by Andrew | Published on June 25, 2017


Founded on Seven Hills like Rome, did you know Istanbul is the only city in the world that has foot in both Europe and Asia geographically? Yes, Kind of like gateway into both continent. The ancient capital of so many empires of the the past, including the Ottoman era.

Highlight for us has got to be Panoramic view from the Galata Tower, Grand Bazaar market with it spices & Tea, trip to the “Old” to witness some of the most exquisite mosques that Ottoman empire left behind, like the Blue Mosque. But the The Basilica Cistern Blew me away, never seen anything like it in real life. More on this in our Itinerary below.

One skill you must sharpen before you go is your haggling skills.
We are going to share with you little tricks we used for haggling over menu prices with Savvy waiters at the galata bridge restaurants who would take advantage if they percieve you as a foreigner. And also the scheduled times you must know before visiting some of the main attractions.

Day One

And The Adventure Begins

In 2014 we took a trip to one of the greatest cities on the planet. Also happend to coincide with a friend’s wedding so win win all round. Ana had been there before, years ago and always enthused about how much she loved the city, so ofcourse we had to visit and experience the city fully.

We arrived in Istanbul in mid September. Compared the weather to London, it was still very warm and nice to feel the sun again! With all that holiday excitment in the air we waste no time woking up early next morning and went explore the city.

Little background, We were staying in Beyoğlu district which is in the so called “new city”of the European side of Istanbul. The Golden Horn (an inlet of the Bosphorus river) separates the European Istanbul in the new and the old city. You canl see the Anatolian side (Asian side) on the other side of the river: this is where the friend’s wedding took place.

Istiklal Morning Roads


Convenietly, on our first day we found out that you can get your breakfast on the move if you are like us and not patient enough to seat and have a proper breakfast. Lots of the local shops offer freshly squeezed juices for ₺3 (less than $1!).

Istiklal Caddesi is one of the main streets of the new side of the city. It’s kind of looks a lot like most of the commercial roads you will see in many European cities. And ofcours you dol find your familiar brands and coffee shops all around.

Our fist stop was Galata Tower. It took us a while to find ourselves on the map, but once you know where you are, it is relatively easy to move around. We arrived there quite early as the queues can be very long and the top balcony just overcrowded, so our tip: make this your first visit of the day! The Tower opens daily from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm (7.00 pm in summer) & there is an admission fee.

Panoramic View from the Galata Tower

The Galata Tower was initially used to spot fires in the city. Today, hundreds of visitors enjoy the 360-degree panoramic vista of Istanbul from the Galata Tower which by the way is absolutely stunning. It was the tallest tower in Istanbul at the time, dominating the skyline since 1348.

Next stop, we went down to explore the old city and stopped at the Galata Bridge for lunch. The Galata Bridge is full of restaurants where the savvy waiters will try to lure you in there own creative ways. Our advice: walk to the other side of the river and back before you choose or decided on a restaurant and when you do: haggle over the menu prices – these are highly inflated and you can get a good& fair deal if you negotiate well.

Old City

An amazing lunch over by the river, we head over to the “old city” where Rustem Pasha Mosqueis located. Apparently some people call it “a miniature of the Blue Mosque”- it is truly unique: Don´t be deceived by its small size, it is one of the most exquisite mosques that the Ottoman Empire left behind: The blue classical Iznik tiles and their geometrical shapes are simply beautiful. Visitors are welcomed everyday from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm (excluding praying times) and although the entrance is free, donations are welcome.

Grand Bazaar surroundings


You will find the Grand Bazaar in the same area:one of the oldest and biggest covered Bazaars in the world where spices, tea, lanterns, all sir of turkish souvenirs, jewellery, bags…the list of things you can find is endless! top tips: 1) haggle for everything at the Bazaar! by the end of your trip you will have become a master! 2) try the apple tea. It is commonly offered in Turkey needless to say, it is delicious!

After sun down we thought the best way to mark our first day in Istanbul was to explore the night life, no better place than at Reina and what an excellent choice! It is a bit pricey but definitely worth it! Fantastic venue and as the weather was still quite warm, the terrace was full, the atmosphere was amazing and the view is stunning!

Day Two

Dinner @ Wedding Venue


We cross the river by boat to go to the Anatolian side where the friend of ours were having there Wedding. Wedding locationat Hayal Kahvesi, Çubuklu, Istanbul, Turkey. All guests arrived by boat and the ceremony and dinner took place by the river. The atmosphere, weather, food, cocktails…everything was perfect.Still Ranked as one of the top three weedings I have been to in my humble opinion.

We were having such a great time but forgot to take too many pictures but we would like to share a few of the boat and our outfit with you!


Day Three

Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque SultanAhmet Camii and Hagia Sophia Museum Ayasofya Müzesi are found in Sultanahmet District and are mirroring each other. They are both S•P•E•C•T•A•C•U•L•A•R! You can stand in front of them and admire at their magnificence beauty all day, truley incredible masterpiece.


Why is it called the Blue Mosque if it is not blue? You have to go inside and see the blue tiles around the walls to understand the bluish effect.


Built at the beginning of the XVII century under Sultan Ahmed I (hence its name) reign to reaffirm Ottoman power, it designed not only to be a Mosque but a social gathering place. It construction was quite controversial as Sultan Ahmed I had to won significant battles and had to use Treasury funds for its construction which infuriated the ulama (Islamic jurists).


The entrance is free and you will have to be aware of

  • Dress code: cover your shoulders head (if you are a male) and knees (if you are a female) – you will be provided with ropes and head scarfs before you entry,

  • Queue up and avoid people offering you to jump the queue, they will possibly try to sell you something,

  • This is still a Mosque so you will not able to visit it during praying times unless you want to pray too. Praying times are spread out through the day, you will have plenty of opportunities to visit – we did not plant this last point well and had to come back a few times as always arrived at praying times (time table)

Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) is Ana´s favourite place in Istanbul and she uses the words like “beautifu” and“majestic”to describe it.

First built as a Basilica (Church) under Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in 532, it was dedicated to the Wisdom of God. The Basilica made a huge impression on the Ottomans who decided to keep it but converting it into an Ottoman Mosque when Constantinople was conquered by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453. Many references to Christianity were either destroyedor replaced with Islamic features. It remained as a Mosque until 1931 when it was closed. Reopened again in 1935 by the Republic of Turkey, it can be visited (for a fee – more than worth it!) as a Museum.


Two of the eight wooden medallions that were added to Hagia Sophia by the Ottomans.


After an intense morning visiting SultanAhmed crown jewels Lunch time @ SultanAhmet District. Not recomended unless you are very hungry and don’t mind poor qaulity food. Like most touristic places, food here were very overpriced and the quality is poor. No positive experience to be had here but perhaps you’ve explore the surrounding and find some local amazing place you can recommend: please share it with us and our readers on the comments below!

We spend the afternoon around Sulthan Ahmed district. Just when you think you have seen the most impressive architecture pieces already more surprises just around the corner. Beneath this spectaular if not more – There is a hidden gem in this districs, you wouldn’t see unless you have done your homework and know what you are looking for: The Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı). I was blown away by this master piece of the Justinian empire that is hidden underground.


Located in the South West of Hagia Sophia, a 52 step walk will lead you down to the Cisterns. The structure is incredibly well maintained. Their columns are of very varied styles which suggests that they may have been brought from ruins of other buildings. An ancient tales and legends will narrate how the Devil was kept beneath Hagia Sophia whereas others will relate to how the priest kept christian relics hidden here when the Ottomans conquered the city.

What we do know is that the Cisterns provided filtered water and water storage to the Great Palace of Constantinople (and others) first and the Topkapi Palace later.

One of the main features is the gorgon upside-down two Medusa Heads. You will not be turned int stone this time but may wonder why there were pagan reference in the underground of a Christian place. Some historians believe that the upside-down deploy of pagan symbols was a way for early Christians to reclaim other religious believes…


Sultan & Sultana for one day!


Just before we made our way back to Beyoğlu, we stopped at SultanAhmet Obelisks.

The Obelisk of Theodosius I is the most famous Obelisk and oldest monument you can find in Istanbul. Originally erected at the temple of Karnak (Egypt) was transported throughout the Nile river by emperor Theodosius I to decorate its Hippodrome.

The Egyptian inscriptions on each side of the Obelisk celebrates Thutmosis III’s victory (“Lord of Jubilees”) “Crossing the Great Circle of Naharina in valor and victory at the head of his army, making great slaughter…”


After a long day discovering the master pieces and hidden gems of the old city, we went back to Beyoğlu, got some kebab from one of the many kebab shops you find on your way to Taksim Square (heart of the modern Istanbul) and enjoyed a relaxing warm evening.

Day Four

Topkapi Palace Museum

Topkapi Palace Museum TopkapıSarayıMüzesi was Built in a exclusive location, Sutan Mehmed II ordered to build the Palace on top of Byzantine ruins.

You can go for a walk around the outer Palace gardens before your visit, which is free and open to the public.

We accessed through the Gate of Salutation, entrance to the Second Courtyard of the Topkapi Palace. The population of the Palace could raised up to 10,000 during festivities. Although the architecture is mainly eastern european, each Sultan would add a piece during its reign.

After visiting the Topkapi palace we went back to Beyoglu for Lunch @ Parole Cafe | Restaurant | Lounge (more info here). To be honest, the quality of the food is good and varied but it is a bit overpriced compared to other good quality restaurants around the old city. No point trying haggling here, it more western approach“here is your bill”style.and Shopping in Istiklal Caddesi.

Back to our apartment for a quick change of clothes and back out again to have dinner @ 360 Istanbul – highly recommended. It is a hidden upper scale restaurant with weekend DJ in Beyoglu. An up scale venue so remember to book in advance just in case the restaurant is bully booked!

Day Five

The Prince Islands

We left the The Prince Islands: Adalar for our last day. These is an archipelago formed by nine quite small islands in the Sea of Marmara. We only visited Adalar, although we stop on two of the islands. You could see people relaxing by the sea. This are islands where people are living and working in the mainland come to relax at the weekend. In fact, there are no cars (apart from ambulances and official cars) in these islands! So how do people move around? bikes and carriages, like in the old times…

Our first recommendation: you do not need to book a tour for this excursion. Buy your ferry tickets and go to Kabataş which is easily accessible on public transportation. Our second recommendation: get on an early ferry. It will take a full day to visit the island(s) and you don’t want to miss the last ferry!

We accessed through the Gate of Salutation, entrance to the Second Courtyard of the Topkapi Palace. The population of the Palace could raised up to 10,000 during festivities. Although the architecture is mainly eastern european, each Sultan would add a piece during its reign.

we arrived at Büyükada

Burgazadasi, Heibeiada…these are views from the ferry of two of the islands we left behind And finally we arrived at Büyükada, the largest and most visited island.

And finally, back to the mainland on the ferry to enjoy the beautiful views of Istanbul before the sun disappeared…

See you soon again Istanbul!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons