Istanbul: a photo essay

28 Jun 2013

A small glimpse into our recent adults-only trip to Istanbul. We had never been there but were pleasantly surprised by its beauty, contrasts and lovely people. We got to see the Asian side as well as the more touristic European side as we met an old friend from university who showed us around her area.

A few tips before I let you enjoy the photos. 

What to bring? 
Two Europeans entering Turkey had different visa requirements, believe it or not. I didn't have to pay or get anything special but P (with his Portuguese passport) had to pay for a visa! The prices are different for different countries too. The visa is just a little stamp they give you at the airport for a fee. An ID card was enough for me (France: no passport required). So, check before you go.

Where to stay?  
Adahan Hotel in the heart of the Galata district. It is a recently and lovingly restorated building. Everything is simple, pure and custom made. The emphasis is on the natural materials. All lampshades, for example, were made out of handmade paper by local artists. The view from the breakfast room on top is amazing. You are 2 feet away from a busy shopping street and an area full of restaurants as well as the Galata tunnel to take you to the main sights of the old Istanbul.

What to see?
The Blue Mosque (ornate yet simple and beautiful interior), of course, the bazaars (our preferred one was the Egyptian one for reasons described below). Our highlights were the Topkapi Palace and the Basilica Cistern. The Palace is a grand palace packed with locals and tourists alike on warm summer days. Arrive early to avoid queues. It is a quite expensive, especially if you want to see the harem too (well worth it), but it is a great day out. The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. It was built in the 6th century to supply and store water for the palace. It is a great break from the hot sun too!

What to eat? 
Baklava (pistachio or other nuts sugar-loaded pastries), mezze (array of small dishes), but also cheeses (fetas of all kinds, mostly served for breakfast), and of course, Turkish delights (much nicer than many of the ones sold abroad).

Where to eat? 
Being childless, we took full opportunity to enjoy nice restaurants. Three that stood out were:
- Pa┼čazade (in the Sultanahmet area): typical Ottoman cuisine. Mezze are delicious to try a little bit of everything and the arap tava (beef mince on a bed of hummus) is surprisingly delicious. Great and friendly service too.
- Sahan: This is a chain. There are about 5 restaurants in Istanbul This may not be the place where tourists go. It is more of a family restaurants full of locals. But it is a great place with some real typical Turkish food. We had a full feast there and everything was amazing. Our favourite was the aubergine hummus and the walnuts, pomegranate and tomato salad.

What to avoid? 
Not respecting the locals. Entering the blue mosque with your shoes and nothing to cover your head (if you are a woman) is stupid, in my opinion! Yet, there were so many Europeans behaving that way.

What to buy?
Spices. We love cooking and spices were a great buy. The Egyptian bazaar and the streets around it are actually better to buy teas, spices and food items than the Grand Bazaar. We brought back several kinds of 'biber' (aka peppers), cumin, and Turkish saffron (less tasty than the original and expensive Iranian one but still colourful). 

What not to worry about? 
Security is not an issue. We felt safe even in the busy bazaars. Of course, use common sense and hang on to your belongings in such busy places. But even walking alone, I had no problem.

What to do next?
Buy your ticket and go! This is one place we will definitely go again.

1 comment

  1. Great pictures and information on traveling to Istanbul.There are some useful information on weather,best time to travel, how to reach , events & festival in Istanbul which can be found at .


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