I was genuinely surprised by my visit to Istanbul. You see, I’ve always heard stories about the city so wanted to check it out myself…
I stayed in Taksim Square, one of the most known squares in the city. Sure it was a little noisy but there was everything I needed literally at my doorstep. You’ll find plenty of shops, restaurants and leisurely activities here. My favourite aspect of the trip, however, was the Grand Bazaar. Grand it truly was. You’ll need at least a whole day to view everything here but it’s worth it due to the variety of goods for sale. Definitely try to haggle with prices though, as you’ll end up paying excessive amounts for an item which can be purchased cheaper a few stalls down. My weakness was bags and bags of spices. I never knew just how many different options existed.
You can’t go to Istanbul without checking out the Blue Mosque. I would suggest bringing your own head-covering if you have one, as you won’t be allowed to enter without doing so, but there are scarves to loan by the entrance. I borrowed one for the duration of my visit to the Blue Mosque, free of charge.
Some other 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, eating at a roof-top restaurant overlooking the boats and checking out the local football stadiums. Each day was jam-packed with adventure, so not once did I feel bored. I also got ice-cream from the traditional stands almost daily because the whole process is such a show. I’m sure you’ve seen the videos of stall owners playing around with the cone, teasing customers. It’s completely worth the laughs, plus the actual product is pretty good too.
To wrap up this post, I’ll add some general points for anyone travelling to Istanbul…
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 in a café but that was luck!
I didn’t know I needed a visa, so check requirements before you arrive. For example, most European countries need an online visa to enter. Luckily, at the time of writing, it only cost 20 dollars and was completed in 5 minutes. Don’t get caught out!
See you in the next post