Paulo and I took a very short trip to Istanbul a while ago and we loved the place. The culture of the city is quite different and the places we went to are simply charming. As you already know, I love to know the history of the cities and understand a little of the residents of each place. In Istanbul it was no different: we visited some museums and tried several typical foods.
To enjoy your trip well you need to know a few basic things about there, so I made this little list with the items I think are most relevant to help you ?
Where to stay
In the period we stayed there we passed three hotels and I loved them all. The first was Le Méridien Istanbul Etiler. We were very well received and the room was very comfortable. The second indication is W Istanbul, which also has an incredible structure and great employees. The last, and my favorite, is The St. Regis. It is one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever been to, I swear! In addition to the wonderful accommodation, they serve a delicious breakfast.
Overall, it’s nice to stay close to Sultanahmet or Beyogolu. Other good places to stay are in Ortaköy and Nişantaşı. Escape the hotels that are very far from the center, because this can make it very difficult to move around the city.
Getting around the city
The traffic in Istanbul is crazy, I think it’s just as bad as São Paulo at peak times. For you to avoid this inconvenience, public transport is a good option. It works very well and takes you to the main points of the city. If you stay for a week or more, be sure to buy the Istanbulkart. It is, basically, a card accepted in all means of public transport. You pay a very low amount for it and then just put the credit.
For places that are not that far away, a walk is always welcome. The city is full of kittens on the streets, I am distracted myself several times to play with some of them. The residents there do not have a culture of keeping pets indoors, so they stay outside. But don’t think they are hungry or anything! They are very well treated by everyone. You, for example, can buy something and give it to one of them.
When to go
The only time of year that I would tell you to avoid going to Istanbul is winter. In the case of spring and autumn, the temperatures are pleasant and the days are great for sightseeing. Summer is one of the busiest times in the city and the weather is very hot, but it is still a delicious time to enjoy the afternoons strolling and discovering new places.
In the winter, which takes place between December and March, temperatures are very mild and the region is covered with snow. This type of weather can hinder some tours and you may also not get used to it, because it is really cold. The good thing about this time is that the prices of accommodation and tickets are much more affordable!
NOTE: do a little research on when the religious holidays of the year will happen, because many places are closed or open for less time ?
Istanbul has a great diversity of mosques. Paulo and I visited only a few, but there are many others besides those that I will quote to you now. For you to enter these places you need to have your body covered and, in the case of women, cover your hair too. The ideal is that you already go with appropriate clothes and take a handkerchief, but if you don’t have them, they will offer you before your entry.
We visited the Ortaöy Mosque and it was one of my favorites. The place is all lit up and brings you a feeling of peace that is inexplicable. We also went to two other major ones, the Blue Mosque and the New Mosque. Be sure to go to the Hagia Sophia Mosque: there is a wall with a hole in it and you can put your finger there and place an order. If that wish is fulfilled, you should go back there and say thank you.
Places to visit
The Ortaköy district is one of the most interesting to visit. It is close to other tourist attractions, such as the Bosphorus bridge, and is full of cool shops and restaurants. Sultanahmet is a mandatory stopping point. It concentrates several attractions of the city and you will surely pass it more than once.
Take a day to visit the Topkapi Palace Museum, one of the attractions of Sultanahmet: it is a huge palace and full of different rooms. The tiles inside the place are wonderful. It’s that kind of building full of gold and details that impress you, you know?
Last but not least, the Basilica Cistern. The site was built to be a water reservoir in the city, but is currently no longer active. It is very close to the Hagia Sophia Mosque, so it costs nothing to stop by!
The Grand Bazaar is the most typical shopping center in Istanbul. The place is huge and full of things, from jewelry to carpets and food. Some of the stores I liked the most were Ottomano and Abdulla Natural Produtcs. It is one of the oldest covered markets in the world, well worth a visit! In addition to it, also go to the Spice Bazaar: a place full of colors, flavors and perfumes. There I had an incredible pomegranate tea and tasted super yummy sweets at Hayat Turkish Delights.
Now a very important tip: bargain for the products! This practice is very cultural there and you can even get 50% discount if you are good at talking. You don’t have to be ashamed to ask for a lower price, because they even expect it.
There are several typical foods of the city that you need to try, such as sïmit. This food is like their French bread! It is a circular shaped bread and you can find it in several places. It is common in several meals of the day, that is, it will be almost impossible for you not to eat a smit on at least one of the days of your trip. They also have the habit of eating a lot of fruit and make wonderful salads.
Some of the restaurants we went to and liked are The House Café, Mikla Restaurant, Nopa and Güven Kuruyemiş. Ah, if you want something that doesn’t go out of your way, just go to some Starbucks. They are scattered throughout the city, however I always recommend knowing the typical foods that you will not find easily in other places in the world.
The Bosphorus cruise is one of the most touristic tours in the city and one of the most beautiful. In short, it is a cruise that crosses the Bosphorus channel that connects the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea. The tour provides a wonderful view of the sea and the city, see? It leaves the port of Eminonu, close to the Galata bridge. The tour lasts an average of one hour and can be done every day of the week! We did not get to do the cruise, but we took a boat ride on the Dead Sea and it was one of the most enjoyable trips of the trip.
Getting to know Istanbul for the first time was an incredible experience and I loved every corner of the city. We show the vlogs a little more for you, so take a look at them. Our itinerary is also available for those who want to plan a trip similar to ours ?