During my road trip through Eastern Europe we also spent a couple of days in Turkey. In Istanbul we’ve spent some days at a friends place who generously showed us around and told us some insider places we should definitely visit while in the city!
Not an insider tip, but a very famous place to visit is the Hagia Sophia. Formerly an Orthodox basilica it later was transformed into a mosque and since 1935 it is a museum open to the public.
Don’t like crowded places? Come early!
The Hagia Sophia is one of the most famous monuments of Istanbul and you can expect it being very busy wether it is cold or hot outside. If you don’t like big crowds, avoid this monument, alternatively come really early or really late in the day!
Between 9 AM and 12 PM normal tourists and cruise ship passengers walk through this huge monument. It can happen that you have to wait several hours until you get in!
The Hagia Sophia is a very old monument with many sights to enjoy. At the ground level most things have an islamic background. In the apse of the mihrab is a marble structure indicating the direction of Mecca. At the upper level there are many christian sights like a great mosaic of the virgin and child and some damaged mosaics.
Low light, high sight!
During spring and autumn the lights in- and outside the building are amazing. The low sun makes the inside look very mystical. Next time i’m in the city I would go back and spent some more time there!