Istanbul is a big city, and after you’ve seen the main attractions like the Hagia Sofia and the grand Bazaar, you may wonder what else the city has to offer. Istanbul is made up of 39 districts so there’s definitely more to see. Each district has something to offer and I wanted to discover the hidden gems of each one. There had to be other things to do in Fatih Istanbul besides the main tourist attractions.
I started with Fatih because it’s the most well known as it contains Istanbul’s old city known as Sultanahmet. However, Fatih is so much more than just the Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar. If you venture away from this area, you’ll find the neighborhoods of Fener and Balat. Balat was the Jewish quarter of the city during the days of the Byzantines. Fener has a Greek orthodox heritage. Both neighborhoods are off the beaten path for tourists but have some hidden treasures. Old, gorgeous multicolored Ottoman architecture still line the streets of these neighborhoods and that alone is worth seeing. However, there are also some old synagogues and churches that you don’t want to miss. Packed with history and beauty, you won’t be sorry you came.
Need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city? Don’t worry; Fatih has something for that too. Gulhane Park situated right next to Topkapi Palace is an oasis where the public can stroll through luscious greenery and stop to smell the roses. Read a book under a sturdy tree or enjoy a cup of tea in the café. For a break from the concrete jungle, you need look no farther than here.
For those with a love of photography or just a general interest in life in Turkey through the ages, the Kadirga neighborhood of Fatih houses a photography museum. Istanbul Photography Museum has collected Turkish photography throughout the decades and has a wonderful exhibit of day-to-day life through out Turkey through the years. For a glimpse into the past, don’t miss this museum!
If you’re up for a bit of a historical scavenger hunt, look no further. When the Ottomans conquered Istanbul from the Byzantines, the sultan wanted to sweeten their victory a bit more by snubbing the Romans who ruled over the Byzantine Empire. Since Rome was built on seven hills, the sultan declared that Istanbul would also be built of seven hills. He built a mosque on top of seven hills in Istanbul and wouldn’t you know it, all seven are in the Fatih district. For those that love a challenge, seek out and visit the mosques on all seven hills. Not only will you get to see some wonderful history and architecture, but you’ll get a sense of accomplishment as well.
Whirling dervishes were something I’d heard about growing up, but I never thought that I would see them in my lifetime. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered that Whirling Dervishes were still very much active in Turkey and specifically Istanbul, among other places. The Hodjapasa Cultural Center in Fatih holds Whirling Dervish performances so that the public might see it and learn about the Sema and their sect of Islam. Their dance is very interesting indeed. Every movement has meaning and their ultimate goal is to be closer to Allah. I was completely enraptured during the performance and I feel so lucky that I got to see it and be a part of their worship. If you would like to see the Dervishes, they perform every evening at the cultural center.
Istanbul is such a big city filled with years of history at every turn. Even with a whole lifetime, you couldn’t discover everything it has to offer. Go out and explore beyond the tourist attractions. You’ll get to see things that not many other people get to see and I guarantee you’ll be glad you did!