Istanbul has to be one of my favourite cities I’ve visited. There is literally so much to see and do in Istanbul, I visited this city for seven days with my family as there were nine of us on holiday. However, I think staying 3-4 days is enough to cover all the main attractions and places as we managed to cover all the main areas of the city within a short space of time.
However, looking back probably missed out on seeing a couple of small areas, as Istanbul is that huge to travel around. This city is divided into two Europes and Asia across the Bosphorus sea, where in Europe you will find all the modern cultural environment, shops, attractions and in Asia side you will find Turkish very own old traditional attractions and stores.
I loved exploring the city, even if you got lost wondering if there were people so friendly willing to help you get back on the road by asking any questions and it is such a colourful vibrant place. By the time we left the Ataturk Airport, we could see how clean and colourful the city really is.
Most importantly, allow yourself time to explore all the places you want either by having a list printed off or on your device with you at all times, so when you’re out each day you can tick off all the places you’ve visited. Makes it less stressful to try to remember each restaurant or attraction you want to see.
Day 1 in Istanbul
On our first day, we arrived in Istanbul pretty tired as our flight was very early morning from Heathrow with BA at 10 am. I arrived there via the tube pretty early 3/4 hours before the flight, therefore I just explored around the shops like Harrods and other major stores within terminal 5 before heading to check in.
As we boarded our flight, we managed to arrive in Istanbul 4:30 PM turkey time as there were two hours ahead of us in London, we stumbled across a huge queue of people in hundreds going through security. Coming out of the airport check-in it literally took us two hours to get out as there were so many planes landing at the same time as us, which made the queue longer.
Luckily I managed to book our transportation of 7 people ahead of time via istanbulairporttaxis.com. Who was quick to arrange our pick up at our hotel in Sirecki, once we arrived there at the arrival terminal there had my name on display, from there on we got shown to our pick up vehicle.
The following day, we started off with our Turkish breakfast served from our hotel which was not too bad as we had plenty of cheese, jam, fruits, eggs, cereals and hot drinks to choose from. Thereon, we started off our tour of the city as we first covered all the nearby attractions likes of Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern and Gulhane Park were within our footsteps from where we stayed at. Then to end our day we took the boat across the Bosphorus sea to the Asia side to see the ‘Maiden Tower’.
Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)
The Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, is one of Istanbul’s most iconic historical buildings and an essential part of Istanbul’s skyline with its six magnificent minarets.
The mosque is well known and posted online on social media by many tourist thousand times. The beautiful thing about this mosque is you get to hear the *Azaan*, call to prayers five times a day heard out loud. There do have a section for women to pray for and the men at the front. However, during prayer times, visitors are not allowed to go inside the main hall until the prayers are completed.
Want to know some interesting facts about the Blue Mosque heading over to Istanbul Tour Studio
The Hagia Sophia, which means “holy wisdom,” is a domed monument originally built as a cathedral in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) in the sixth century A.D. It has two floors centred on a giant nave that has a great dome ceiling, along with smaller domes, towering above. For the best views to capture the interior designs of the museum is from the second floor. As you basically oversee the museum, which looks truly stunning from the top. However, one thing to note is that Hagia Sophia is not open on Mondays.
Open daily between 09:00 – 17:00 except on Tuesdays. During the summer period, it has longer opening hours (until 19:00 usually) and might be open 7 days a week, depending on the high tourist request. Currently, admission to the palace costs 40 TLs for adults and another 25 TLs for the Harem.
Istanbul Tour Guide has provided some interesting facts and what you should not miss about the Hagia Sophia, which you check out below.
The Topkapi Palace is the biggest and one of the most popular sites to visit in Istanbul. It was built between 1466 and 1478 by the Sultan Mehmet II on top of a hill on a small peninsula, dominating the Golden Horn to the north, the Sea of Marmara to the south, and the Bosphorus Strait to the northeast, with great views of the Asian side as well. The palace was the political centre of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries until they built Dolmabahce Palace by the waterside.
The opening hours during the summer period are from 9 am to 4:45 pm. Your last chance to grab a ticket will be by 4 pm as the ticket office will be closed. Please note that the palace is closed on Tuesday, no matter what the season is. The ticket price cost 40 TLs to enter here. If you also want to visit the Harem part, there’s another added 25 TLs to enter. Unless you have a museum pass it is valid to enter both.
Scared items from the historic times
A sacred sword used during the old times of the prophets
Statue of black stone from the holiest place in Saudi Arabia ‘Makkah’ (Mecca)
This palace is a must visit when visiting Istanbul, as there are so many historic Islamic pieces to see and witness of our prophets including his clothing, swords and other historic items. You can easily spend up to three to four hours here, so make sure to take a map or have a list of everything you would like to cover.
Open daily between 09:00 – 17:00 except on Tuesdays. During the summer period, it has longer opening hours (until 19:00 usually) and might be open 7 days a week, depending on the high tourist ask. The museum shuts to visitors during the morning of the first day of religious holidays. Currently, admission to the palace costs 40 TLs for adults and another 25 TLs for the Harem.
Topkapi Palace has some interesting facts and certain spots, which you do not want to miss out on.
Head over to the Istanbul Studio Tour to gain some interesting insight from the Topkapi Palace.
The Maiden Tower is located off the coast of the Salacak neighbourhood in Üsküdar district, at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus.
View from the boat of the Bosphorus sea
The Maiden Tower is a popular place known, it has a fantastic restaurant which offers 360-degree views of the Bosphorus and the old city, especially at night with the night lights. There are several shuttle boats going to the tower at certain times from Kabatas neighbourhood on the European side of Istanbul and from Salacak neighbourhood on the Asian side. You do need to pay to go across to the Maiden Tower, although as we were all tired on that day we just walked across the river and saw the Maiden Tower from the edge.
I did spot people shooting balloons as part of their activities as they were floating around the river, where people had a go with a gun aiming to pop as many balloons as possible.
If you are visiting the Maiden Tower are shut down on Mondays.
I have uploaded a Turkey travel vlog below from my day one visit. I’ll be uploading more parts very soon till then enjoy!
Thanks for reading my blog post. I hope you all have benefited and now know where to visit when touring Istanbul. I shall upload the next part very soon.
Feel free to leave your comments below, what you think of Istanbul and what you like to see in my next blog post.