After spending three weeks in Russia for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, I met my husband at the airport in Istanbul for a week of exploring the city. We absolutely loved Istanbul, and are already thinking of a return trip with more time to check out the rest of the country.
First stop, the Aya Sofya. Although it was partially under refurbishment, it was still awe-inspiring. Albeit full of stray cats.
Next up was the Blue Mosque. The photos don’t do it justice.
And the Topkapi Palace, the former residence of the Ottoman Empire Sultans.
We visited the Grand Bazaar as well as the smaller Spice Bazaar, eating a lot of Turkish Delight and having our first sip of Turkish coffee.
And speaking of delicious treats, oh my goodness, the food in Istanbul was amazing… especially coming off of three weeks of unappetizing workforce meals in Sochi. It didn’t matter if it was a street food donair, a fancy sit-down restaurant or a neighbourhood lokanta, every meal was a delicious adventure. Especially when the menu wasn’t in English — more than once we just pointed at what looked good, and were never disappointed.
Even the breakfast buffet at our hotel was extraordinary. How many places have a slice-your-own-fresh-honeycomb station?
After three nights in a fancy-schmancy boutique hotel right in the heart of the old city, we switched to a lovely Airbnb apartment in the neighbourhood of Beyoglu, a conveniently short walk from Istiklal Caddesi (the main pedestrian street)… and a Starbucks.
The north end of Istiklal Caddesi was also where there had been major protests and riots in Istanbul over the prior few weeks. We did see a few peaceful but heated protests during our time in Istanbul, and a heavy presence of riot police. On our final night in Istanbul, we detoured off of Istiklal Caddesi for a few blocks when things seemed like they were about to get out of control, and when we went back on the main street, the faint scent of tear gas was noticeable.
One of my favourite things to do in Istanbul was just meandering down some of the winding (and steep!) streets, checking out the different neighbourhoods and districts.
Have you been to Turkey? Where should we visit on the return trip?