Ten Must-Do Things in Istanbul

I will make a disclaimer here. I will post one Today’s Outfit picture for the whole post. Apparently, in all of my pictures, I look like I was wearing a same getup. Another disclaimer: this will be a picture-heavy article. I hope you don’t mind one little article of travel amongst all the beauty and fashion necessities!

Recently, I had the wonderful chance to take a short vacation to Istanbul this last December. It was one of the best destinations I have ever been, hands down. I went to Turkey for 5 days, four of which were spent in Istanbul. Rich with culture and history, the huge city, populated by 14 million people, is one of the places you should go before you die.

Istanbul has hundreds of good sights to go, and here I list my Top Ten best things in the city. Some of them are standard in any tour itinerary, some other, may not be. I will stick to just Istanbul, although excursions to outside the city also offer great things to do as well. The list here is in no particular order.

1. Be awed in Haghia Sophia

Oh, of course. This is my number one sight to see. The former church-turned-mosque-turned-museum is a majestic structure, as magnificent as the city itself.  Pictures and video recordings do not do justice to this place. You just have to see it in person to fully appreciate its beauty. The next time I have the chance to visit Istanbul again, I would spend a whole day inside Haghia Sophia and take pictures of every corner possible!

2. Indulge in Spice Market

Also known as Mısır Çarşısı or the Egyptian Bazaar, it is called so because some of the spices come from Egypt. The Spice Market sells spices (obviously), caviar, cheese, Turkish Delight and souvenirs. The combination of the different stores brings together a colorful sight for the eye. I like this place much, much better than the too-crowded Grand Bazaar, where the sellers are pushier and on-your-face at every step. Take pictures of the spice and Turkish Delight shelves and see how pretty they come in the frames. Don’t forget to haggle, nothing should be at fixed price at the market. Beware of the sugar rush, after tasting so much Turkish Delight delicacies!

3. Visit the Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque)

Its popularity rivaled only by Haghia Sophia. This royal mosque is distinct with its six minarets and blue interior, built by the Sultan Ahmed. A tip: there’s no line for prayers, while the line for visitors could be long. If you’re a Muslim, consider taking one of your daily prayers there!

4. Visit the Topkapı Palace

This palace houses museums of the Ottoman Empire, where you can see its regal clothing, throne, jewelries, as well as the relics of Islam (beard of the Prophet Muhammad is showcased here), among other things. Of the four courtyards, the last courtyard offers a spot for you to take a picture of two continents, Europe and Asia, in one frame. Istanbul is probably the only place in the world that allows you to do that!

Europe on your left and Asia on your right.


5. Eat Köfte at Sultanahmet Köftecisi

Köfte, or Turkish meatball, is a must-try while in Turkey. Sultanahmet Köftecisi at the Sultanahmet Square has been the destination for Köfte since 1920. Lines are long in the lunch and dinner times. If you plan to have a meal there, consider going in the off hours of regular meals. Take a table by the window on the top floor.

6. Eat Kebap with a view at Hamdi Restaurant

Hamdi Restaurant, near the Rustem Pasha Mosque, is the place to get your kebap while indulging in the view of the Bosphorus Strait. I recommend you make your reservation several days ahead, for a table on the glass-covered top floor. Reserve your table during daytime, between noon and 15:00, when the full menu selection is available. I made the mistake of not making a reservation so I can’t really show you the view. Sorry!

7. Take the Bosphorus Cruise across to Asian side

Take the one-hour cruise to go to the Asian side of Istanbul, and don’t forget to grab a seat facing the European side of the city.  As you cruise along the Bosphorus Strait, indulge in the breathtaking view. That might be the best 15 Turkish Lira you would ever spend!

8. Feel like a princess inside the Dolmabahçe Sarayı

Dolmabahçe Palace (Sarayı is Turkish for “palace”) is a mix of Baroque and Rococo styles, together with hints of Ottoman flair. The sarayı reminds you of the typical European palaces, with gilded ceilings and huge Baccarat chandeliers. This is built relatively recent (in the 19th Century) and was the palace of the latest Sultans, as well as the living quarter of Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of Turkey. You know how you imagine what a princess palace would be? This is your imagination come true. With its grand ceremonial hall, elaborate interior and windows as tall as the walls. The Palace opens at 9:00 and make the effort to be there early, or else the lines will be very long. The day of my visit was very cloudy. It was raining and pretty cold too, I apologize for the dark ambience of the pictures.

9. Have an Ottoman lunch at Çamlıca Hill

Çamlıca Hill is at the highest spot of Istanbul at the Asian side. Come to Çamlıca Sosyal Tesisleri for lunch. Dine on the gold rounded table and order one of their Turkish main courses. I had vegetable-filled steak and my Indonesian tongue agreed with the taste. Don’t forget to also have the Turkish Tea. It is truly a favorite drink of the Turks, as they drink the tea all the time, sometimes five times a day!

10.  Have Baklava at Karaköy Güllüoğlu

There are hundreds of places offering Baklava. But Karaköy Güllüoğlu, at the Karaköy district, is the most famous one, even people outside of Istanbul flock to this place for a box or two of the world-famous Baklava. Baklava travels well as it does not get bad easily. If you plan to bring some home, buy it the night before you leave the country.

And of couse, you gotta post some sort of Today’s Outfit, right? Here is what I wore during my visit in Istanbul.

I was wearing Bossini camel overcoat (a loaner from one of our members silvershore_lake because my other coats were already snatched by my sisters who were also on vacation to another winter climate), black Express denim ankle-zippered jegging, taupe knee-high boots I bought in Istanbul, a pair of Chanel shades and a black Kate Spade fluffy bag. Yes, I change the sweater underneath every day :D

I hope you enjoy the post. I love Istanbul and I enjoyed every second I spent there. Hope to write another travel article!