Istanbul is one of my favorite cities in the world. A mix of new and old, history and shopping, Europe and Asia, Istanbul provides something for everyone, especially the frugal traveler.
The Blue Mosque
When I think of Istanbul artwork, I think of the beautiful blue and white tiles and no where will a traveler find more beautiful examples of 17th century Blue Iznik tiles than in the Blue Mosque. The entrance fee is free but as it is a religious site, women should bring a head scarf (I always walk with one) and dress modestly.
The Grand Bazaar
This, one of the largest covered markets in the world, is where the frugal traveler finds souvenirs. Favorites include tiles, carpets, and apple tea sets. Haggling is a must and shopkeepers are quite persistent (though cheerful). The concept of personal space is different than in North America so expect to get up close and personal. That is part of the fun.
Hagia Sophia was first a basilica, then a mosque, and today a museum. Often when travelers see photos of Istanbul, this building is featured. There is an entrance fee (about $10 U.S.) but the view of the 9th to 10th century mosaics are worth it. This site is rather crowded so time accordingly.
Carpet shopping in Turkey is an experience. Shoppers are served the delicious apple tea in beautiful tea sets while carpets are unrolled before them. In the good carpet shops, travelers may see one of a kind silk carpets from places such as Hereke, each signed by the artist.
Along the Bosphorus, under the Galata Bridge, are tiny little restaurants specializing in the must eat local food in Istanbul, the fish sandwich. It is exactly as it sounds, fish in bread, and eaten by both locals and travelers. And they are very inexpensive.
Istanbul, one of my favorite cities in the world, has something to interest everyone. There are great cultural sights, unique shopping experiences and inexpensive eating options.