar of religion and economics for over three thousand years. Filled with architectural wonders and historically significant structures, Istanbul maintains its distinctive heritage as it keeps pace with modern times.
Turkish Airlines can help you schedule a free sightseeing tour during your layover of six hours or more. Depending on the length between your arrival and next flight, there are plenty of guided tours to take you throughout the city and place you directly in the sights and sounds of Istanbul’s culture and history. And it’s definitely well worth the time and effort, especially when the alternative is hanging out in an airport terminal.
Let the journey begin!
Also called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, this elegant structure is nothing short of stunning. By day, visitors marvel at the grandiose behemoth that still functions as mosque today. Inside you’ll find hand painted blue tiles that contribute to the mosque’s name. At night, the mosque is bathed in blue lights. This mosque is thought to be the last one built in the Classic period.
Upon your departure from the Blue Mosque, head next door to Hagia Sophia, a former Greek Orthodox basilica currently functioning as a museum. Among the items of note are the marble door, two lustration urns, the wishing column, the Loge of the Empress, and a number of mosaics that were unearthed during the 20th-century restoration of the site.
Hippodrome: German Fountain
Travel across from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia to find the German Fountain, a gazebo-esque fountain built in Germany before being transported piece by piece to Istanbul. The fountain has stood in Sultanahmet Square for over a century, having originally been commissioned to celebrate German Emperor Wilhelm II’s visit to the city in 1898.
Obelisk of Theodosius
Not far from the German Fountain lies the towering Obelisk of Theodosius. Originally erected between 1479-1425 BC, the obelisk was relocated to Alexandria in 357 by Constantius II, then re-erected in its current location in 390. Once measuring around 30m high, damages to the lower portion during transport or display makes it only 18.54m.
Just a 10-minute walk from the Hippodrome area lies the Topkapi Palace, which once played home to Ottoman Sultans. Now thriving as a museum, visitors can glimpse the Spoonmaker’s Diamond, Topapi Dagger, Ottoman clothing, weapons, and manuscripts, among other artifacts.
Stay at the Crowne Plaza Istanbul Florya
Take a break from your travels and let Blacklane transport you to the Crowne Plaza Florya on the waterfront. They offer two on-site restaurants, as well as a bar and lounge (La Brise Restaurant Lunch/Dinner, Salamina Restaurant complete with sea views (breakfast) La Brise Bar and Lounge), fitness center, pool, and spa. If you’re looking for more than typical sightseeing, the hotel is within walking distance to the Istanbul Aquarium, Aquaflorya Shopping Mall, and the Aqua Florya Cinemaximum. You can see all three without walking outside. Before your flight in the morning, be sure to visit the spa for a Hydro Therapy treatment. The flight back home will be much more enjoyable. If you want to leave the hotel on your own time, hop back into your Blacklane vehicle and head to the Turkish Airlines Istanbul Lounge. It is the luxury lounge experience you have heard about! If you aren’t on a time crunch, the Crown Plaza has a complimentary airport shuttle to help you make your next flight.
The locals take pride in their city, and want to help you experience as much of it as possible. Whether Istanbul is your intended destination or just a layover on your journey, you’ll find that seeing the sights here is an absolute must.