Why did I choose Turkey?
My best friend has got a habit of checking Trip Advisor’s top destinations and attractions. In 2015, Istanbul was rated the top European city to visit. Turkey as a whole has never really been on ‘top of my list’ of places to go.
My friend was adamant on taking a trip to Turkey and taking me with him. It didn’t take long until I was convinced and agreed to book my 10 day trip to Istanbul, Cappadocia and Didim. (Be sure to take a read of my separate blog entry for Cappadocia).
I have got to say, this has been one of my favourite countries to visit; it has a very interesting culture, it is full of history and has many things to do/see. We visited the city for 5 days in total. Check out our daily itinerary:
Day 1 (we arrived in the afternoon):
- Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)
- Hagia Sophia
- Arasta Bazaar
We didn’t have long until sunset, so we thought we’d check out the accessibility from our hotel to the centre of the city. We used the super easy and cheap tram system.
The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Arasta Bazaar were within walking distances of each other. The nearest tram stop to these is Sultanahmet.
We didn’t have time go inside the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia, but it really was stunning and mind-blowing to see two of Istanbul’s greatest attractions on our first night. The Arasta Bazaar is a unique little market place where you can buy all sorts of little trinkets for souvenirs and gifts.
- Blue Mosque – Built between 1609 and 1616, this really is a stunningly beautiful building. It is free to visit.The queues may seem very long, but we found that it went quite quickly.
- Hagia Sophia – Before I came here, I didn’t know much about the Hagia Sophia. This building was originally a Church, which then got converted into a Mosque and it is now a Museum. Ticket price is 40TL (which is roughly £9.50). It is open 09:00-19:00 in the summer and 09:00-17:00 in the winter.
- Topkapi Palace – The grounds of this palace are huge! There are lots of different buildings and mini exhibitions to enjoy here. It is within walking distance from the Hagia Sophia. Ticket price was 40TL (around £9.50) and 25TL (£5.90) extra to visit the Harem . Open every day except Tuesdays, 09:00-16:45 in the winter and 09:00-18:45 in the summer.
TIP: Visiting the Blue Mosque – Ladies cover your hair, shoulders and legs. Guys, cover your shoulders and legs. We took “genie pants” in our bags and pulled them over our shorts and I carried a light scarf in my bag.You will be asked to take off your shoes and put in plastic bags provided at the entrance (free of charge).
- Dolmabahce Palace – This is probably the best palace I have visited so far. Fantastic grounds and views across the Bosphorus River and beautifully kept rooms with original antiques and chandeliers. You are given a guided tour, which is really informative and interesting. Kabatas is the nearest tram stop here.Open 09:00-15:00 everyday except Monday and Thursday. It costs 20TL (roughly £4.70).
- Taksim Square – Taksim Square is home to many different designer shops and many protests are held here (we experienced one when we visited). I will be honest, there isn’t much to really to do here other than shopping.
- Galata Tower – A must see to get amazing city scape photos! Built in 1348 with a balcony at the top offering 360 views of the city. It only cost 18.50TL (about £4.40). Opening hours are 09:00-20:30 everyday.
- Basilica Cistern – A wondeful and interesting place, you really get the feel of the Greek/Turkish cross over here in its history. This is the largest cistern in Istanbul. Cost 20TL (around £4.70) and is open 09:00-19:00 in the summer and 09:00-16:00 in the winter. Open everyday.
- Bosphorus River Cruise – A must-do to see the Bosphorus Bridge (the famous bridge that connects Europe to Asia) from different angles and get great photos. As you approach the docks by the Bosphorus River you will see lots of stalls and people on the streets selling river cruises. A guy caught our attention, we were slightly dubious at first, as we didn’t know whether it was a trusted, well establish company or if we were being robbed. We risked it and paid anyway were told to sit in a small people carrier and wait. So we did and we noticed more tourists joining us. The guy took us to the dock where our boat was, and it was an incredible cruise. There was no guide to tell us about the monuments or buildings, but the sights and length of the cruise (about 1.5 hours) was pretty impressive.
- SEA LIFE Istanbul Aquarium – Because – why not? Plus my friend had free tickets to go.
- Jurassic Land – We stumbled across this and thought it looked really cool and it was! It cost 28TL (around £6.60).
- Chora Church – We really struggled to find this Church as it was located in the back streets of a suburban area and there were no sign posts. This lead us to almost giving up and not visiting this place altogether, but once we found it, we were so glad we didn’t miss it! Open 09:00-19:00 in the summer and 09:00-16:30 in the winter. It only cost 15TL (about £3.50).
- Suleymaniye Mosque – I actually preferred this to the Blue Mosque. Personally, I thought the inside interior was much more spectacular. Free of charge and open everyday.
- Grand Bazaar – The oldest and largest covered markets in the world, the Grand Bazaar is really easy to get lost in, but it is incredible and definitely worth the experience!
TIP: Visiting Suleymaniye Mosque – Ladies cover your hair, shoulders and legs. Guys, cover your shoulders and legs.
Total Costs (Based on Adult Prices):
- Hagia Sophia 40TL (£9.50)
- Topkapi Palace 40TL (£9.50) + 25TL (£5.90)
- Dolmabahce Palace 20TL (£4.70)
- Galata Tower 18.50 (£4.40)
- Basilica Cistern 20TL (£4.70)
- Jurassic Land 28TL (£6.60)
- Chora Church 15TL (£3.50)
Total: 181.5 TL (£42.76)
£42.76! That was just to get us into the main attractions (excluding Bosphorus Cruise, as I cannot remember how much we paid for this). I haven’t got the exact costs of transport or food, but I assure you these were very cheap too. So, if you’re travelling on a budget, but want lots to see – Istanbul is the place to go!