It’s been 2 weeks since I’ve returned from my trip to Europe and it feels good to be home. I have to admit, traveling makes me feel alive, but sometimes I just miss being home, in my own bed, with all my stuff in one place, having a Trader Joes nearby haha, and just being back in a routine… well at least for a little while 😉 wink wink
Our trip to Turkey was initially not planned, but with luck, my sister and I were able to snag a flight to Italy with a 3 day layover in Istanbul! I just love searching for those deals! I will dedicate another post about layovers this week, so stay tuned for that!
I recently learned that Turkey was not a common destination for many American tourists, but it had always been on my list of places to visit and we were lucky enough to dip our toes into it for a few days. One day I will return to see Cappadocia and Pamukkale, two destinations with stunning natural sights.
My first take on Istanbul Turkey was it’s cleanliness and kind people. At one point my sister and I were lost in what felt like a labyrinth of streets and markets that all looked exactly the same. When I asked someone for help with directions, they spoke to me in clear English and even printed out the directions on google maps! That’s when you know you’re in a tourist area and all the locals know English.
Anyways, with such little time spent in Istanbul, we only had a chance to visit a few main attractions. We mapped out a plan on the plane, so we could start our adventure as soon as we landed.
For quick layover tips, click here… (post coming soon)
The Blue Mosque
Also known as, the Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish. An amazing highlight, especially if you’ve never seen a mosque in a muslim country. We went here very early in the morning to avoid the large crowds. I wanted to experience the sight in peace and appreciate it’s impressive structure. It’s interior was even more impressive with it’s high ceilings of handmade ceramic tiles! I loved the intricate details and I couldn’t stop taking photos. For respect to the culture, you should cover up when you go inside. If you don’t have a scarf or long sleeve handy, they offer them in the front of the building for guests.
Tip: Check prayers times online to avoid disappointment. Islamic prayer occurs 5 times a day, so the mosque will be closed during those times.
The Grand Bazaar
You can easily spend a few hours in here. You can shop, take a break and eat, then shop again. We chose to scope out the area the first day, then make our final purchases the next day.
Hagia Sophia Museum
Also known as Ayasofya in Turkish. Conquered by many, it was originally a Greek Orthodox Church, then turned Roman Catholic Church, and later a Mosque. The place of worship is now a popular tourist museum.
Tip: When visiting the area in the morning to avoid crowds, visit the Blue Mosque first before Hagia Sophia because it gets the most crowded.
Where to Stay
Since we were only in Istanbul for a short time, we stayed in a central location close to the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar, called the Sultanahmet. I actually really liked the area we stayed in which is known as the “Old City Sultanahmet.” There were lots of hotels, markets, and restaurants in the area and right by the water. We were about 5 mins walking distance to the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and Hagia Sophia. The Grand Bazaar was about a 15 mins walk.
Where to Eat
We really liked the area between the Sultanahmet and the Grand Bazaar. There are a plethora of outdoor restaurants and beautiful Turkish decor and lights. To be honest, all the restaurants served the same thing in terms of food. The only difference was ambience and service, so I would choose by that 🙂
Tip: Try to taste the numerous street foods around the city. You can find roasted chickpeas (pictured above) or even vendors selling fresh mussels with garlic and lemon…yum! If you’re not so much an adventurous eater, there are many common chains like McDonalds.
How to Dress
With respect to the culture, it’s always best to avoid wearing too revealing clothing. It is okay to dress in shorts, tees, and dresses especially when it’s hot outside, but try not to prance around with a lot of makeup on and wear a bodycon dress and heels – that does go for everywhere else in world anyway 🙂
Also when you go inside a place of worship, such as a Mosque, it’s best to cover your shoulders, upper arms, and knees. You can carry with you a light jacket or a scarf to cover up. Some places offer scarves for guests or charge a small fee.