Istanbul musts

Here's my must-do list for a visit to Istanbul. Some -- or maybe even all -- of these are obvious. Istanbul is full of things you must-do and for good reason. 1. Aya Sofya This is quite possibly the most incredible building in the world. Don't be deceived by its exterior - it's the interior where the marvels reside. But when you see Aya Sofya from across the Bosphorous, the warts aren't as visible and its overall shape becomes quite beautiful. 2. Topkapi Palace (Harem tour) Don't miss the extra Harem portion of the Topkapi palace. Although the rather flawed Lonely Planet book suggests that the (required) guided Harem tour is only conducted in Turkish, our guide spoke English. That doesn't mean you should opt out of the self-guided audio tour. I couldn't hear anything over the tourist din in the cavernous spaces, and the things the tour guide said didn't make much sense to me. 3. Gallata tower For all the seven hills in Istanbul, it's hard to find a good vista. The Gallata tower gives a 360 degreee panorama of the city complete with questionable railings. Well worth the 10 YTL. Take note of just how narrow the spit of land that Sultanahmet resides really is. 4. Grand Bazaar / Spice Bazaar Of course you aren't going to miss either of these. 5. Hamami Don't miss a visit to a hamami. It's a welcome break after an afternoon in the Grand Bazaar. Full of ritual, and undoubtedly full of tourists. Be sure to opt for the full scrub and massage. 6. Food Go nuts. Lokum. Bahklava. Doner. Kebaps. Medye. The food in Turkey is awesome and the dining experiences are fun and convivial. Be sure to hit a lokantas or bufe around lunch time. Don't miss a visit to a meyhanes at night (you'll need to be over near Taksim for this). 7. Bosphorus cruise A great way to get a sense of the layout of the city. You wouldn't miss riding on the Staten Island ferry if you visited New York, would you? Take at least a ride on a Ferry in Istanbul, either. Optional maybe-dos. 1. The full on Topkapi walking tour There are tons of things to see. It's all cool. But it takes a long time. At the very least, walk to the end of Topkapi and see the Marble Terrace with the awesome views of the Golden Horn and Bosphorous. When I build my ultra-exclusive luxury hotel, it's probably going to be right there. Please stop in and see us. 2. Blue Mosque. You've come all this way, you might as well go inside the Blue Mosque. If you are pressed for time, skip seeing the inside. Seriously. It's more intimate than the Ay Sofya, but nowhere near as impressive. The most memorable views of the Blue Mosque are to be had either in the evening when it's alit or from across the Bosphorous. 3. The Sultanahmet fish market 4. A belly dancing demo A lesson, perhaps.