I’m currently preparing for my debut Travel Addicts trip to Cappadocia, some of the guests had questions doing a stopover in the fascinating city of Istanbul. I thought this would be a great opportunity to delve into my personal recommendations and relive the memories of this beautiful destination.
So here goes…
Although Istanbul is technically a city, I can pretty much guarantee that it is worlds about from any other city break you have or will experience. Not only does it beautifully encompass the fast-paced and busy feel of a metropolitan city it’s infused with the cultural heritage of traditional Turkey. Istanbul is also the only capital city that spans across two continents and one of only five transcontinental cities in the entire world. This makes it unbelievably unique, and if that isn’t enough to convince you to visit, (whether for the first time or the fifth time) let me see if I can sway you by sharing my Istanbul experiences…
If you’re a foodie, you’re going to want to take your stretchy clothes. The food game in Istanbul is competitive, high quality and abundant. From street food to fine-dining you will find anything and everything to satisfy your tastebuds and have you feeling like you are eating like royalty.
My dining experiences across Turkey have always been extravagant and indulgent. In Cappadocia I travelled solo and ate in a beautiful family-run restaurant by myself. By the time the meal was served, I was surrounded by a completely full table of small dishes, piles of bread, bowls of dips, olives, grilled vegetables - you would think that it was intended to feed three people, not one. So one thing is for sure, you will not go hungry in Turkey.
In Istanbul, particularly in the Grand Bazaar, get ready for a sensory overload! Both times visiting the hustle and bustle of the Bazaar, I have ended up sitting on a pull-out stool and being served tea, Baklava and Turkish delight whilst talking to the vendors about hotspots of the city. There is never an obligation to buy, but of course when being indulged with this level of service and generosity, I have definitely ended up with quite a few treats and souvenirs to take home including local herbs, spices and teas. (On my list next is a shisha pipe when I have enough space in my suitcase).
If you’re into shopping, there is likely to be something you’ll want to take home from Istanbul. From the beautiful hand-made rugs, to traditional lanterns, an abundant selection of spices, and what they call “genuine fakes” when it comes to not-so-designer clothes. A top tip, leave a little room in your luggage for what you might want to bring home. Prices can always be negotiated!
Let me break down some of my favourite recommendations:
This place offers one of the best views in the city! From their rooftop, you overlook the water and are sat right next to a beautiful mosque. Not only that, but they also have an outdoor photography studio where you can get an incredible view of the other side of the city. It looks exactly like a postcard. We ordered the grill platter for two and it was insanely delicious and I'm so gutted that we couldn't finish it!
Seven Hills Restaurant
One of my favourite views in Istanbul. Head to the beautiful rooftop to dine on delicious seafood surrounded by 360 panoramic views of the Bosphorus river that runs through the middle of the city and the uninterrupted views of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Top tip: head here for sunset! (You can thank me later)
The Blue Mosque & Hagia Sofia
Of course it goes without saying that these two beautiful mosques are must-see’s on your visit to Istanbul. Both of them are architecturally beautiful inside and out and carry a lot of history in regards to the city and culture. If you’re visiting, you’ll need to cover your hair, upper arms and legs. You can either purchase a scarf and skirt from stalls outside of the mosques or take one with you.
Islak Hamburger (wet burger)
Fast food like no other. Of course, you have to stop off at a kebab stand in Taksim for juicy chunks of meat piled with fresh crunchy salad and wrapped in soft bread. But while you’re there, try one of these unique “wet burgers”. It’s made up of thick slices of doner kebab sandwiched in a burger bun. The bun is then soaked in a tasty tomato sauce and the burger is served gooey and drenched in flavour. Don’t worry, it sounded gross to me too! But trust me on this, give this Istanbul delicacy a try. It was absolutely delicious!
Balik Ekmek (fresh fish sandwich)
Along the side of the river by the Kadıköy ferry terminal, you will find a bunch of moored fishing boats and stands where you can purchase delicious grilled fish sandwiches. The fish served with fresh lettuce, tomato, onion and peppers and a cup of salty pickle juice. The area is lively with fisherman calling out, seagulls flying around, people sitting alongside the river, it really is a unique and brilliant experience and a must for any seafood lovers.
Nu’sret (Salt Bae restaurant)
If you’ve seen the memes you might know of the infamous “Salt Bae” who massages his fresh cuts of meat and sprinkles salt across them in the most extravagant fashion. He has a chain of international restaurants that originated in Istanbul. But here’s the thing…if you were to book a table at the restaurant in London, it would cost you a very pretty penny of £250+ for a three course meal. However… if you were to visit one of the Nu’sret restaurants in Istanbul, it will cost you a fraction of the price. I’ve been twice, the first time was in 2018 and it was absolutely mind-blowing. I visited again in March 2022, and it was good, but not quite the standard I’d experienced four years prior. My recommendation, try and it and see how it compares to other steakhouses you’ve dined in.
Where to stay:
The accommodation choices in Istanbul are as unique and plentiful as the city itself. The first time I visited, I stayed in the Radisson Sisli which was a beautiful hotel. There is a Hamam onsite with a stunning spa and outdoor pool, the rooms are luxurious and stylish and the breakfast spread will probably keep you well-fed for the entire day. I would recommend the hotel, but from what I remember, it was a little further away from some of the action.
When I visited again in March, I stayed in The Peak Hotel Taksim. The location gets top points, particularly if you want to be able to stroll around in the evenings as it backs right onto Taksim Square which is lively and full of life in the evenings. There is also a rooftop pool which offers great views of the city. The problem was that the hotel was mid-renovation and failed to communicate that with us before we arrived. So we stayed on a floor that was completely unfinished and our room was definitely due an upgrade in facilities. With that said, things could be different now that the renovation is complete, but we just had a bad bit of luck with timing. The hotel staff were great and accommodating.
If you have any questions about Istanbul, feel free to drop me a message and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction. If you’re not already part of my thriving online travel community, be sure to join us today for tips, recommendations and all the travel inspiration you could ask for!