There is so much to do in Turkey, endless adventures, hidden discoveries and great food. This guide is just scratching the surface of all you can do in Istanbul and other cities!
Where to Stay
I’m a devoted Airbnb guest! I think they’re the easiest way to book different spaces all around the city and for affordable prices.
What to Do
- Suleymaniye Mosque – an Ottoman imperial mosque located on the Third Hill of Istanbul. The fact that it’s elevated makes it all worthwhile. You’ll get the best views of the city from here.
- Sultan Ahmet/ Blue Mosque – the most visited site in Istanbul. Built in 1916, full of exquisite architecture, history and richness.
- Hagia Sophia – former Greek Orthodox Christian basilica, later an Ottoman imperial mosque. Not sure why I don’t have a picture of the outside. But make sure to grab some of the street snacks outside!
- Market Rows – as you leave Hagia Sophia, make sure to stop at the Market Rows. This is probably where I got some of my most precious jewelry to date!
- Underground Basilica Cistern- the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. You’ll get a chance to do a whole shoot inside and get dressed as a Sultan! Across the street from Hagia Sophia.
- Galata Tower – my favorite tourist pit stop. Walk around the narrow streets. You’ll find a ton of restaurants and boutiques.
- Istiklal Street – hub of food, shopping and just walking around!
- Dolmabache Palace – stumbled upon this palace on the way to the ferry stop to Maiden Tower. Served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire!
- Maiden Tower – the story is as follows although there are many versions. An emperor had one daughter, one day an oracle prophesied that she would be killed by a venomous snake. The emperor, in an effort to protect his daughter placed her in a tower built in the middle of the Bosphorus. Sure enough, on her 18th birthday, her father brought her a basket of fruits. Unknown to them, an asp was hiding in the basket and bit the young princess and she died.
- Arasta Bazar – as a bazar would be, this is where you can get your fair share of spices, souvenirs, tiles, apparel & more.
- Karakoy – the trendiest town in Istanbul. Located on the water in a former port district lie Turkey’s hippest cafes and art galleries. Just across from Eminonu.
- Fener-Balat neighborhoods – here’s an entire guide to Fener-Balat. This is how beautiful these historic towns are. They are so full and rich. Narrow streets, history, culture, religion, architecture, cafes.
Istanbul has an extensive tram system, which is perfect to get around the city. You can always just ride the tram to different destinations and hop off as you like! This is what we did when we had down time and discovered beautiful bazars, restaurants and side neighborhoods.
Where to Eat
- Patatos – you’ll find these in a few places. The most popular is the location on Istiklal street, we stopped here a few times. Get yourself a Kumpir or stuffed baked potatoes are so delicious with your choice of toppings and sauce.
- Kitchenette – another great restaurant on Taksim with great food options, fresh juices and cocktails.
- Esmer Café – right on Istiklal is this excellent restaurant. Make sure to be seated upstairs to get the best view of the busy street.
- Marmelat – made it to the Galata Tower? Make sure to have the full Turkish breakfast experience here. Be a little courageous and try the dried sausage slice, they aren’t as scary as they look.
Wandering the Neighborhoods
- Yaka Balik Restaurant – a bit pricey, but excellent seafood! Located by the Eminönü tram stop, you’ll be seated under the bridge and get a full panoramic of the Bosphorous. If you opt not to eat here, it’s worth walking by the restaurants and sneaking a picture of the view.
- Fatih Karadeniz Pidecisi – if you find yourself wandering in Fatih, this restaurant is a definite stop. Excellent Pide (boat shaped bread filled with cheese, protein, and vegetables made to order).
- Filizler Köftecisi – on the way to the Maiden Tower? Stop here to get some great food, excellent views of the Bosphorous & a personalized table with flags of your country of origin.
- Midpoint – rooftop café with some great views of the city. More of an American spot with burgers, sandwiches & pasta.
- Vefa Bozacısı – an 1930s styled hole in the wall that serves primarily Boza, a type of thick fermented Bulgar drink. If you’re up for making the trip and trying something new. Go here! It’s most popular Boza café with immense history and beautiful Ottoman tiles.
- Starbucks – yes this is cliché and not necessarily a discovery. But want prime seating on the water looking at the continent of Asia on the other side? Get to the Starbucks, grab your drink and enjoy the water views.
If you have an extra day or two, you MUST go to Pamukkale. Pamukkale-Hierapolis is located in Denizli, Turkey. Here’s your full guide on how to get to Pamukkale, what to do and where to stay.