October 26-27, 2018
I had 3-day vacation in Istanbul last October because of the free roundtrip ticket from my bank in UAE.
It was my second solo travel actually. First one was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 2014 before I work in Dubai.
I was so excited for this trip! When I received my visa, I booked for a standard room in Star Holiday Hotel within Sultanahmet area for 345 aed thru http://www.agoda.com for 2 nights.
I was so lucky because when I arrived at the hotel, they gave me a triple room! I chose this hotel because of the good reviews and it is accessible to many attractions in Istanbul and Sultanahmet tram station.
I had a nice view from my room. You’ll gonna see the beauty of Blue Mosque.
I had my breakfast in the rooftop restaurant of the hotel. Then, I went to Blue Mosque at 8:30 AM.
Some parts of it were under construction that’s why you will not gonna enjoy it that much. You should visit the mosque if it is not their prayer time to avoid the disturbance. You can check the timings from their website.
By the way, the entrance is for free!
I stayed around 15 minutes inside Blue Mosque and walked towards Hagia Sophia, it was just 3-5 minutes walk.
Hagia Sophia is such a nice attraction in Istanbul because of its interesting history. It was before an Orthodox cathedral then became a mosque, and now a museum.
It has an excellent architecture as you can see the symbolization of both Catholic and Islamic religion inside the museum.
You must visit this place directly after Blue Mosque before it gets crowded. It opens at 9:00 AM and I spent around 1 and half hour including the long queue for the tickets.
I actually bought combo ticket which has an access to Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Istanbul Archeological Museum for 135 lira. It is quite expensive but you will save time because you’ll no need to go for the long queue in Topkapi Palace.
The Topkapi Palace is a large museum in Istanbul. In the 15th century, it served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the sultans.
The palace complex has hundreds of rooms, but only the most important areas are open for the public. The museum collection also includes Ottoman clothing, weapons, armors, religious relics and manuscripts.
This is one of the best part of Topkapi Palace for me where you can enjoy the view of Bosphorus (left side), Asian side (middle) and Sea of Marmara (right side).
After 2 and half hour of exploring Topkapi Palace, it’s time for lunch! I went to the famous Sultanahmet Koftecisi (just beside the hotel where I am staying), it’s a Turkish restaurant known for their kebab. I tried their lamb kebab for just 20 lira plus iced tea for 4 lira.
After my lunch, I went to Grand Bazaar and it’s time for shopping! From Sultanahmet tram station, you have to go down at the second stop which is Beyazit-Kapalicarsi.
You can buy and load your metro card at the small store near the Sultanahmet tram station. I bought mine at 25 lira and I was able to use it also until the following day.
Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. It is always crowded and usually having more than 200,000 visitors daily.
In my opinion, it is more expensive here compared to the souvenir shops along Sultanahmet area. I bought the following so that I can bring to my friends when I go back to Dubai:
* 2 boxes of Turkish delights (Yayla Spices) – 50 lira per 1/2 kg
* 2 boxes of Turkish delights (Hazer Baba) – 30 lira per box
* 6 small boxes of Turkish delights – 30 lira
* 3 refrigerator magnets – 10 lira each
* 6 keychains – 10 lira per 3 pieces
You have to be careful while paying there because I read some blogs that sometimes there are scams. Like, when you are going to pay by card, the currency that they will punch should be in Turkish Lira and not in USD. You also have to count your money carefully when you are paying and accepting the change.
The thing that I didn’t like there was the vendors are too demanding that you should buy from them if you will inquire for the price. Well, for buyers like me, I would like to ask for the price first and compare it all before buying.
In the late afternoon, I go back to my hotel to drop the items that I bought from Grand Bazaar and I went to Galata Tower. I took the tram going to Kabatas. From Sultanahmet, it was the 4th stop which is Karakoy and it was 10 minutes walk going to Galata Tower. The queue was crazy, I waited for more than an hour to be able to get in.
Galata Tower is a medieval stone tower in Karakoy. It is a cone-capped cylinder shape observatory deck that dominates the Istanbul skyline. I am not a fan of observatory decks actually but still I enjoyed this place. It costs 80 lira for the entrance.
After that, I went to Taksim Square to have my dinner. I took the underground train from Sishane to Taksim which is one stop only.
I tried the famous wet burger of Kizilkayalar Hamburger, it was a recommendation of my co-worker who’s a doctor. I ordered 2 pieces for 10 lira.
Around late night, I went to Istiklal street, it is known for shopping areas. I found the clothing store, Koton, and the price was much cheaper than Dubai. So, I took this opportunity to do shopping! I got 2 ladies’ sweaters, 1 men’s polo and 1 men’s jacket for 160 lira, equivalent to 110 aed only.
Istiklal street is really crowded at night. I didn’t stay longer after I bought the things that I want. My last stop was to try the famous baked potato named as kumpir. I ended finding this Sirin Kumpir and Waffle.
This food is a must-try once you visited Turkey. For this dish, huge potatoes are baked in the oven, split open, and the middle part is mixed with butter, salt and cheese.
Then, it will be filled by toppings such as corn, pickles, cabbage, salad, sausage, mushroom, etc. You will be the one who will decide what to put on your potato. I just told the kitchen staff to put whichever is nice since it was my first time to try it. It costs me 20 lira on my total bill.
I actually had a hard time finding this place because it was located down the hill near Istiklal. I just trusted my Google Map but when I reached the area, I cannot find any kumpir shop. I asked some locals to lead me the way.
After trying the kumpir and because I was too tired of walking, I took a taxi thru Taxify app. It was a really nice app like Grab Taxi or Careem. So, from Sirin Kumpir, the driver dropped me to Tophane tram station and I took the tram going back to my hotel in Sultanahmet. I highly recommend Taxify app to avoid taxi scams.
This ends my first day of tour in Turkey. I can’t believe that I was able to visit many attractions alone. It was an enjoyable day because I found it easy to explore Istanbul like I know this place before.