Days 23 to 28 of 172:
...more than 2,500 years of history, culture, and tradition; amazing landmarks, vibrant food, and breathtaking views is a good starting point.
Istanbul is charming; replete with beautiful silhouettes of mosques and minarets, magnificent sea views with busy ferries criss-crossing back and forth, and meandering labyrinth-like, hill-side streets, creates a mystery tour with the rounding of each corner.
Combined with its history and occupants of different cultural backgrounds makes this city a true melting pot.
Here are my top reasons of why you should plan a trip to Istanbul...
Location, location and location!
Istanbul is a city situated between two continents - where Asia meets with Europe, or vice versa.
The historic Bosporus Strait, which connects the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, separates its more touristic European side from its Asian side, where the vast majority of its residents live.
Nothing could prepare me for this city full of amazing landmarks and views.
One of my favorites is the city’s silhouette seen from a boat on the Bosporus Straight.
For a panoramic view of Istanbul, visit the Galata Tower.
The Blue Mosque is one of the world’s most famous religious mosques. It features six minarets that point dramatically to the sky and has more than 20,000-plus intricately detailed blue Iznik tiles inside.
A visit to the Hagia Sophia should make it on your list of things to see and do.
Don’t miss the underground cisterns of the Sunken Palace also known as Yerebatan Sarayi. It’s an impressive underground cavern with more than 360 illuminated marble columns.
Food, Food & Food! I could go on and on about the Turkish food I ate on this trip.
The century old mix of cultures also has a huge impact on the food scene.
Enjoy stewed and skewered meats, fried vegetables, wrapped vine leaves and seasoned rice dishes tastefully seasoned with local herbs and spices. (The restos and hotel we recommend are listed below).
But most typically “Turkish” is the delicious meze, the little plates which are shared by everyone at the table. A dish, hot or cold, spicy or savory, often salty, that is served, alone or with other mezes, as a separate eating experience and to complement and enhance the taste of the traditional drink, Raki.
If you still have some appetite left, by all means, try one of the many Turkish desserts, Turkish delight and course Baklava (that sweet pastry consisting of phyllo layered with chopped nuts, baked, and soaked in a honey or sugar syrup). Delicious!
Don't forget your daily dose of Turkish coffee.
If shopping is your thing, then you are in luck! You’ll find many options to satisfy all your needs.
The Kapalıçarşı (Grand Bazaar) has a chaotic atmosphere where vendors boisterously bargain with shoppers.
Here you’ll find intricate handmade rugs, clothing and silk materials, jewelry and exotic home wares. We preferred the Mısır Çarşısı (Spice Market), which offers endless rows of fragrant spices and delectable sweets piled high in handmade wooden baskets.
Walking in Istiklal Caddesi street, a well-appointed street containing retail stores, restaurants, fast food spots, cafeterias and outdoor markets, is a nice stroll from Taksim Square all the way to Galata Tower.
And of course Turkish hospitality! It is one city that doesn’t mind if you can’t speak the language.
Most of the Turks we met were fluent in English and were more than willing to help their country’s visitors. Say what you need, or even just hint or gesture, and it's taken care of with dispatch.
This city is a cat lovers’ paradise. Cats are everywhere in Istanbul. Though theoretically strays, these animals make themselves very much at home, graciously accepting the food and attention that is their due.
Every restaurant and cafe has its resident felines, who wind their way among the tables or just drowse on a nice warm wall. (Legend has it that a cat saved Mohammed from a snake, and Istanbulis repay the debt, feeding, watering and generally indulging their beloved kitty companions.)
These are just a few of the many reasons why Istanbul is a great travel destination. With its truly beautiful setting on the waterfront, the city is jam-packed with historical buildings, antiquities, good food, and so much more.
There’s something for everyone. I can also say that one visit is most definitely not enough.
I'm curious to know, have you been to Turkey, if so what were the highlights of your trip? Looking forward to the discussion, Cora…
AC Hotel Istanbul Macka (Marriott Hotels)
Vişnezade Mh., Süleyman Seba Cd. No:75, 34357 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey
What I had to say: “The employees of this hotel were extremely accommodating and friendly. Walking distance to many touristic sites with a good selection of places to eat, drink and in the heart of Macka, which is itself a very nice and central neighborhood in Istanbul. Room very well appointed.”
BORDO “Eski Dostlar” Restaurant
No:b, Vişnezade Mh., Çeşme Meydanı Sk. No:13, 34330 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey
What I had to say: “Small pleasant and awesome taverna. Food well prepared and great variety of hot/cold mezes. Try a glass of Raki to complement. Overall experience was damn good.”
Turkey’s favourite beer is “Efes Pilsener”. It is a very dry and light pilsner with hints of bread, nuts, and grain. Didn’t have very much luck with wines in Turkey as such I stuck to Rosés - the food pairing possibilities for rosés are almost endless. Once or twice I enjoyed a small glass of "Raki" too (the unsweetened, anise-flavored alcoholic drink.)