Sunshine, strong coffee, and adventure; the requirements for all good trips and synonymous with Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is the furthest East I’ve been and it got me excited to continue further that direction someday soon. #WatchOutAsiaHereICome
This trip has been on my mind since receiving a postcard from my friend Molly who stopped in Istanbul during her around-the-world adventure a few years ago. I remember holding the 4×6″ photo of this exotic city in my hot little hands and wondering if I would ever see it for myself. A few weekends ago that postcard dream became reality.
We spent three full days in this ancient city which was far from enough. I recommend going for a week when you visit. During our whirlwind weekend we saw the highlights and wandered around the streets of our neighborhood in Galata.
The first day I awoke early to the sounds of the call to prayer at the local mosque. We ventured out for breakfast where I had my first hit of the good stuff, Turkish coffee. Drinking coffee is my second favorite hobby after traveling so I had been eagerly anticipating my caffeine fix in Turkey. We spent the rest of the day bartering for Turkish rugs, touring Haghia Sophia (built as a Christian church in 537 turned mosque in 1453 turned museum in 1934), and visiting the Blue Mosque (completed in 1616).
We meandered down the hilly streets of Galata towards Karaköy to brunch at Unter. The coffee is imported from Vienna, the food mouth-watering, and the clientele beyond cool.
Fueled up on coffee we walked across the Galata Bridge towards the ferry docks. A must-do on my Istanbul checklist was a boat ride to the Asian side of the city. Istanbul is one of a few cities in the world to span two continents. We hopped on a ferry for a mere 4 lira each ($1.50) and rode on over to Asia for the afternoon. We were greeted with markets on markets of colorful produce and goods.
Eventually we waved goodbye to Asia and headed back to the European side where the majority of the tourist attractions are located. We visited Topkapi Palace next, home to Sultan Mehmet II from 1459-65. That’s right, the 15th century. Ancient!
On our last day we had just enough time to climb the Galata Tower before departing for the airport. I use the word “climb” loosely as there’s an elevator that swoops you straight up to the viewing platform at the top. Despite the smog over the city I loved the eagle eye 360 degree views. It was the perfect place to reflect on an amazing weekend with great friends.
Know Before You Go:
- Airport passport control can take up to 2 hours coming in and out, be prepared and get there early on the way out of town.
- We took a taxi into the city from the airport although the public transportation system is good too.
- As an American you’ll need a visa to enter the country. You can purchase an e-visa in advance or buy one at the airport. Insider tip: if you wait in line and purchase at the airport you’ll get a cool sticker for your passport. Current price as of May 2015 was $30 and they only accept dollars, pounds, and euros. The airport ATM doles out all of these currencies in addition to Turkish Lira.
- Currency is the Turkish Lira. Current conversion rate $1 = 2.8 TRY.
- Galata was a fun area to stay and provided easy access to tourist activities and more local lifestyle.
- Modern dress is acceptable but you have to cover your head, shoulders and knees at the mosques.
- We visited in May and it was hot. Fall and Spring are the best seasons to visit for mild weather.