My trip and some ideas for visits to Istanbul in winter

It happened in 2013: the first snowflakes of the year covered the Turkish capital on the night of December 10. In eastern Turkey, snow is said to have made more than 500 mountain roads inaccessible …

I’m not here to give you the weather report, but to tell you about my trip to Istanbul in March 2016: it had snowed the whole week I was there! Late flakes which, in addition to disrupting air traffic and traffic, had plunged the city into a magnificent atmosphere.

From Byzantium to Istanbul

What I appreciated about this stay was to have been able to discover the city of Istanbul from a more authentic point of view than if I had been there during the tourist season. The main sites and alleys of ancient Byzantium take on an intimate look: you can go at your own pace, without the ambient hustle and bustle that there must be in high season. Byzantium, renamed Constantinople under the Roman Emperor Constantine in 330, established itself as the capital of the Eastern Empire until the 15th century AD. Taken by the Turks in 1453, it was officially renamed Istanbul in the 1930s: for five centuries, the city will have kept its name while Stamboul in Turkish meant the old city.

The Blue Mosque and the Palace

The Great Mosque of Istanbul, known as the Blue Mosque for the blue mosaics that adorn the walls of its interior, is arguably the most famous monument in the megalopolis. It was built around 1600 under the reign of Sultan Ahmet I and alone has six minarets: an almost unique fact in Islam since only the Ka’ba of Mecca has the privilege of having so many. The mosque of Constantinople is also the starting point for Muslim pilgrims who go to the Koranic city. Topkapi Palace, built on the site of the acropolis of ancient Byzantium, was the official urban residence of the Ottoman Sultan (Turkish Emperor in simplified terms).

Istanbul Grand Bazaar

I loved discovering the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Bazaar (kingdom of spices) which are the largest covered markets in the city. The Grand Bazaar is one of the most important fleas and craft markets in the world: spread over 200,000 m2, 58 streets, nd 4,000 shops, it is the bargainer’s paradise on earth. You can find everything there – carpets, earthenware, jewelry, fabrics, works of art, silverware … with the pleasure of negotiating in addition! The antique market, located under a vaulted room in the center of the gallery, conceals many treasures. As for the spice bazaar, what a delight to stroll there and taste the many Turkish and Oriental specialties (dried fruits, caviar) that line the decor.