How to make the most of Instanbul Guide

It's finally here: my Istanbul diaries! I know it's taken me an incredibly long time to actually edit the photos and post my experience, so I am glad to say that it is here! And you won't regret waiting for it!
I've separated the trip into two posts, there is too much to content for one post. Both posts will include the basic tourist sights and Mosques I visited. As well as little details and experiences. And how to make the most out of it, as well as costs.

I traveled in a group, and I have found that it is more fun, and is an excellent way of helping with costs as you can always share travel costs, taxi, and food etc.

The main Itinerary for the trip was:

  • A walking tour, to get an understanding and some history of the city from a local. (Booked a free walking tour of old Istanbul, with a tip at the end as a fee, which was so worth it! As the tour was FUN)
  • Visit as many Museums as possible, (didn't end up doing that)
  • Visit as many different Mosques as possible (did a lot of that, visited well-known Mosques as well as smaller ones too)
  • Go to the sea (did a lot of that, almost every other day)
  • Bosphorus ferry tour (which was the best!)
  • Eat at a rooftop cafe with a view of the blue mosque (pleased to say did this, one of the views of The Blue Mosque, and another time the view of Suleymaniye Mosque, and a third time with a view of the sea)
  • Vist Dolmabahce Palace (a must)
  • Galata tower
  • Shop till I drop at the grand bazaar and spice bazaar (which I actually did)
  • Buyuk Valide ( I was gutted to find that it was closed during my stay in Istanbul)

 When traveling one of the most important factors that will make your stay comfortable is the location and accommodation. For this holiday, staying at an Airbnb is something I wanted to experience. I do like to try different things, and an Airbnb is certainly not quite like what I've tried before. Another reason I wanted to stay at an Airbnb was the comfort factor (more specifically having a kitchen ready to use.) I do love a good tea where ever I am, and the last time I traveled the hotel I stayed at didn't have a kettle in the room, which was a major off put for me, so I was determined to stay somewhere with a kitchen.

I stayed in a small two bedroom, which was within walking distance of the major tourist attractions, including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Hippodrome, The Grand bazar, the Spice Bazaar and my absolute favorite - the sea.
The famous Istanbul cobble streets.! My absolute favorite thing to do is walk around, and in Istanbul, there's even more reason to, with so much to explore you won't get bored even if you got lost. But a word to the wise: make sure to wear comfortable shoes such as trainers. It will make your life easier and your feet will thank you for it. And let's not forget that Istanbul is the city of seven hills, so be prepared to walk up and down quite a few hills.

It is only natural for me to talk about the Blue Mosque first, as it was the first place I visited when I landed (well, not straight after landing, but you understand). The mosque was around a 10-minute walk from the Airbnb so as soon as I settled in, I went there to pray. As it was evening time, the mosque lit up in the evening sky was a beautiful view.  The next day I had more time to explore the mosque. It is open most of the day for tourists apart from the allocated prayer times when it's closed for tourists and only open for the Muslim worshippers (there is a sign outside the entrance with the opening and closing times). As a Muslim worshipper, I would advise going there for Jummah prayer; it's undoubtedly an experience not to be missed. What's also incredible you can download an app that allows you to listen to kuhtba in English! The ladies have access to a prayer space above the lower levels through a narrow staircase, offering a beautiful view of the interior from above (only accessible during Jummah), so ladies this is definitely not to be missed. 

On a side note, I took a walking tour guide of Istanbul, and one of the stops in our itinerary was the Blue Mosque. Our tour guide mentioned that he'd never been on the top prayer space (the female prayer area). I did feel quite special to get the opportunity to pray up there knowing that it's closed off from most of the tourists. 

The Sultanahmet park outside the Blue Mosque is picture perfect, with an amazing view of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. An excellent place to get tourist photos with the colorful vintage looking street food vendors, the fountain or have a picnic in the park. 

All of this is within walking distance from the Hippodrome, which features four monuments: Serpent Column, Egyptian Obelisk, Walled Obelisk and German Fountain.

Hagia Sophia is a museum that was originally built as Church, then was later converted to a Mosque following the fall of Constantinople. It's now a museum with the iconography of both a Church and a Mosque. I have to state that the attention to detail in the Museum is outstanding. There's a fee of 40TL to enter, or you can buy a Museum pass that's 85TL allowing access to selected Museums within 5 days. I chose the Museum pass, as I planned to visit more than 1 museum.

Outside the Hagia Sophia, there are private tour guides willing to show you around the Museum and teach you about its history for a fee. I personally chose not to take this, as I'd already booked a walking tour of the city and the Hagia Sophia was part of the itinerary, so I only heard a basic history of the Hagia Sophia. 

It's a given that I tried the street food when there's a vendor strategically on nearly every corner making sure I didn't stay hungry for too long. They are absolutely perfect snacks on the go. My favorite was Simit, a giant circle bread coated with sesame seeds. There were different options for fillings  from cheese to chocolate. My favorite was cheese!

The Turkish ice cream was something I wanted to try. Even though it looks similar to normal ice cream it actually has an elastic texture and is chewier. And is usually served by a playful vendor that would jest with you while serving you ice cream.

Topkapi Palace is walking distance from the Hagia Sophia, and like the Hagia Sophia, there's a fee to enter.  Nonetheless, as I mentioned above, the Museum Pass conveniently allows you to enter selected museums, Topkapi being one of them.  This Palace served as a residence for the Ottoman Sultans. It is a peaceful Palace to walk around, with lots of greenery. Even though the whole Palace isn't open to the public, there is enough visible to see how the Sultan's family lived.

The Palace also has an amazing view of the Bosporus! You'll also find mini-exhibitions featuring collections from Ottoman clothing, to weapons, armor, and religious relics, I really enjoyed these mini exhibitions some of the items on display you would not believe existed until you see it with your own eyes, such as the fancy armor and weapons. They even had an Islamic & Hajj exhibition rooms which were extremely packed as tourists were very interested in them.

Gulhane park is right in the middle of all the museums and the busy streets, bringing serenity to the city. It's a historical urban park located on the grounds of Topkapi Palace. As one of the oldest and largest parks in Istanbul, it is excellent for families. There are people walking around selling tea which makes it ideal to rest on the bench, drink tea and soak in nature.

Suleymaniye Mosque was part of my walking tour of the city. Until this day, I don't know how exactly I got there. Apart from certain landmarks, we went past, such as the Grand Bazaar, the old book bazaar, Istanbul University, and then finally Suleymaniye Mosque. It wasn't one of the main sites that I'd planned on visiting, but it's one I grew to love (an effect that all mosques have on us). The mosque is located on the Third hill in Istanbul, with a splendid view of the Bosphorus. I enjoyed the history lesson on the architecture of the building. Mimar Sinan was the architect responsible for this mosque as well as many other buildings.

1 comment

  1. Tourist guide provide a tour of a city, park or specific attraction. They try to give a brief history of a city or tourist spot to the people. Find local tour guide


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