Updated: Nov 8, 2018 @
Istanbul turkish delight The Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia. It was originally a Christian Basilica, then a Mosque, but is now a museum.

 

Istanbul Love:

Our first visit to Istanbul was a runaway success! We spent a bit over a week exploring just part of this humongous and absolutely fascinating city. We only got to experience just a bit, which was nice as it keeps you wanting to come back for more. The people were extremely friendly and helpful. I had previously been to Istanbul, but it was only a 24 hour layover.  l wanted to experience the city with my husband so l did not go sight seeing. As luck would have it, shortly after, Turkish Airlines had a €99 round trip fare that we took advantage of. Yeah :-). It’s always a good idea to search for deals. I like to use Skyscanner (putting everywhere as the destination, so that you get loads of deal fares). Hopefully, you will agree with me that Istanbul is a Turkish delight for sure. It’s full of yummy goodness.

Love this image of a woman in a burka against the backdrop of the Hagia Sophia.

Love this image of a woman in a burka against the backdrop of the Hagia Sophia.

Where to stay in Istanbul, Turkey:

We stayed in Sultanahmet Square, the old part of the city at this wonderful place called the Basileus Hotel. I had done my due diligence and ultimately chose this place, thanks to the great reviews that it had. I can only tell you that everything you read about it is true! It is a little family run hotel that is situated close to the Blue Mosque and the AyaSofia (Hagia Sophia). Very convenient as far as getting to the tourist destinations. The room was a good size, all the little touches were welcome, they even gave you little slippers. We always end up sharing as Federico always forgets to pack his :-).  The owners are so nice and they make you feel like family. This l suspect is the secret of their success.

basileus hotel Istanbul slippers

turkish delight candy store

Lots of wonderful stores to get your Turkish delights ,nuts and dates, dried fruit etc.

One of the uncles even gave us a great evening walking tour of the city. We ended up eating kebab at his favorite restaurant. This was after we had first gone to this restaurant whose name eludes me, but they are famous for their roasted lamb slow  cooked in a pit/well for hours. It comes served just on the bread, nothing else, so you get to taste the lamb and its natural juices. It was lovely. We must have walked at least 4 miles that Friday night, and never feared for our safety. Not then, not even when we were alone. I was very surprised at how safe it is. The city is alive 24 hours a day it seems. My theory is that because it is a largely Muslim country, liquor is not readily available, and that factor eliminates your typical drunken behavior. What a pleasant surprise! By the way, at the end of every meal, they serve you tea, which is great, as it aids with digestion. Ask for the apple one. It is so very good. I’m not usually a big fan of tea after a meal, but that?, l could drink a gallon.

What to see in Istanbul: (Istanbul Itinerary)

Some of the most famous must see landmarks in Istanbul include the Egyptian Bazaar, The Blue Mosque, and the Bosphorus River.

So many stalls, haggling welcome..

So many stalls, haggling welcome..

 

Hagia sofia istanbul in background

Enjoying some welcome sun. Don’t be fooled, it gets cold!!!

Weather in Istanbul:

The average weather in Istanbul is about 57 degrees average. The summer months can be quite warm and humid. The best time to visit Istanbul is April, May, September and October when the weather is pleasant. The weather in Istanbul when we visited in December was wonderful for the first  4 days, then it turned cold and windy. I didn’t mind too much though. I like bundling up.  It’s one of the places that l could see myself living in. We ate a lot..most especially a whole lot of seafood (our favorite!) and lamb kebab. We didn’t drink too much as a lot of places only serve soft drinks, being a Muslim country. The usual touristy places had alcohol though, but we avoided them mostly so we could get a more local experience. . We like to eat like the locals, because not only is it usually cheaper,  l think more authentic taste that doesn’t cater to the masses. We enjoyed checking out the bazaars and l got a pretty good deal. Our favorite was the Egyptian bazaar. It was nice seeing all the colorful spices and the different kinds of nuts. I never knew there were so many varieties. We gorged on pistachios and Turkish Delights. You have to try the double dipped pistachio one, it is to die for. We also loved the Blue Mosque (called that because most of the stained works inside are blue).

Taksim Square. This is usually where all the demonstrations and protests take place. It's a good idea to find out what's going on before venturing there.

Taksim Square. This is usually where all the demonstrations and protests take place. It’s a good idea to find out what’s going on before venturing there.

 

It gets quite packed at Taksim Square as you can see. It's kind of cool to see all the western style stores mixed in with the independent ones.

It gets quite packed at Taksim Square as you can see. It’s kind of cool to see all the western style stores mixed in with the independent ones.

We imagined ourselves as Bond in Skyfall and Liam Neeson in Taken 2, riding and running on the roofs. We took lots of pictures. Both movies had recently been filmed there, and a lot of the locals were still talking about it. Apparently, a lot of the traders were paid handsomely as they shut down the place to film. Nothing like a paid vacation :-).  I highly recommend taking the Hop on, Hop off bus whilst there. It is just too big a city to try and take cabs everywhere or even do the trains. A 2 day pass costs €30 per person, but you see pretty much everything, including the Asian side. Oh yeah, l have been to Asia…check!

sunset over the hagia sofia istanbul turkey

Going towards the Blue Mosque and looking back for a last look at the Hagia Sophia as the sun went down.

 

Grand bazar istanbul stalls for washing up before the call to prayer inside the bazaar.

There are stalls for washing up before the call to prayer inside the bazaar.

 

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cruise on the bosphorus

One of the many tourist boats cruising past, cruising the Bosphorus.

 

view of dolmabahce palace istanbul

View of the Dolmabahce palace in Istanbul from the cruise boat.

 

Guards at the dolmanche palace..

Guards at the palace.. Is visiting the Dolmabahce palace worth it? Nope!

 

Palace grounds. Beautiful, but skip the tour of the palace itself. It was not worth it.

Dolmabahce Palace grounds. Beautiful, but skip the tour of the palace itself. It was not worth it.

 

View from the Bosphorus Bridge in istanbul

This is looking down at the city of Istanbul from the Bosphorus Bridge. You can see one of the many, many beautiful mosques. Istanbul has approximately 7,000 of them.

 

tasks square tram istanbul

Every tram that went by had the young boys scrambling to hitch a ride, without paying of course.

What to eat in Istanbul:

We went to so many places to eat, and everything was delicious. We forgot to take pictures. We ate a lot of grilled meats, Kebabs and seafood. Sometimes hunger takes precedence over images :-), but here are some. Vegetarian food in Istanbul is a given, and you will be spoiled for choice.

bread in Istanbul

How can you not love this bread? It was so big, and fluffy and delicious, and yes..we finished it!

 

Istanbul delightful dessert

I called this “I’ve died and gone to heaven”. It was so good.

 

salad in istanbul

This was one of the most delicious salads that l have ever had. Food in Istanbul is amazing.

 

kebab in istanbul

Lamb chunks with potatoes and rice. Not an awesome presentation, but quite delicious.

 

tea in istanbul

Everything is topped off with tea, so many different flavors.

 

havana home made food stand istanbul

You can’t say you weren’t warned.. :-)

stand in istanbul.Grab some nuts, an ear of corn as we waited for the hop on-hop off bus.

Grab some nuts, or in my case an ear of corn as we waited for the hop on-hop off bus.

 

Underground in the Basilic Cistern. It was so dark. This used to provide the water for the city in the olden days.

Underground in the Basilica Cistern. It was so dark. This used to provide the water for the city in the olden days.

Istanbul is a Turkish delight. Spice bazaar

Another mosque in Istanbul you say? Why yes! This one is by the Egyptian (Spice) bazaar.

Related Reading of things to do in Istanbul:

Cistern and Palace visit

Blue Mosque Visit

Is Istanbul Worth Visiting?

A resounding YES! A visit to the wonderful city of Istanbul should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is so worth it. There is so much history and beauty in this ancient city. Our visit barely scratched the surface and it’s the kind of city that leaves you wanting more. We will surely be back to Istanbul,  as well as other places in Turkey.

Inspired to pin it to your bucket list?

Istanbul turkish delight pinterest

A lady in hijab passes by close to the Hagia Sophia Istanbul

image of blue mosque istanbul

The Blue Mosque in the old Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul, Turkey.

Have you ever been to Istanbul? If yes, how did you like it? If not, have l convinced you to add it to your bucket list of places to visit?

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