Istanbul is a “must visit”. I didn’t know before I actually did visit.. and I had to come back again and again..
This wonderful, vibrant city, with all its history, and being part of both Europe and Asia making it even more interesting. It is a colorful city with a lot of charm. The city have several districts being quite different from each other. You cannot be bored in Istanbul. There are so much to see, experience and learn about. There are a lot of wonderful places in the world, but if you just have to chose one – chose Istanbul and you get a taste and experience of “everything”.
Sultanahmet is the Old Town of Istanbul were the famous Hagia Sofia (Ayasofya) and Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque or Sultanahmet Camii) is situated. Sultanahmet is the district in Istanbul with most tourist, and can be very crowded. But still a very nice, colorful and vibrant place, with different bazars, a lot of restaurants and some shops. And of course a lot of hotels and other accommodation. It is a very nice place to stay, and easy to use the tram to move around in Istanbul. If you are staying for a longer stay or more than one visit, the Istanbul Card is recommendable.
When starting to write on this blog, I realized it is to much to write about for just one post, but I will try to..
Hagia Sofia is a former cathedral, which became a mosque, but is now a museum. The history, and the beautiful inside of Hagia Sofia is worth a visit. The architecture is wonderful and so many unique Mosaics.
Gülhane Park is situated in connection to Sultanahmet , a nice park were you can have a short walk in relaxing surrandings, if you want to get away from the crowd.
Nearby you also find Yerebatan Sarnici or Basilica Cistern, with the Medusas. An interesting story, and this attraction is both cheap and do not have this long queues as many of the others.
On the other side of Bosphorus you find Karaköy with Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi) and the Taksim shopping street. A visit on the top of Galata Tower gives you the best view of Istanbul, but here again – there is a lot of people and you have to stand in line for a while to get the opportunity to explore this view..
In Taksim shopping street you find all kinds of shops, expensive to cheap, and Istanbul is a good place to shop. You can find very cheap alternatives to whatever you would like to shop.
In Taksim you also find nice cafés and bars, as you find all over Istanbul. You can always find some good food here, their food is inspired from both continents, and every country and culture around Turkey, and “added” their own traditions. The food is tasty and with flavors and colors 🙂 .
A very good option to dine is one of the restaurants situated by the Bosphorus
Mado is of Turkish origin and their ice creams are made of goat milk. It is very tasty, and the goatmilk taste is not strong. Mado have a history of more than 100 years. And you can choose between plenty of tasty desserts and ice cream flavors.
A daytrip to Price Island (or Kızıl Adalar in Turkish) is absolute to recommend. The ferry takes about an hour, and there are different island to choose between. The largest island Büyükada, is a really nice and charming island. I recommend to rent some bicycles and bike around the island to get to know ot and see all the charming Ottoman Mansions and beautiful views, a wonderful experience.
Beautiful scenery with Istanbul and the beginning of the sunset in behind, when the ferry is bringing you back from Adalar / Prince Islands.
The Ortaköy area of Istanbul is also very nice. More quiet, but still very vibrant. A very good option to were to stay, and very nice view as well. The Ortaköy Mosque is the “landmark” of this area.
There are also many different cruises to join at Bosphorus, both daytime and night. If you choose to go, I recommend you to do good research to find one that will suit you. There are different dining options, music and entertainment. The pricerange and the quality varies a lot. For me, I don’t think it was value for money. Even if you have nice views, the total experience was not worth the money, but then I probably should have choose another cruise supplier.
Views of Istanbul..
Since I have been in Istanbul a couple of times I have tried different hotels as well. My favorite is Kempinski Ciragan Palace, but Swissotel The Bosphorus was a very pleasant surprise. Both are in Besiktas area, with some distance from Sultanahmet. In Sultanahmet area I can recommend Hotel Yasmak Sultan. It is located just a few minutes walk from Hagia Sofia, and only 2 minutes from the Tram Station. The restaurant is situated on the top and have very nice views on both sides of the city. The room and bathroom was delicate and fresh. And they have both pool and gym.
Another option is Celine Hotel situated on the other side of Hagia Sofia. This is a Ottoman Mansion with only 14 rooms, so breakfast and facilities are limited. Nice, but don’t think I will stay there again.
On the Galata Tower side, Karaköy, you find 10 Karaköy Istanbul a sbe hotel. Not a favorite either if you are looking for value for money. The rooms are small, and breakfast average. But interior are nice and delicate.
Then we have Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul, i really liked this one, it was large but not too large. It was vibrant and modern. The room had a very nice view to the Bosphorus, and had plenty of amenities.
And I loved of course the rooftop bar and the view..
Kempinski has another price range, but it is my favourite, and I have stayed there three times, so it have to have it’s own blog post..
I will have different recommendations for different people, because Istanbul have everything, and it depends on what you want to experience and prefer of accommodation and surroundings. Please let me know if you have some questions, I will be happy to assist!