We spent three nights in Istanbul before heading down to Fethiye to start our sailing trip. Straddling two continents, it was a beautiful mix of culture and history. We ate incredibly well, visited the historic mosques and practiced our haggling for spices, rugs and other treats in the markets!
Accommodation: we stayed at Cheers Lighthouse Hostel – in the Sultanahmet part of the European side, very close to the Blue Mosque and Haiga Sophia. We had really nice private rooms overlooking the sea and it didn’t really feel like a hostel at all. Traditional Turkish breakfast was included and was really nice and fresh, and there were free activities on each night (we did the shisha night).
Transport: Istanbul is pretty walkable on both the European or Asian side, but trams and bus were also easy to get and very cheap. Ferries went between the continents every 30 minutes until midnight – extremely cheap too (a few pounds per journey).
- Cağaloğlu Hamam – we had the ‘top to toe’ treatment, very authentic experience with a steam, scrub & massage, followed by tea and Turkish delight – lush! €65
- Blue Mosque – free
- Haiga Sofia museum – ₺60
- Topkapi Palace – ₺60 lira + ₺35 for the harem
- Istanbul Cistern – ₺20
- Bosphorus Cruise -₺12 – took about two hours to go down the strait towards the red sea and then loop back, a beautiful scenic trip!
- Secret Food Tour Istanbul – this was incredible. Five hours of restaurant hopping and sampling all the local dishes, including Turkish cherry wine! It cost €65 pp which was well worth it for the food as well as the local experience and tips.
- Topkapi Palace, incredible tile work!!
- Spice market
- Grand Bazaar – quite the tourist trap!
- We also explored the cute shopping streets in Karaköy and did some haggling for Turkish rugs (Kat, Rosie and Em did very well and won over the scary carpet mogul)
- The first night we ate dinner at Seven Hills, a seafood restaurant with its rooftop overlooking the Blue Mosque and Haiga Sofia
- Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi – simple menu but famous for its salads and meats. Excellent and so affordable.
- George’s Hotel Galata – rooftop bar on the Karaköy side
- Khorasani Restaurant (Sultanahmet side of the city) – we sat on the street, great atmosphere and delicious food
- Karaköy Gümrük – modern Middle Eastern food, fresh and very affordable
- Plus many street kebabs, baklava, and turkish delights from the spice market, and fig + honey gelatos were had!