Budget traveling in most cases means you need to go places during the low season. The low season may include poor weather, closed sights/attractions, and only few events available, but at the same time it means no lines, lower prices, and a more authentic atmosphere. Last February I decided to goIstanbul during the low season because my previous visit was during the busiest peak season. My previous visit was during the summer, which meant super duper long queues and the burning sun. At this time of the year the forecast isn’t very promising: snow blizzards and rain. Despite the bad weather it turned out to be superb time to go!
One morning we headed to Eminönü, which is located in Fatih in the European side of Istanbul. It’s next to the more known Sultanahmet region, where the Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque are located. Eminönü is a great place to grab a 5TL fish sandwich on the go or to sit down in one of the floating boat restaurants and sip Turkish apple tea. Despite the light rain, we really enjoyed the ambience and the view there. The boat restaurants are located just next to the Galata Bridge, which is full of fishermen fishing and selling their catches. The bridge itself has many restaurants in the lower level, but my advice is to avoid them since they tend to be bad quality and terribly over-priced. After the fish sandwich and a traditional Turkish tea, we decided to go see one of the main building in the famous silhouettes of Istanbul.
Just a few hundred meters away from the fish restaurants and the Galata bridge, is the Mosque of Suleymaniye. It’s one of the biggest mosques in Istanbul. Construction of the mosque started in 1550 and was finished in 1558 on the order of Ottoman Sultan Suleyman. ‘’Suleyman the Magnificient’’ ,as he was called, used his most popular architect, Mimar Sinan to create the design of this mosque. It is said that Mimar was somewhat obsessed with designing the dome with as few supporting walls as possible. He succeeded to use only four columns, which makes sunlight come in beautifully from all directions. The sultan as well as the architect were buried in the mosque’s garden, where their tombs are still located.
Visiting Suleyman mosque is worth it, since it’s easily reachable, not too crowded, and free of charge, unlike many other main sights. The atmosphere there is more relaxed and less busy and you might forget that you are in a huge city for a while. It was a very pleasant surprise that we didn’t have to pay an entrance fee or queue at all.
Since it is a mosque in use, it is closed from tourists during the five prayers of a day. I would not recommend to go there on Fridays, since the Friday prayers are held there for Muslims and they tend to be longer than on other weekdays. Going there in the morning is a great way to start the day. Visitors should also remember that they are not allowed to enter the mosque wearing revealing clothes, and shoulders and knees should be covered, too. There’s a doorman handing veils and covers, if they are not happy with what you are wearing.
Since the mosque is located on top of a hill, it has a beautiful outlook to the Bosporus and the Asian side of Istanbul where the famous Galata Tower is located. Very nice photographing spot I’d say!
If you wish to visit the Suleyman mosque, you could do it the same day visiting the Grand Bazaar. They are around a 15-minute walk away from each other, so it would be convenient. In my opinion Eminönü and its surroundings is one of the greatest places to visit in Istanbul. The rain and cloudy sky didn’t bother our day there since we had so much to see and no time to focus on the weather.
You can get there by using metro Vezneciler or tram Laleli-üniversite