With my flight being delayed and long passport line, I was only able to spend about 24 hours in Istanbul, Turkey and surprisingly it was enough to explore a good bit of the city in a day. I heard such great thing about this country, culture, and it's 5 stars hospitality, I had to check out what the hype is all about. First thing first, I started my day early – maybe around 8 AM and got going!
One of the most popular tourist sites in Istanbul is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or mostly known, Blue Mosque. It was the first spot I went to start my day. Before entering the building, you will be given a bag for your shoes and a cover up to enter the building. I was in complete awed once I entered the building because of all the stained glass windows, multiple chandeliers, and all the natural lighting
Then I walked over to Hagia Sophia which is right next to The Blue Mosque, I was pleasantly surprised how close they were to each other. Entering The Blue Mosque was free however you have to pay roughly around 58 lira to go inside Hagia Sophia. This building was one of my favorite part of the trip because of its history and architecture. It was once an Orthodox Cathedral, to Mosque to now a museum. You can book a guided tour or audio but I just wing it and read all the available signs that they have.
After visiting Hagia Sophia, we made our way to the Grand Bazaar – it was about a 10-minute walk. There are multiple ways to gain entry into the bazaar but it can be very confusing when you are trying to leave, I felt like I was in a maze when we were walking around. We first got lured and trapped into a rug warehouse right when we entered the Grand Bazaar and was completely in entranced with of all the carpets. I initially ask the price of an item to see what the price range would be. I felt really bad once the vendor pulled out all the carpets for me and then quoted me up to a thousand per rug! The one that was on display in the entrance was around 50-100 USD. Luckily my friend found something he liked and after a friendly transaction, we again walk endlessly into the shopping area. After being stopped multiple time by several different vendors, we began to lose interest since everything seemed the same as we walked through the bazaar. I did find some good deals on plates, bowls, and lots of souvenirs though. So my visit to the bazaar wasn’t a total lost.
*everything here is negotiable – don’t feel so bad leaving with a nice cat statue for 15 USD or even turkish delight for 14 USD
We grabbed a late lunch and decided to go on a ferry ride via the Bosphorus cruise. We were really lucky to catch one right before it’s departure and hopped right on board, however, I was pretty disappointed by the cruise since there was no tour guide or any sort of audio to listen to about all the iconic buildings/views that we saw during the ride. It was about an hour and a half ride with just views to keep you company. It may have been just the ferry I’ve been on because I a few announcements on others.
This area is more hip than the other few attractions. More of a younger crowd and party area. The line for the tower maybe a bit long but with how the lively people and music, the wait won’t see too long.
Airport Madness- I will have to say though that getting to Istanbul was rather hectic. My flight was delayed by three hours and going through the airport (IST) was insane! No sort of organization and no helpful staff what so ever. Here’s a helpful tip. Once you get off your plane, go directly to Passport Control 1 (Other Nationalities); Passport Control 2 is typically closed. Passport Control can be pretty long and bit aggravating when there’s a long line, no air circulation, and pushy people. I flew in there twice and the first time, it took me a little over three hours to just exit the airport. The second time I was able to breeze through the line but my luggage never made it to my flight.
Download- Bitaksi – it’s pretty much like Uber or Lyft except it’s legal here.
Places to go:
My time was short in Istanbul but below are a few places a lot of friends recommended.
- Unfortunately, Topkapi Palace was closed on the day we went so we had to skip that. I know sad face. 🙁
- Spice Market
- Dolmabahce Palace
- Terebatan Sarnicl
- Archeological Museum
- Princess Island (4th Island)
- Basilica Cistern
- Turkish Bathhouse
- Taksim Square
Where I Stayed:
I got an Airbnb and it’s relatively pretty cheap staying here. Depending on your ‘needs’, it can range between $25-75 USD. I stayed around Sultanahmet area since it’s near most of the attractions.