Explore Istanbul, Turkey: A Virtual and Accessible Tour
This week we are heading to Turkey to explore one of its most beautiful and fascinating cities, Istanbul. Originally the center of the Byzantine Empire, Istanbul has been the center of much historical captivation and inquiry. Its rich cultural background makes it incredibly unique. We are also trying to make sure the content we suggest is accessible in different ways. Although it can be difficult to find websites that are fully accessible, we review many to offer you the ones that are the most accessible. As always, if you find barriers or have suggestions please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know so that we can improve!
Visit the Museums and Sites
Istanbul has many architecture and buildings with historical value. Some of these were built with religion in mind. One of the most famous structures in the world is the Aya Sofya, also known as the Hagia Sophia, which was created as a center for religious, cultural, and political life during the Byzantine times. The Aya Sofya’s virtual walking tour can be accessed through the link here, and a blog detailing its history and contents can be accessed through the link here.
Another famed religious building in Istanbul is the Suleymaniye Mosque, commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent and designed by the imperial architect Mimar Sinan. It is truly a wonderful bridge back to the Ottoman Empire. A virtual walking tour of the mosque can be accessed through a link here, and a blog about the Suleymaniye Mosque can be found through a link here.
The Blue Mosque is popular among tourists and lovers of Istanbul, mostly because of its beautiful Byzantine architecture and because of its continued status as an active mosque. It was built in the early 17th century Ahmed 1, and is known for its blue tiles surrounding the walls of the interior. A virtual tour with closed captions is linked here, and an article discussing the history of the mosque is linked here.
Of course, Istanbul is also known for its museums and interesting artifacts of its days of old. The Istanbul Archaeology Museum Complex is one of these museums, actually being made up of three museums, and holding some of the most valuable collections to Istanbul and Turkish history. A walking tour of the complex is linked here, and a blog going over the background of the museum complex can be accessed here.
Another museum, the Chora Museum, also known as the Kariye Mosque, boasts ornate designs and a captivating story. While originally built to serve as a Greek Orthodox church, it is now used as a mosque and a cultural center. The Chora Museum virtual tour can be accessed through the link here, and the virtual tour does include closed captions.
One impressive museum is found in the Topkapi Palace. In the 15th and the 16th centuries, the massive Topkapi Palace served as a residence and headquarters for the reigning sultans of the time. A link to the Topkapi Palace virtual walking tour can be found here, and a link to a blog about the Topkapi Palace can be accessed here.
Designed to serve the Great Palace and surrounding buildings, the Basilica Cistern was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian. The cistern lies underneath Istanbul, and is one of the largest ancient cisterns beneath the city. For a short virtual walking tour and explanation of the cistern’s history click the link here. The tour does include closed captions.
An integral part of Istanbul life and culture is the illustrious bazaars and open markets that keep the city alive and bustling. The Grand Bazaar is a notable one for that reason, being the largest closed markets in the entire world. Over 4,000 shops make up the Grand Bazaar, selling items like clothing, jewelry, rugs, and more. A walking tour of the Grand Bazaar is linked here, and a blog detailing the Grand Bazaar is linked here for your enjoyment.
Another bazaar of note is the Spice Bazaar, also known as the Egyptian Bazaar. One of the largest bazaars in the city, the Spice Bazaar’s claim to fame is its huge collection of spices, Turkish caviar, nuts, and other delicacies. A link to a virtual walking tour of the Spice Bazaar can be found here, and a link to a blog about the Spice Bazaar can be accessed here.
Tune in to Shows and Movies About Istanbul
There is a great variety of movies that take place in Istanbul. One of these is the classic James Bond flick, From Russia with Love, which uses Istanbul as a backdrop to Bond’s antics in the film. From Russia with Love can be found on Hulu with a subscription, linked here, and the movie includes closed captioning.
The Wind is a compelling Turkish film that takes its viewers on a journey into family, love, and understanding. It can be found on YouTube with English subtitles via the link here.
Topkapi is a riveting heist movie that involves the Topkapi Palace and a group of bold individuals wanting to steal an emerald-encrusted dagger. The film can be rented on YouTube via the link here, and the film includes closed captions.
Organize İşler, or Magic Carpet Ride, is a Turkish comedy film about a small-time criminal recruiting a failed Superman impersonator into his gang. The film can be accessed via a Netflix subscription with the link here, and includes closed captions.
Istanbul has also served as a catalyst for the production of numerous television shows. A historical take on the creation of the Ottoman Empire, the series Rise of Empires: Ottoman captures what Istanbul and Turkey were like centuries ago. Rise of Empires: Ottoman can be found on Netflix, linked here, through a subscription, and the show comes with captions and audio description.
The Protector is another show set in Istanbul, this time with a more fantasy oriented plot. Its main character, Hakan, finds out his connection to a secret ancient order, and is tasked with keeping Istanbul safe while also struggling in his Protector position. The series can be found on Netflix, linked here, with a subscription, and the show comes with captions.
Another drama centered series revolving around Istanbul, Ethos takes individuals from different backgrounds and follows them as their lives intertwine. Ethos can be watched on Netflix with a subscription, linked here, and the series includes closed captions.
Get Lost in Books About Istanbul
Istanbul has inspired the writings of many authors, encapsulated in a variety of different books. One such book is The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak, which follows the complex history of two families and their connection to their homeland. The book can be found on Amazon and Audible through the link here.
Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk takes Pamuk’s real experiences with Istanbul and fashions a sort of self-portrait across his descriptions. Istanbul: Memories and the City can be found on Amazon and Audible through the link here.
Last Train to Istanbul: A Novel by Ayşe Kulin and translated by John W. Baker is a tale of love, Turkey, invasion, and the bonds of family. The novel can be found on Amazon and Audible through the link here.
Capturing the zeitgeist of Istanbul through various points in history, Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities by Bettany Hughes tells the story of and transitions through Byzantium, Constantinople, and Istanbul. Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities can be found on Amazon and Audible through the link here.
Finally, Istanbul Passage: A Novel by Joseph Kanon follows the main character, Leon, struggling with his identity in the espionage community in the backdrop of Istanbul during the years following the Second World War. The book can be found on Amazon and Audible through the link here.
Bring Istanbul to Your Kitchen
Istanbul and Turkey in general are known for some really delicious food and assortments of treats. One is the very popular doner kebab. We have found an awesome recipe for a vegan doner kebab sandwich, linked here, and it can be made gluten free by substituting regular bread for gluten free bread.
Another easy to make gluten free, nut free, and vegan dish is Turkish red lentil soup. This comforting meal is bound to fill you up, and can be made with a foolproof recipe that we have linked here.
Turkish Mücver, or Turkish zucchini fritters, are a tasty way to sneak more veggies into your diet. The recipe linked here is completely plant-based and gluten free, making this a good option for a vegan lunch or dinner.
An amazing and delicate dessert is the Turkish delight. We have found a great recipe for vegan and gluten free Turkish delights, linked here, that is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth and leave you wanting more. To make this recipe nut free, simply omit the pistachios that the recipe asks for.
Where to Next?
Thanks for wandering Istanbul, Turkey with us virtually. Join us next time as we explore St. Petersburg.