When I Went: November 4-7, 2011
Was That the Best Time of Year to Go? As far as weather goes, it was perfect. In the 60s. Not too hot, not too cold, perfect weather to walk all over the city. However, it was bad timing because the Grand Bazaar was closed because of a festival while we were there.
Why I Went There: I’d never been and wanted to explore.
Who Went With Me? My husband
We Stayed Here: Best Western Istanbul Plus The President Hotel
You Won’t Want to Miss: The city has so many sights to see and great energy. Hagia Sophia (aka Ayasofya) — So much history and very beautiful to see the different religions all under one roof. The Basilica Cistern — Fascinating. It was constructed by Justinian in 532 to supply water to the Byzantine Palace. Galata Tower — Offers the best panoramic views of the city. You pay like 15 Turkish lira, and you take an elevator to the top and get to walk the perimeter (not the best for someone scared of heights) Blue Mosque — While still used as a mosque, it is also a popular tourist attraction worth a look. Turkish Baths — An interesting experience getting bathed by a Turkish woman, but definitely a must experience. We went to one called Suleymaniye Hammam, but there are plenty to choose from. We missed it, but the Grand Bazaar is the largest covered market in the world. It’s known for jewelry, hand-painted ceramics, carpets, embroideries, spices, and antique shops.
Eat Here: Street food is awesome and authentic in Istanbul. All over the city you can get fresh pomegranate juice, chestnuts, corn, and amazing kebabs. Tons of different bakeries with Turkish delights, the Turkish desserts including baklava. And there are great restaurants right by the water serving fresh fish with a beautiful view.
Play Here: We had fun going to hookah and having beers at restaurants by the water. For more glamorous fun head to rooftop bars in Beyoglu. We aren’t the clubbing type, but Turkey is known for a great night life — the sybaritic strip between Ortaköy and Kuruceşme is home to a bunch of nightclubs .
If I Went Again: The only thing I would do differently is go a week later so we could have explored the Grand Bazaar.
How Did You Get There From Dallas? Flight from DFW Airport on Lufthansa. Once in Istanbul, got a taxi.
Other Tips For Fellow Travelers: Make sure taxi drivers put on a meter when you get in or they will try to over charge. You need a visa when traveling in Turkey. If you arrive at Atatürk International Airport, you can get your visa from the booth to the left of the “Other Nationalities” counter in the customs area before you go through immigration. The currency is the Turkish lira.