Merhaba! Istanbul, the cosmopolitan city, where East meets West. From the Hagia Sophia, people watching on the Bosphorus, eating late night kebabs to bartering in broken Turkish at the Bazaars’...Istanbul has something for everyone!
Visit the Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia was originally a Greek Orthodox Cathedral, later an Ottoman Mosque and now a museum open to the public. Take your time admiring the Christian and Islamic artwork that cover the inside of this beautiful structure. I’d recommend taking photographs from the top balcony. To bypass the long lines, especially on the weekends, but the fast pass. The cost is 14 Lira ( shy of $3USD)
Visit the Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, originally known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is one of the most visited Mosques in Istanbul recognizable for its blue dome. Ladies, you’ll need to wear a head scarf when entering the mosque. You are able to rent one outside the booth for a small fee. The mosque is simple but interesting to visit if you’ve never visted. There is a tourist side and one solely for worshipers while inside the Mosque, so mind your noise level. Be sure to check out the closing times for call to prayer.
Eating some great street food
You can surely book a guide to show you the best eats around Istanbul, but I have found the best way is just to follow your nose. Istanbul is a city that you could literally never go hungry. Some street food snacks I loved were the grilled corn and chestnuts for 4 Lira each (shy of $1USD), dirty Kebabs for 10 Lira ($2USD). Or why not venture out and have some fresh Mussels. Eat at the little kiosks and pay for what you eat! You can't go wrong with Simit, a sesame seed bread for a quick breakfast with coffee or tea on the go.
Kadıköy is a laid back, hipster residential neighborhood on Istanbul’s Asian side. Kadikoy is famous for its curving streets, buildings with colorful murals are home to indie boutiques, and hip cafes.
Visit a Bazaar
If you love shopping and good bargain, head over to the Grand Bazaar, where you can find faux designer goods, shoes, Turkish gold and silver jewelry, artwork, and anything else you can imagine. The majority of goods have no set price so be sure to master the art of negotiation, as Turkish people are good salesman. Some places take card, but like many parts of the world, cash is king. If you are looking for teas, sweets and spice, the Egyptian Spice Bazaar.
Experience a Turkish Hammam
A Turkish Hammam is the spa experience you never thought you needed! Ladies and gents, be prepared for some nudity. A female you are covered from the waist down but waist up is aux naturelle. You scrubbed down from head to toe using a special glove that takes off all your dead skin, followed by relaxing bubble bath massage and steam. My personal favorite in Istanbul was the AyaSofya Hamami.
Stroll down the Bosphorus
Enjoy the walk down the Bosphorus and see the locals fishing on the bridge. You can also opt to take a boat ride down to the Asian side and explore Kadıköy. I would recommend an evening boat ride as it is less crowded and more enjoyable.
Visit the Galata Tower
The Galata Tower can be seen from almost anywhere in Istanbul proper. It was built in 500 AD and was used anciently as a watchtower to protect the city. These days you can visit the Tower and get stunnings views of Istanbul. They also have a restaurant uptop if you fancy a nice romantic dinner.
Book a Photography tour
Istanbul is a place you definitely want to book a photographer! I found my photographer on Airbnb Experiences, and could not have been more happier with the results. I was taken to the major Instagrammable locations, but your photography session can always customized, just ask. Photography session depending on time and quality.
Book a meet up with a local
I really enjoy traveling and meeting locals. My typical meet up consists of grabbing some coffee or tea and exploring their favorite parts of the city. Websites like Couchsurfing or Meet Up allow you to find people based on popular interests. As always proceed with caution, but I’ve found a positive experience in meeting locals and they’ve enriched my experience as well