Last weekend I was in Istanbul for the third time already! I was there for a wedding of a colleague of my boyfriend and it was pretty awesome! There were about 200 people, all dressed very very beautiful! Especially the women wore the most gorgeous dresses and had their hair and make-up done. You would never see this amount of glamor at a Dutch wedding! The wedding wasn't your traditional Turkish wedding, it was very comparable to a wedding here, except for the music! Below some picture to give you an impression what it looked like:
Since this was my third time I promised Rosie from Craftbotic that I would make a little Istanbul tour guide for her so she know where to go and what to do when she goes to Istanbul.
I tried to make top 8 of things I would advise you all to do (in random order)! Why not a top 10? Well because to is always a top 10 which is boring....
1) Topkapi palace
This is a beautiful place where you can see a lot of treasures of the time the Sultans ruled Turkey. There is a treasury room, a Harem where you can have a look and a beautiful view on the Bosporus.
2) Basilica Cisterna
This is a beautiful and very old underground water reservoir.
3) Grand Bazar
Okay,this is a place that you should see but it does require some mental preparation... The Grand Bazar is very crowded, there are a lot of tourists and a lot of pushy sales people.... But if you leave the main road/shopping street and wander through the narrow streets and take your time to look at all the different products, stop for a drink at one of the cafe's you will see it is not too bad... actually it is a beautiful place! One tip... all the products that you see that are supposed to be from a famous brand are fake! So please do not buy it.... The salesmen will try to sell you everything and they will shout at you and ask you if you want to buy something... if you are not interested, just be polite and say "no thank you" instead of just running away.
But there are some nice textile products you can buy, and there is even an area all the in the back of the bazaar where they sell the most gorgeous fabrics which are also very affordable!
4) Sultanahmet area
This is the most well know and touristy area of Istanbul. This is the area where there are a lot of restaurant and shops with souvenirs. This is also the area where you can find the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Cami) and the Hagia Sofia (Ayasofya). This is for sure a beautiful area where you feel like you are in the Aladdin movie! There is also an area behind the Blue Mosque which is also very nice! It is a bit more quiet, and there are a lot of restaurants and hotels. I think that if you are looking for a hotel this is a very good location!
5) Ferry boat trip
One of the things we wanted to do was visit the Dolmabahçe Palace. I believe this palace is mostly famous of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey (he is still very loved in Turkey), who used this palace as his summer residence. To go there from the European side the easiest, fastest and cheapest way if to go by boat. This is also a very nice trip across the Bosporus! When we arrived at the palace the line was so long we decided not to go there eventually but still the boat trip was so worth it!
6) Taksim + Istikal cd
Taksim a.k.a. the heart of Istanbul. Basically Taskim itself is a hugh square on the Asian side of Istanbul. The square itself it not that exciting... but from the square you can walk to a huge shopping street called: Istikal Steet. This street is very very long and offers a wide range of European and Turkish shops. It is also very lively (read busy) but so worth going there! You get a different vibe here and you can see how modern the Turkish people are.
7) Spice Bazar
Ah the Spice Bazar... Also one of must sees if you are in Istanbul... But of course this means that there are a lot of tourists and you need to watch your bag... Which basically goes for all crowded area's in Istanbul... But the spice bazar is like the name suggests a market where you can buy spices, thee, and herbs. The smells and colors are amazing and so worth going there. It is not that large, but outside there is also a small animal market, there are some restaurants, and it is near the Galata bridge which connects the European side with the Asian side.
8) Eat Kebap
No explanation necessary I think.... Well maybe just a bit... We all know the Kebap shops here in Holland/Germany and the UK... but the kebap in Istanbul is sooo much better!!! All the food here is amazing! There is a lot of mean, so if you are a vegetarian you have a small problem, but overall the food is fresh, not so greasy as we know it and just very very tasty! I am craving some good Turkish food just by writing about it! So my main tip: eat all you can and try everything you can!
I also have some small practical things I think you should know:
- Be very careful when crossing the street. The cars will not stop for you (only when there is a pedestrian crossing with traffic lights)! They will not even stop for a zebra crossing, they will slow down but basically you should walk fast because they will not stop.
- I have been to Turkey for a few times now and I must say the people are really great! They are very modern, very pro Europe and also very proud. Proud of their country, there language, their food and the products they sell. So one tip, also be polite and respectful to the people.
- Watch out when taking a taxi, there are still some chauffeurs that try to rip off tourists by overcharging or even try to make you believe you paid to little. So when taking a taxi first agree on a price before entering the taxi, if they do not want to give you a price look for another one that will.
- Always pay in Turkish Lira! Everywhere you can pay in Euro's but the change you end up paying too much is much higher when you pay in Euro's then when you pay in Lira.
So there you have it! My thoughts and tips on Istanbul! Have you even been to Istanbul? And do you have other tips that I should include?