The Hidden Gem in Istanbul



Istanbul really is a place like no other. We had decided to join our dad and brother on a last-minute short trip. Heroda was a bit wary about the pending trip due to the terrorist attacks that took place in 2016, but Hermon informed her that it was safe, you can’t let acts of terrorism affect you. It was going to be a great opportunity to explore a majestic city, whether it’s safe or not…the world is not safe!

Once we arrived at the airport, we came across some Turkish people who tried to help us when we were looking for our pre-arranged private transfer. We were thinking they’re just like the Moroccan people who tricked us on a previous trip to Morocco. Hermon followed her gut feeling that they were trying to help, so she used her phone to speak to the hotel, proving that we shouldn’t judge people too quickly as they were being helpful and friendly.

Istanbul is a dream destination, it’s located on the edge of Europe where the traditional east meets the modern West. Connecting the two continents, the city hides layers of history, culture, colours and scents. The architecture, the food, everything in Istanbul tells a story. The city is busy, fast, and never stops, but when you need a break, there is always a nice garden, a small tea house or a mosque where you can take a seat, breath and relax. Our itinerary was hectic, as we were determined to visit as many of the must-see places during our short trip. It’s a huge city to explore so its a good thing we were able to use Uber to get around as it’s so cheap!

Our good friend’s family live in Istanbul, so we visited their countryside home away from the busy city, they were lovely hosts and we all enjoyed their lush Turkish cuisine. We talked about the old times with joy and laughter!


Where to stay?

If you are looking for the best place to stay, it all depends on what you are looking for. If you are into hipster and an active nightlife in the vibrant city then stay in the Galata area. If you want to be in the heart of the old city, then Sultanahmet is an excellent choice.

We wanted to stay in the real heart of Istanbul and found a stunning boutique called Fer Hotel in the old city, it was a tremendous value too! It was a great choice for us, as we were very interested in the culture, and wanted to enjoy the monuments, architecture and exploring the old town – it was only five minutes walk to the historic Sultanahmet area where the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace can be found.


Things to do:

Ortakoy

Stop by Ortaköy Square to soak up the atmosphere and mingle with the hip young couples spilling out of the cafés. There’s also a beautiful baroque mosque perched on the waterfront – it’s one of the finest examples of work by the famous Balyan family of architects. This recently renovated masterpiece is definitely worth seeing. Many people also go there to eat “Kumpir” (stuffed baked potatoes).





Blue Mosque

“The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkish: Sultan Ahmet Camii) is a historic mosque located in Istanbul, Turkey. A popular tourist site, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque continues to function as a mosque today; men still kneel in prayer on the mosque’s lush red carpet after the call to prayer. The Blue Mosque, as it is popularly known, was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains Ahmed’s tomb, a madrasah and a hospice. Hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes. It sits next to the Hagia Sophia, another popular tourist site”

The Blue Mosque is one of the most beautiful buildings we’ve ever seen but there’s a lot of construction going on so we could not get the full experience, it was still really beautiful to visit. We’d advise you to visit early in the morning around 9 am to avoid the crowds. And you need to cover your legs, shoulders and your head when you are inside, it’s important to dress respectfully and show your respect. You will be asked to cover yourself, so make sure you don’t wear shorts otherwise they will provide scarves and sarongs to cover your head and legs. There was a funny moment when we saw some Japanese women cover their heads with their waterproof jackets so they could jump the queue but the security wouldn’t let them in because they have to wear proper scarves to cover their heads. You can bring your own if you feel more comfortable. We wish we did because it had been used.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. It was an orthodox church and a mosque but is now one of the most visited museums in the world. You will be in awe of its beauty as you stand under the dome taking it all in, as one of the most beautiful buildings in Istanbul it is a sight that shouldn’t be missed!

Turkish Bath. Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam

“Turkish bath is also known as hammam, one of the most important elements of Turkish culture. Refresh, revive, rejuvenate! No better way to relax than a Turkish bath”

Turkish bath is something that every traveller should experience when travelling to Turkey, yes you will get a bath, and yes everyone will be naked. It’s something that has been available in places throughout the world for years but the authentic hammam is an experience that should not be missed in Istanbul. There are separate rooms for females and males, so you have nothing to worry about! After three very busy days in Istanbul, it’s certainly a way to relax and clean your body. You will have the best bath of your life!







Galata Tower

Galata is an awesome place to relax, wander the streets and enjoy the city. This part of town is hip, stylish, trendy and young, where you can enjoy some Turkish coffee and Turkish delight. The place reminds us of Shoreditch in London. The architecture is also worth seeing, it’s a mixture between rundown buildings and old-fashioned wooden houses.






Balat

Balat is one of the best places in Istanbul for a genuine local experience where women still gather on doorsteps, while men sit in the tea houses, kids kick balls around in the streets and lines of washing can be seen overhead. Vintage shops, quirky restaurants and colourful houses have become iconic pictures on Instagram.







Where to eat:

N Terrace is great place to eat and enjoy the panoramic views of Istanbul.

Beso is a local restaurant and has everything on offer.

Ciragan Palace Kempinski  is the place for afternoon tea, it was so generous, and the variety of bites was delicious. They are very creative in their mixes and each bite was of different composition and unexpected taste. They also have a whole room dedicated to sweet treats!

Şirin Fırın is a Turkish cafe, cute vintage style of place very close to Galatea Tower, a spot where you can chill, have a tea or coffee and a lush dessert.

This trip to Istanbul made us realise we need to explore so much more of Turkey… we will be back soon!

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