Must See and Do // Istanbul!
Must See and Do // Istanbul!
What a dream it was going to this bustling and beautiful city!
After Santorini, I took a quick flight from Athens to Istanbul and arrived to the largest city I had ever been to. As the fifth most populous proper city in the world, Istanbul’s 14 million inhabitants also make it the largest in Europe and the Middle East. Istanbul is split by the Bosphorus strait into a European and Asian side, making my visit to Istanbul also my first time in Asia.
This city is truly East meets West, a melding of cultures and daily life that’s interesting to be a part of as you walk through the city. Ultra-modern trams and bustling street markets are one of the constant contrasts in the city. Like Morocco, the only other Muslim country I have been to so far, the street life is dominated by men but, much unlike Morocco, I felt more comfortable on my own in this city as a solo female traveler.
On the street you will experience a lot of sales men peddling their wares. Rugs, tea sets, Hammam, you name it. Some can be…. well, insistent. Put just play their game, enjoy their lively conversation, and hey, you might actually really like something they’re selling you or even become friends with the salesman like I did! I visited him a couple times when I found myself nearby his store and even though I never bought anything from him, I still learned a lot about the city and country. In the end, if you don’t like anything don’t feel obligated to buy just because they gave you a cup of tea!
Here’s a list of the best things to see and do in Istanbul!
Mosques: Hagia Sophia (30 TL), the Blue Mosque, Suleymaniye Cami
The Basilica Cistern is like taking a step back in time! (30 TL = 10 Euro)
Topkapi Palace and it’s surrounding grounds for an afternoon nap and ice cream. 30 TL
The Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar, the worlds oldest mall! Important tip: Always haggle! Kind of like in Morocco, you should always try and come to a fair agreement on the price. I didn’t do much shopping in Istanbul since I was just traveling with a small backpack, but this is definitely a more calm shopping experience than in Marrakech.
Walk down Istiklal for a more modern shopping experience or take the tram if you can find a spot!
If you want to escape the city hustle and bustle, you can take a ferry to the Princes Islands for a swim, hike, and carriage ride through the mountains.
Make sure to take a Bosphorus Tour to get a unique view of this sprawling city. Make sure to do your research to find a reliable and informative tour guide, I didn’t get so lucky. ~20-30 TL, haggle!
Doner kebab, traditional Turkish street food and a quick, economical meal. ~5-10 TL
Pumkir, cheesy baked potato stuffed with all the toppings you could want. 10 TL
Dondurma Turkish ice cream, my favorite treat while I was in Turkey because of its unique texture created by the addition of salep flour. The ice cream is actually so thick you could eat it with a fork and knife. Also, you might get a fun show… 8 TL
Floating fish stalls at the Galata bridge! So fresh!! 7 TL
If you’re in need of a quick pick me up grab a Simit from a street vendor… You’ll be able to spot it easily because it’s a round shaped bread that almost looks like a bagel! Plus it’s just one lira!
If you want to try a sit down meal, its really fun to try a “point and choose” restaurant… I’m not sure what to call it but they have all the food laid out and you pick whatever looks appetizing. I promise it’ll be delicious! 25 TL
You’ll also be drink a lot of apple tea! Gladly accept it from vendors when you enter their shop, its a delicious way of greeting new friends (and customers haha) FREE! haha
I stayed at the Istanbul Hostel which has a beautiful rooftop terrace and it’s right next to Sultanahmet square which is great for sightseeing. ~12 Euro a night!
If you prefer nightlife, you should look for a place to stay near Istiklal where you’ll find a very vibrant and diverse nightlife.
Hope this post helps you on your visit to Istanbul!!