Being in Istanbul is magical. The people are wonderful and very friendly and we feel as ease instantly. Expecting a quick one week stay (that morphed into four weeks!) I wanted to make the most of our time so referencing www.thatbackpacker.com and www.lonelyplanet.com I set about to discover the top attractions of Istanbul. Check out my map that shows the attractions we visited.
Our Top Attractions of Istanbul
How To Arrive In Istanbul The Easy Way
Having met a fellow German traveler, who happens to live in Turkey, Detlef gave us an invaluable tip on how to enter this thriving metropolis in order to avoid the 16 lane motorway into the centre. He suggested we drive across the other side of the Sea of Marmara after our Gallipoli visit, and enter from Yalova by ferry, which worked out perfectly.
Where We Parked In Istanbul
We were lucky with the weather in November, for the entire month we had one day of rain. The locals said this was most unusual and at this time the previous year they had already seen the early winter snow. We managed to park Betsy in a prime location next to public transport in a Sports Complex that is secured by a surrounding gate. For just €20 per night we have access to free washing machine, electricity, water, grey and black water dumping, chooks and some very cute cats. The owner suggested we might like to take one of the cats, who adopted us, with us when we left. Sadly we couldn’t. Alan made friends (not) with the local roster who was afraid of no-one or nothing. He would come running after Alan once his back was turned and wanted to protect his brood.
Electric Bikes in Istanbul
The electric bikes made getting around Istanbul heaps of fun. Bikes, of any description, seem to be a rarity in this part of the world, and when it was realised ours were electric it attracted quite a following. After three offers to purchase them (before they heard the price) we kept our bikes and just as well because when leaving the country we were questioned about them. Our expected timeframe for Istanbul was one week, but it soon became apparent that wasn’t going to be enough time to fully immerse ourselves into this wonderful, vibrant city, nor to see all it had to offer. We ventured out almost every day, seeing something new. Our jaws kept dropping with the architecture, basilicas, mosques, museums, palaces, bazaars, shops, monuments, and tours to undertake. It was like a city that kept on giving. After four weeks in Istanbul, we felt like locals. We had our local fishmonger, greengrocer, grocery shop, bread shop and a cheap place to eat where the locals eat – see photo below.
Visiting Mosques & Basilicas
There are lots of mosques and basilicas throughout Istanbul and you shouldn’t think that once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. They do vary and if you have the time then pop your head into several. Be prepared, however, to dress appropriately. For women that means taking a shawl to wear over your hair, and cover shoulders and knees. Some mosques actually provide additional layers of clothing but I would suggest being prepared and take your own. Men’s dress is not so critical, but from memory, there are no singlets allowed.
* The Blue Mosque (also known as the Sultanahmed Mosque also spelled ‘Sultan Ahmed’) is possibly the most well known of all attractions in Istanbul, it graces the skyline and you cannot help but see it from several spots around Istanbul). We purchased a three-day city pass which allowed us to enter different attractions at a discount. I can’t quite remember all the details and they are likely to change regularly anyway. I suggest you search these out either when you visit your first attraction or beforehand by going online.
* Suleymaniye Mosque
* Hagia Sophia (it’s a basilica)
* Little Hagia Sophia (well worth a visit and quieter than his big sister)
* Chora Church (this was a little way out of the city centre but easy on the bikes to reach). A fascinating Church that was undergoing restoration while we were there (in November 2017)
* The Basicilia Cistern is well worth a visit – it is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. You might want to take a good camera as photographing this in the darkness is difficult. Alan’s digital SLR camera captured a great shot that is at the beginning of this blog.