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With only 72 hours in Istanbul, we knew that we only have time to see the highlights and fortunately for us, our hotel is within walking distance of Istanbul’s famous landmarks.
We started our day with an early breakfast at our hotel and afterward, we took a stroll to the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar which is about a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel.
The Grand and Spice Bazaar are pretty much like any other outdoor market. Vendors line up the streets selling clothes, shoes, accessories, household items, etc. We bought a bunch of souvenirs from a vendor selling keychains, trinkets and assorted evil eye accessories. There’s also plenty of food stalls along the way giving you a taste of Turkish street food.
The Spice Bazaar, true to its name, is more spice-centric. All the common herbs and spices can be bought here by the bulk and most of the stores also sell Turkish delight.
Aside from the souvenirs, we didn’t buy much except for a cup of freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice and some simit (bagel-like bread).
Sultan Ahmet Camii
Address: Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Atmeydanı Cd. No:7, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Visiting Hours: 08:30-11:30/ 13:00-14:30/ 15:30-16:45/ Opening for Friday 13:30
Fee: Free to enter. Donation can be made upon exit
Website: Sultan Ahmet Camii
Suggested Tour: Guided Half-day Tour to Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque
The Sultan Ahmet Camii (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) is not only Istanbul’s most popular mosque but also the most beautiful. It is more commonly known as the Blue Mosque because of its blue interiors.
Because it is still a working mosque, tourists who wish to visit can only come in at certain times of the day and must also abide by the dress code and proper etiquette inside the mosque.
It’s truly magnificent when you see it up-close.
Address: Alemdar Mh., Yerebatan Cd. 1/3, 34410 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Visiting Hours: 09:00-18:30
Fee: 20 TL
Website: Yerebatan Sarnici
Suggested Tour: Istanbul Classics Tour
Underneath the streets of Istanbul lies an ancient cistern, the Basilica Cistern. This underground water reservoir called the Yerebatan Cistern was constructed for the Byzantium Emperor, Justinianus I. It was called Basilica Cistern because there used to be a Basilica in place of the Cistern.
Pictured below is one of the two Medusa heads supporting a column inside the Basilica Cistern.
Next, we booked a late afternoon cruise along the Bosphorus River. The meeting place was just by the main road of the Sultanahmet District. We met with the tour guide along with the other participants of the cruise, passing by the Hagia Sophia and on to the loading dock by the Bosphorus River.
We passed by the Galata Bridge with a great view of the Galata Tower.
The cruise costs about 30 Euros per passenger if you book it with a travel agent.
Suggested Tour: Bosphorus Strait Afternoon Cruise
There was a tour guide narrating some tidbits about Istanbul and the Bosphorus River for the whole duration of the tour. She pointed out places of interest and gave us a little insight into Istanbul’s history and some interesting stories. The boat has a coffee shop in case you get hungry or want to enjoy the cruise while sipping a Turkish coffee.
I highly recommend taking the Bosphorus Cruise to complete your trip to Istanbul. The sunset was beautiful and it was a nice and relaxing way to end a day of sightseeing.
The Hagia Sophia is mesmerizing at night.
The Blue Mosque is equally as beautiful during nighttime.
Since we are staying right in the city center, there’s plenty of restaurants in the area that we didn’t need to go far to have a delicious dinner.
We ate at a restaurant in a small alley near the main road at what looked like a home that was just converted into a really cozy restaurant.
The top floor of the restaurant has fantastic views of the Blue Mosque.
Our last day in Istanbul, we didn’t do much except shop for some skincare products at a local pharmacy a block away from our hotel. Cosmetics and skincare products are really cheap in Istanbul and we bought one too many!
We also took a stroll back to the Grand and Spice Bazaar and took the tram back to Istiklal.
Dinner was at Saltanat Barbeque House beside the White House Hotel Istanbul, and I have to say, this was the best dinner we ever had on this trip! It’s a pity we did not try out this restaurant right away otherwise we would probably have eaten here all the time during our stay.
If you have the chance, try this restaurant. Seafood is unbelievably fresh, servings were big, the owner was super friendly and the prices ain’t bad either!
I now know why Istanbul’s been constantly at the top of must-see destinations in the world. It’s beautiful, the people are friendly and the food is delicious. I hope to come back someday and see more of this incredible city!
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