Travel Guide to Istanbul, Turkey

Hey! If you’re following me on Instagram you’ve probably seen that we got back from our trip from Istanbul, Turkey a couple of months ago. So this is a bit of a long overdue blog post, I know.  As it was a last-minute getaway, we didn’t really get to plan our trip thoroughly, but these mistakes did give us a few insightful tips to share with you all in my Istanbul travel guide. Mind you, the trip was still pretty amazing! Here are a few pointers to help you plan your own trip to Istanbul.

Istanbul is a city which was proclaimed the capital of the Ottoman Empire in 1453. The city straddles both Europe and Asia and has some iconic sights including the Galata Tower and the Galata Bridge which spans the Golden Horn. It has both a European side and an Asian side.

Booking flights and hotels in Istanbul

For the flights, we booked with Turkish Airlines (no real preference here tbh) and the 4-hour flight was pretty good – the TV’s were in working order, comfy seats and food was OK too. Plus there was a very nice dedicated area in the back of the plane for praying.

Visas are pretty easy and fuss free to get from the airport while you’re checking in (that’s what we did anyway). It cost us £15 per person at the airport, it may be cheaper to arrange visas online though. You can get a one month multiple entry e-visa from the Turkish government website.

For hotels,  I would say not to compromise as a good or bad nights sleep can determine the mood the next day. You don’t want to ruin your trip because you’re tired! We researched into hotels for some time and because we wanted to stay in a central location we chose ‘The Marmara – Taksim’. For anyone that has already been to the city, you will know that Taksim Square is like the Piccadilly Circus of Istanbul and is situated on the European side of the city. Plus the local food places here were amazing. No frills Turkish food. Another good reason for choosing The Marmara was that I’d read some really good reviews of the spa and was looking forward to a great Hammam!

A lot of people do also stay in Sultanahmet – where the Blue Mosque, Aya Sophia and other great historical palaces are but both places are so close (literally a tram stop away) that it doesn’t matter if you stay in either, you’ll still be in a great spot for sightseeing. If you wants to walk it’s around 60 minutes walk between the two and you can stop and sightsee on the way.

Sightseeing and Shopping in Istanbul

THE BEST PART OF THE TRIP!!! I love seeing the culture of a place like a local instead of a tourist – you get to see the hidden gems! Places like the Blue Mosque and Aya Sophia were on my list to see before I left, but for the rest of the trip I tried to visit places that were a little less touristy and more towards the culture of Istanbul. The Grand Bazaar was also high on my list to visit, although I found the areas/streets surrounding the Grand Bazaar more pretty and picturesque then it was. While we toured (aka got lost) in the streets of Sultanahmet we found some peaceful and beautiful spots to enjoy.

Although shopping in Istanbul could have been limitless we knew we had to keep a limit due to our baggage allowance. I do recommend to pack as light as possible as (like me) you will be doing a lot of shopping. I could only wish that I could bring all the Baklava and Turkish Delight my heart desired back with me.

Food in Istanbul

With food, although I’m not too fussy, I did prefer eating real Turkish food out there. Although, don’t be fooled by the big restaurants where the decor is great but the food not so. We did end up finding a few really good local places towards the end of the trip though so I do suggest you check out some of the local places. One of my favourite places was a tiny takeaway just around the corner from our hotel which didn’t have any space to sit down but the food was amazing!

Do let me know if you’ve been to the city and what you thought? Or if you think I’ve missed something out 🙂

If you’ve enjoyed my Istanbul travel guide, check out some of my other travel posts. Discover my tips for long haul flights when pregnant.

Happy reading x

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