Date: 26 Sep 19
Sabiha Gokcen Airport
city guide: istanbul
Istanbul is Turkey's most populated city and the countries financial hub. Istanbul is located close to the North-Western border of this hugely vast country and is the only city in the world which sits across two different continents. Easily accessible to fly to from most major cities around Europe, it is a popular destination for those looking for a short getaway.
Istanbul has so much to offer with a history dating back to the 11th and 13th centuries BC. Human settlement in Istanbul occurred thanks to the unique Bosporus strait that runs through the center of the city, leading to the Black sea. The Bosporus, therefore, made this location desirable for habitation due to accessibility of fish, traded products and ability to create levy tolls to cross the strait. Now in the 21st century, the popular Bosporus strait has created a distinctive but positively unique divide of the city which is referred to as the European side and Asian side.
The Asia side is classified as the oldest Industrial side, with buzzing bars, clubs and restaurants. On the European side lies the magnificent Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Mosque and museum, and wonderful architect that dates back to the 16th century.
Istanbul is growing as a popular destination for Tourists not just for it's history, but also for it's delicious Turkish food, coffee and hammam spas. We traveled to Istanbul in 2019 and absolutely can not wait to return!
Tips for visiting Istanbul
Turkish money is called Lira. 10 Lira roughly equals:
British Pound: £1.30
European Euro: €1.50
Australian Dollar: $2.50
USA Dollar: $1.70
Istanbul is busy but there is such beautiful buildings with such meticulous architecture to admire. Istanbul has the 'Asian' side which is much more colourful and contains bars and nightlight. The 'European' side is where most of the mosques are located.
You will not find it difficult to come across a beer in Instanbul. Virtually all restaurants will serve beer and there are a lot of bars that will serve almost all types of liquor. Bars commonly contain areas for those wanting to do shisha as well. There is a big shisha culture within Turkey. One beer costs roughly 15-25 Lira, pending on where you go.
The weather varies throughout Turkey as the country is so big. Towards the Central and East parts of Turkey, the climate is warmer all year round in comparison to Istanbul.
In Istanbul, their peak summer seasons are between June - September with temperature ranging between 25-29 degrees. It will rarely get to 30 degrees or stay beyond this for numerous days.
In the cooler winter months, the temperature can drop down to 5-10 degrees and because of Istanbul's location on the coast, it can get quite windy.
Turkey currently has tourist warnings to be cautious and to avoid the Syrian border. If you are travelling around Istanbul and other cities within the South-West then it is doubtful you will have any issues. Travel with caution, be street smart and act respectable and you should not have any issues.
What to do in Istanbul
1. Drink Turkish Coffee or Tea
Turkish coffee is famous for it's unique brewing method and style of serving, rather the type of coffee used. Many tourist flock from all over the world to experience this unique coffee experience which has even landed itself on UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
The brewing of Turkish coffee is boiling and cooling finely grounded coffee mixed in water up to three times. The brewing tool of choice is called a cezve (ibrik) which is a small metal pot with a long handle and no lid. Turkish coffee is served in small portions, the size of an espresso shot coffee cup, with no milk. The taste is strong and if you manage to handle drinking it I can guarantee you will be buzzing for hours. Turkish coffee is not filtered when it is served, therefore the bottom of the cup will be a thick layer of grounded coffee. Yes, it is meant to be left in the cup which was a mistake Kris very quickly realised.
Turkish tea on the other hand is impossible to miss when traveling through Turkey. People will be offering Turkish tea at restaurants, on boats and you will see locals sipping it on their front steps, street curbs and at cafes. Enjoy a local Turkish tea, which is again typically served in a small glass with no milk and can be sweetened to your taste with little cubes of sugar.
2. Wandering the Grand Bizarre
Istanbul's Grand Bizarre is located on the Europe side of the city. One of the largest and oldest bizarre's in the world, it comprises of around 4,000 shops to explore and haggle your way through.
It's vibrant colours and ability to shop for anything from rugs, towels, jewelry, clothes, food and household items makes it a fun place to explore and a must see on your places to visit.
Don't forget to hunt down some authentic Turkish delights!
3. Explore the Asian side of Istanbul
The oldest, more industrial side of Istanbul lies on the Asian side of the Bosporus strait. Don't let this fool you though, there is surprisingly so much to see and do that we were kicking ourselves we did not get to exploring earlier.
Anatolian Side, as it is known to the locals, is full of shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and quirky street art. You will find a lot of the younger locals hanging out in these areas as it has a more 'bohemian' feel to the place.
4. Explore the European side of Istanbul
The more populated part of the city and where lies the famous Blue Mosque and Hiaga Sofia Mosque, is the European side to Istanbul.
Avrupa Yakası side, known to the locals, is where most of the accommodation will be found, where the traditional Turkish food can be experienced and bizarre's are located.
Here, if you search hard enough and sit in the local neighbourhoods, you will see the locals hard at work and witness the everyday runnings to keep this city functioning.
5. Visit the Mosque's and Museums
Istanbul is filled with museums that are so popular for all tourists. There is so much to experience with the hundreds of years of history still standing in Istanbul.
Mosques are scattered all throughout Istanbul city. There are so many spectacular looking Mosque's that sit near the Bosporus strait and are visible from a distance that it is hard to tell which is the Blue Mosque as they are all so beautiful.
day trips from istanbul
If you are planning to spend most of your time in Istanbul, make sure you head on at least one day trip to experience what else Turkey has to offer. There are plenty of tours offering day trips, or if you are able to hire a car to have the freedom to explore independently then you can cover so much wonderful history and landscape. The following are a few of our recommendations:
GALLIPOLI WAR MEMORIAL
The 1915 World War 1 site of the Commonwealth (Britain, Australia, New Zealand) and France who fought Germany and Turkey. Here lies cemeteries, memorabilia and plenty of guided tours.
In the town of Hisarlik, between Canakkale and Gallipoli lies the Trojan war fields. Here you can take a tour and learn the history of Troy and see ancient ruins.
Only a 1.5 hour drive out of Istanbul is the Sapanca lake. This stunning freshwater lake is located on a tectonic hole covers 251 square kilometers.
Beaches within reach of Istanbul if you do not have time to explore the South-West coast of Turkey. Kilyos is North of Istanbul and a popular destination for those seeking a few days of relaxation.
The main stop just before reaching Gallipoli and where you will find yourself likely stopping before visiting the famous Troy war fields. This seaside town is full of castles, history and beautiful old buildings. Take a stop for lunch before continuing on your journey.
Other destinations we visited in turkey
This absolutely stunning city has it all. Gorgeous views, superb weather, ruins, pristine water, fantastic food and to top it off, nightlife. We spent two nights in Antalya and highly considered never leaving. The weather in this stunning city rarely gets below 15 degrees all year round making it a great place to visit not just in the summer, but also in the wintertime.
Things to do in
We landed to begin our Turkey journey in Antalya, a coastal location with all sorts of fun and interesting day to plan out. From the beach and sea to ancient Roman ruins, natural calcium pools and a variety of water activities, Antalya is bound to have something that will keep you occupied.
One of many of Turkey's UNESCO world heritage site's, Pammukale, was a popular location for us. Pammukale is located a good 150km away from any main tourist cities which means a little planning is involved in getting here. See how we independently made our way to Pammukale and why you should too.
Does it need an introduction? Another UNESCO world heritage site and a place quite literally out of a fairytale. It is hard to believe even when seeing it with your own eyes that it is real. The hot air balloons that fill the skies in the mornings is just one of the popular activities you can do when visiting this unreal city. Find out how to get to Cappadocia from the airport and what you need to know before arriving.