Discovering Istanbul’s hidden gems is a journey of endless wonder and amazement!
As a travel blogger, I love exploring new places and sharing my experiences with my readers. My recent trip to Istanbul was a dream come true, and I am excited to write a comprehensive guide for travelers who plan to visit this beautiful city. Istanbul is a city of contrasts, where history and modernity blend together. It is a city that has so much to offer, from its rich history and culture to its vibrant food and nightlife scene. In this article, I will share with you my top recommendations for things to do in Istanbul, based on my personal experience.
My trip to Istanbul was filled with breathtaking experiences, and the must-see sites played a huge part in that. There were so many amazing places to visit, but these are the ones that stood out the most for me:
Hagia Sophia – As I stepped inside this ancient monument, I was struck by its massive dome and stunning mosaics. It’s a true masterpiece of Byzantine architecture and a must-see for anyone visiting Istanbul.
Blue Mosque – Another incredible example of Ottoman architecture, the Blue Mosque features a striking blue interior and intricate tilework. It’s also located right next to the Hagia Sophia, making it easy to visit both in one day.
Topkapi Palace – This sprawling palace was once the residence of Ottoman sultans and is now a museum. It’s filled with beautiful courtyards, ornate rooms, and even a treasury room with priceless jewels.
Grand Bazaar – This bustling market is a shopper’s paradise, with vendors selling everything from Turkish carpets to spices and sweets. It can be overwhelming at first, but it’s worth spending a few hours exploring the maze of alleys and haggling with the friendly vendors.
Basilica Cistern – This underground chamber once held water for the city and is now open to visitors. It’s a surreal experience walking along the raised walkways and gazing at the Medusa heads on the columns.
Spice Bazaar – Another must-visit market, the Spice Bazaar is filled with colorful spices, teas, and Turkish delight. It’s a great place to pick up some souvenirs or just wander around and soak up the atmosphere.
Galata Tower – This tower offers stunning views of the city and is a great spot to watch the sunset. It’s also located in the trendy Galata neighborhood, which is filled with cute cafes and shops.
Overall, I was blown away by the history and beauty of Istanbul’s must-see sites. Each one was unique and memorable in its own way, and I highly recommend adding them to your itinerary.
Tours & Activities
As a travel blogger, I always make sure to explore not just the must-see sites but also the unique tours and activities that a city has to offer. In Istanbul, one of my favorites was the Bosphorus cruise. It’s a great way to see the city from a different perspective and admire the beautiful architecture and landscapes along the waterway.
Another unforgettable experience was the Turkish bath, also known as hammam. I was a bit nervous at first, but the warm room, steam, and massage left me feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. It’s a cultural tradition that I highly recommend trying.
For foodies, a street food tour is a must. I tried so many delicious local dishes like lahmacun, simit, and baklava. The tour guide also shared fascinating stories about the history and culture behind the food.
I also joined a historical walking tour, which was a great way to learn more about the city’s rich history and see some hidden gems that I wouldn’t have discovered on my own. Visiting mosques was another highlight for me. The intricate designs and beautiful calligraphy were breathtaking.
Finally, I had the opportunity to attend a Whirling Dervish show, which was a mesmerizing and spiritual experience. It’s a form of meditation and dance that originated in Turkey and is considered a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Overall, Istanbul has so much to offer in terms of tours and activities. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, food, or relaxation, there’s something for everyone.
Accommodation & Dining
During my trip to Istanbul, I stayed in two different hotels that offered vastly different experiences. The first was a budget-friendly hostel located in the heart of Sultanahmet, the historical district of the city. While the room was basic, it had everything I needed and was clean and comfortable. The best part was that I could step out of the hostel and be within walking distance of all the major tourist attractions.
For a more luxurious stay, I checked into the Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bosphorus. This hotel is located on the European side of the city, overlooking the Bosphorus Strait, and offers breathtaking views of the water and the Asian side of Istanbul. The hotel is housed in a restored 19th-century Ottoman palace and features luxurious rooms, a spa, and a beautiful outdoor pool.
As for dining, Istanbul has an incredible food scene that is not to be missed. One of my favorite experiences was a street food tour I took through the city’s back alleys and hidden corners. I tried everything from simit (a sesame-covered bread similar to a bagel) to kokorec (grilled lamb intestines) and it was all delicious.
For a more upscale dining experience, I highly recommend visiting Mikla, a rooftop restaurant located in the trendy Beyoglu neighborhood. The restaurant serves modern Turkish cuisine with a Scandinavian twist and has received numerous awards and accolades. The view of the city from the rooftop is also unbeatable.
Overall, Istanbul offers a wide range of accommodation and dining options to fit any budget or taste. Whether you’re looking to stay in a budget hostel or a luxurious palace, or dine on street food or fine dining, Istanbul has something for everyone.
Getting Around Istanbul
As soon as I arrived in Istanbul, I was blown away by the sheer size and complexity of the city. With so many sites and attractions to explore, I knew that getting around efficiently would be essential. Fortunately, there are several transportation options to choose from.
One of the most popular ways to get around is by using the city’s metro system. Not only is it affordable and efficient, but it also covers most of the major tourist areas. I found that purchasing an Istanbulkart, a rechargeable transportation card, made using the metro even more convenient.
Another option that I highly recommend is taking a ferry across the Bosphorus. This is a great way to see the city from a different perspective and visit some of the more remote areas. One of my favorite experiences was taking a ferry to the Asian side of Istanbul and exploring the quaint neighborhood of Kadikoy.
Of course, no trip to Istanbul would be complete without taking a ride on the iconic trams. While they may not be the fastest option, they do offer a unique glimpse into the city’s history and culture.
When it comes to taxis, I would advise caution. While there are plenty of honest drivers, there are also many who will try to overcharge tourists. I found that using ride-sharing apps like Uber and BiTaksi was a safer and more affordable option.
No matter which transportation option you choose, it’s important to plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to get around. Istanbul can be overwhelming, but with a little bit of planning and some insider knowledge, it’s easy to navigate and explore.
After spending several days exploring Istanbul, I can confidently say that it’s a city that’s not to be missed. From the stunning architecture of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque to the bustling Grand Bazaar, there’s so much to see and experience here.
One of my favorite tours during my visit was the Bosphorus Cruise. It was amazing to see the city from a different perspective and watch as the sun set over the water. The tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and pointed out all the important landmarks along the way.
Another highlight of my trip was trying traditional Turkish cuisine. I highly recommend trying the street food, but be sure to follow some precautions to avoid getting sick. Look for stalls that are busy and have a high turnover of food. Also, make sure the food is cooked in front of you and served piping hot.
When it comes to getting around Istanbul, there are several transportation options available. I found the metro and tram systems to be very efficient and affordable. However, if you’re short on time, I recommend using a taxi or ride-sharing service to get around more quickly.
In conclusion, Istanbul is a city that’s full of history, culture, and delicious food. I encourage anyone who’s considering a trip here to make it happen. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you’re sure to have an amazing time exploring this beautiful city.