During Summer I visited Istanbul with a friend of mine. This was our first trip together so it was quite exciting to be each other’s travel partners. We turned out to be a great team! I am the more organized and punctual of us two and she adds a relaxed vibe (Thanks for being my travel partner B.).
Why Istanbul? The purpose of this trip was to get away from the routine back home and therefore a short vacay not that far away. We both are quite adventurous and curious and are always up for trying new things. Turkey is a country, which we had not visited before, and Istanbul is the city that seemed the most interesting to visit. I actually think it is also the only city I want to visit in Turkey. I had heard only good things about this up and coming city and was therefore very keen on visiting it and exploring the Turkish culture.
We went for a week, which is enough if you want to cover the main sights. Our accommodation was based in Sultanahmet, the area with many of the most important highlights such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace. So most of the tourism attractions were on walking distance and we could stroll around, which we love. We stayed at Sultans Royal a 4* hotel, which is clean and cosy and the staff is very friendly.
So I decided to sum up some of the things that I enjoyed most and that I would recommend to anyone going to Istanbul. Enjoy reading my personal faves!
A nice modern restaurant close to Taksim square, which is the heart of the nightlife scene in Istanbul. There is a rooftop area, which allows you to enjoy a great Bosphurus view and city lights illuminating the city. We found this restaurant by coincidence but it has great reviews on tripadvisor.
(Picture from My House)
We went here for lunch while shopping in the Taksim area. I love the interior of this place. It is very tastefully decorated with fresh flowers, chandeliers and modern furniture.
This is an amazing sushi restaurant in again.. Taskim area. As you can see, there is a pattern for my personal faves but like I said, Taksim is a good place for restaurants and nightlife. The restaurant is decorated very traditionally and guest may be seated on the floor to enjoy their meals. We sat down on the floor with a small table, which was too cute! We tried some plum wine, tempura and of course sushi. The quality of the food was excellent.
After the sushi we tried out 360, which was in the area. 360 is a rooftop cocktail bar which turns into a club during the weekend. It reminded me a bit of the W Hotel in Barcelona. Both inside and outside, the decoration is luxurious, high end and modern. We had a seat outside to keep enjoying the pretty views of the city. The variety of drinks was insane! So much choice and creativity.
The hipster like bar! The location of this bar is in de Karakoy area and has an alternative, underground vibe and attracts many of the local Hipters. We went for beers with one of my friends who I met in Paris and is originally from Istanbul. The cool part is that everybody just hangs out on the street with their drinks.
(Photo from Foursquare)
Another rooftop bar with beautiful sights, located in Karakoy. It is quite a hidden place and difficult to find. We walked forever to find it but it worth it and we had some final Gin Tonics to close our last night!
(Photo from Gradiva Hotel)
Modern art museum
During every city trip, I look up whether there is any modern art museum or gallery. I am usually not a museum type of person, but modern art museums I totally love! The one in Istanbul is in Karakoy and is located in an industrial building, which I find really interesting.
In regard to Mosques… we agreed on not visiting each single one of the Mosques we would come across, as it would be a never-ending story. We limited ourselves to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. I remembered the Hagia Sophia from my history classes. I like the history of this Mosque and the inside is simply breathtaking. It was also the first time for me hearing a prayer call. A local told us that you can hear this 5 times a day. It was really impressive and I even got chills when listening to it.
A crazy house! So much hectique and people.. but a good place if you want to buy some souvenirs, tea and sweets. Storeowners are trying to lure you into their shops and literally everybody offers you a tea or Turkish delight.
This palace used to be the home of the Ottoman Sultans and a place for state occasions. Now it has become a museum with many holy relics of the Muslim world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So if you are interested in history and architecture, it is a must see.
If you want to shoot some great panoramic photos by daylight this is an adequate place to do so.
You cannot leave Istanbul without trying Turkish tea (My favourite is apple flavoured) and Turkish sweets. The most famous place for trying out pastries is Hafiz Mustafa. The well known sweets are Baklava and Turkish delight.
We were also able to visit a Hamam were we got access to a sauna and received a corporal scrub and cleanse. It was a unique experience and for me the first time trying it. It was quite an intense treatment and even if at times I thought I was losing some body parts (Ok that’s exaggerated) my skin was glowing and really healthy afterwards. We went in Sulthanamet and our hotel recommended the place, so I would suggest asking your hotel for tips.
Sisha’s also known as hookahs or water pipes is also something very common in Muslim countries. It wasn’t the first time trying it as I have tried it some times back home but it was fun to do it when being in this type of environment. We chose an apple-mint flavour if I am not mistaking.
I really enjoyed my trip to Istanbul and I really want to return in the future. What impressed me most is the sea of people. I have lived in big cities before, but the amount of people and tourists in Istanbul is insane. The locals are very friendly and helpful. If you are a lady, you will get tons of attention, men whistling and tea invites. I also fell in love with the mysterious and idyllic feel when you wander the city. Each time we reached a higher point of the city we had breathtaking views with mosques everywhere. I am the type of person that also really enjoys warm weather and lots of sun, so Istanbul in July with temperatures between 30 and 34 degrees was great for me.
Exciting news: I booked my first 2016 trip… I am going to Dublin!