It’s been a long time since I have written a travel post, so I thought it was about time I tackled some of my past favourites. I have already booked two trips for this year but I don’t think either of them will top the travel I did in the last, or even before that. Sometimes I forget how many countries you can travel to in a short amount of time when you aren’t stuck down in New Zealand. Anyway, here’s to a recap of many of my favourite countries and cities, starting with Turkey.
Last year I spent three weeks overseas, one of which was in Turkey. Abbie and I started our trip in Istanbul, the capital of Turkey. It was a relatively quick trip, especially as we had a lot of delays trying to get to Cappadocia which meant we didn’t spend more than 2 days there. We did manage to tick off a lot of places and attractions though so here’s a recap of the top 10 best things to do and see in Istanbul.
1. Visit Taksim Square
If you’re wondering what area to stay in, I’d recommend anywhere around here. Taksim Square is a bustling area with cafes and restaurants as well as various monuments to check out. It’s also where you can catch a tram line to explore the city the way the locals do. This is a great starting point when you first arrive in Istanbul because you can get a feel for the place and easily move around from here. The square isn’t far from one of the main shopping avenues Istiklal Street which is where I’d wander each day to get between tourist sites and food places.
2. Eat A Turkish Breakfast
If you’ve been living under a rock you won’t know this but Turkish Breakfasts are UNREAL. Probably the highlight of my entire trip was the abundance of food that was both cheap and beautifully fresh. On most menus, you’ll be able to order the traditional ‘Turkish Breakfast’ which usually includes a spread of savoury toppings, such as tomatoes, hummus, cheese, eggs and olives, as well as sweet, including honey and jams. Fresh bread comes on the side and more often than not, they’ll continue to top you up with them as they come out of the oven. Alongside the food is the traditional Turkish Coffee or tea which is tart but refreshing. My favourite place we went to was Arada Cafe (above) which came to a total of $18 NZD between Abbie and me for this entire spread, followed closely by Van Kahvaltı Evi (below).
3. Drink Turkish Coffee
I had heard a lot about Turkish Coffee before visiting so it was a must try, especially since I didn’t try a shisha. Turkish Coffee is made using a different process than our usual, with cardamon and sugar adding during the making. They also don’t add milk so be prepared to drink your coffee black. Definitely one to try for the coffee lovers. Apparently it goes hand in hand with fortune telling too so be prepared.
4. See The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque is a popular tourist destination with the great architecture being my personal draw card. I love seeing the rich history of a country and this is a prime example of it for Turkey. While the past has warned tourists about this area due to terrorist attacks, the area felt very calm and happy as people continued their daily prayers.
5. Stop At The Sultanahmet Square
This isn’t far from the The Blue Mosque and is a really beautiful structure. Formally known as the The Hippodrome of Constantinople was an arena used for chariot racing throughout the Byzantine period. It’s only of the only original structures that remain so make the most of swinging by while you’re in the area. It has some beautiful grounds that people sit and catch up with friends in too so it makes for a nice area to relax.
6. Try The Turkish Delight & Baklava
Another sweet tooth must. If you’re going to try either one of these it has to be while visiting Istanbul. There are endless flavours, colours and sizes to choose from. Each night we would walk along İstiklal Caddesi, which as I mentioned before is one of the most famous shopping avenues there, and stop at the various dessert places that are littered area that area. The Pistachio Baklava was my personal favourite treat and the one thing I would love to go back for, as well as the macadamia nougat. Yum!
7. See The View From Kubbe, Istanbul
Kubbe Istanbul is one of the cities best-kept roof top secrets. Located near the Grand Bazaar, this rooftop has been created so you can go up, enjoy a tea and treat while overlooking the city. The main entrance for this is currently closed, but we found another around the corner from the big gate and down a random street thanks to a kind guide that walked past (see above). For less than $3 you can also get the full experience where the locals throw food around to attract the seagulls for the perfect Instagram shot. I have to say, this site is so very cool because it’s hard to find, it’s quiet and the people are really friendly – even if the photoshoot ran on far too long (we couldn’t stop laughing).
8. Shop At The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is one of the most famous locations to hit in Istanbul. As you can imagine these markets are chaotic. With vendors selling absolutely everything you can think of (including realistic fake designer bags). The key here is to haggle because they’re pretty good at giving you a good deal. If not move on – there will be another of the same around the corner. I have to say that compared to Bali and South Korea these markets are pretty tame and people don’t tend to grab or hassle you nearly as much. Overall, it was a very cool experience. Just make sure you give yourself a few hours to get through it all!
9. Drink At Snog Roof & Bar
Snog Roof & Bar is close to the Galata tower so it’s not hard to find. This rooftop bar boasts views of the entire city. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon cocktail before dinner. When we arrived we were the only ones there. I don’t actually remember the price of each cocktail, but I do recall them being reasonable so I’d recommend if you need a break from sightseeing.
10. Finish With An Apple Tea
I have to admit before this trip I’d never tried Apple Tea before. Considering I’m obsessed with anything fruit-related (a byproduct of growing up on an orchard). It had never been on my radar? I remember girls having it at my boarding school growing up that raved about it never got further than that. On our visit, Abbie and I bought a bag of it straight away and got stuck in. If you’re a sweet tooth like me you’ll love it. It tastes like sweet apple water which went down a treat in the evenings. So well in fact that I dragged it with me to London. A must-try if you’re in Turkey!
That’s it for my top 10 things to do in Istanbul, Turkey. I hope you all enjoyed this little guide! I definitely want to start putting more of these together for you of all the favourite cities I’ve travelled to. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments.