I spent a week in Istanbul and was pleasantly surprised. You see, I have always heard stories about the city but I wanted to check it out myself. To tell you the truth I am so glad that I did. Istanbul is gem with plenty activities, amazing food and beautiful views.
I stayed in Taksim Square, one of the most important squares in the city rich in history and culture, and I was thrilled with the location. Sure it was a little noisy but there was everything I needed literally at my doorstep. Just 5 minutes away was the principal street with rows and rows of shops and food. I would describe it like Oxford Street in London. This place was SO busy at all times of day, and even more so at night.
Perhaps one of my favourite aspects of my trip was the food market and the Grand Bazaar, and boy was it GRAND. You need at least a whole day to view everything here and it is worth it because you NEED to haggle with prices or they will rip you off with high prices. That is something I experienced due to my very limited level of Turkish. The spice market (as seen in the feature photo) was such a dream. Walking around the stalls sampling and smelling all the spices and buying ones I had never even heard of was an amazing experience.
You can not go to Istanbul without checking out the Blue Mosque. Breath-taking views and a lot of culture, it is something which can not be missed. Word of warning though, if the guards feel like you are not covered up enough they will not allow you inside. Luckily, however, there are scarfs on loan just outside the Mosque for free.
To keep it short and sweet, some activities I did involved visiting a Turkish bath ( you will not believe the amount of force used to scrub), having a professional photo shoot around the city at the crack of dawn, visiting a roof top restaurant overlooking the boats and visiting the local football stadiums. There is plenty to see and do so you will not be bored.
A few general notes, you MUST get an ice cream from the traditional stands. This is a show! The stands play around with the ice cream and make you feel like a fool for one minute whilst teasing you with it but totally worth the laughs.
Gluten free food was almost impossible to find in supermarkets unless it was a big chain so bring your own if you have intolerances like I do. I did manage to find gluten free baklava (sweet pistachio pastry) in a cafe but there is not a lot of gluten free or dairy free alternatives for us intolerant folk!
I would also recommend being respectful of the conservative nature of the country. Even in loose dresses I was getting a lot of stares and looks and it felt a little uncomfortable. Had I known this before I would have packed a few maxi dresses, for example.
Finally, I didn’t know I needed a visa to enter. Turns out most European countries need an online visa to enter which costs 20 dollars and is done in 5 minutes online. Don’t get caught out!
Thanks for reading guys!