Our 12 hour train from Sofia to Istanbul turned out to be 15, and our 20 hour train to Bucharest will definitely turn out to be more than that…
But it was so worth the detour to Istanbul – it was one of my absolute favorite stops on the trip – with its quirky personality, colorful culture and long history, Istanbul really enchanted me!
No wonder all the neighboring countries have been so influenced – who wouldn’t be inspired by this country?! Istanbul was a place full of crazy experiences, and just like in Asia, you can walk outside the door and five minutes later be somewhere completely different than first planned.
Istanbul was a city with surprises around every corner, from shoe shiners with their beautifully designed shining copper tool box to people selling water melon from wooden wheelbarrows.
Getting lost in bazaars and spice markets, sipping tea from dusk til dawn and walking aimlessly through cobble stoned side streets was something I would gladly have done for weeks on end. Turkeys Beaches
Istanbul Turkey Travel VIDEO
Istanbul Where West Meets East
Istanbul is more than just geographically located in both Europe and Asia, their whole culture is a mixture of both.
The city felt very different from Europe, and I could see why the nearby Balkan countries had become so influenced by the Turkish culture; there was something so captivating about everything.
The rug shops, the glimmering mosaic lamps, the Turkish tea being served everywhere and the chanting from the mosques several times a day made you feel like you were in a whole different part of the world.
Istanbul is a tourism hot spot. Bus loads of tour groups visit everyday, you see hands sticking up with umbrellas and flags to guide their groups from their hotels everywhere, and the harbor is frequented by cruises every morning and evening.
Perhaps we noticed it so much because it was such a contrast from the previous countries we had been to.
But the great thing about Istanbul was that the city had adapted so well to tourism.
They know exactly how to butter up the tourists, but at the same time they are not pretending to be something they’re not, and they don’t change their habits, culture and goods to please you.
What you see in the shops is what you see in their homes. The handicrafts, Handmade Turkish Rugs, and water pipes is what they prefer themselves, the Turkish pop music or traditional live bands you hear and see is what they listen to themselves, not a show for tourists (although they do know that it’s appreciated).
Istanbul was a place full of experiences, and just like in Asia, you could walk outside the door and five minutes later be somewhere completely different than first planned.
Istanbul was a city full of surprises around every corner, from shoe shiners with their beautifully designed shining copper tool box to people selling melons from wooden wheelbarrows.
Getting lost in bazaars and spice markets, sipping tea from dusk til dawn and walking aimlessly through cobble stoned side streets was something I would gladly have done for weeks …
While they had preserved their traditions, they were in many ways very modern.
For example it has the cleanest and most modern trams I’ve seen, which run next to boys dragging wooden carts of fruit and nuts down the streets.
That’s the best way I can describe how East meets West in this city – modern mixes with old-fashioned, like pet food mixes with Egyptian spices in the spice market.
It’s all mixed up in a big melting pot of culture and we LOVED it!
Istanbul by Day Istanbul by Night
Istanbul, Turkey is one of the world’s most intriguing cities and it is always exciting to see Istanbul by Day Istanbul by Night. It is a metropolis steeped in history and a veritable cultural melting pot, with Muslim, Jewish, Greek and Armenian populations all leaving their own unique stamp on the city.
With the western half of the city being part of Europe and the eastern half located in Asia and divided by the waters of the Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul is a place where East truly meets West, which is one reason Turkey holidays are so unique.
And with so many sites to see in what always seems like so little time, it’s important to make the most of every minute of Istanbul, Turkey is one of the world’s most intriguing cities and it is always exciting to see Istanbul by Day Istanbul by Night in this enchanting city.
Istanbul by Day Istanbul by Night
Sprinkling of culture
By day, the sites of Istanbul are far too numerous to cover in just one visit, especially if you’re in search of a sprinkling of culture. The city is teeming with cultural intrigue and landmarks from days gone by.
Located directly across from Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque’s striking, domed silhouette is unmistakable, dominating the Istanbul skyline. The Blue Mosque has the prestige of being one of only a few in the world to have six minarets. With walls decorated with fine iznik tiles, it pays homage to traditional Turkish architecture and was designed by renowned architect Sedefkar Mehmed Aga in the 17th century. Not only is the mosque a feast for the eyes, it also has a great deal of historical significance, being home to the tomb of Sultan Ahmed I.
After you’ve basked in the majesty of the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace is an absolute must-see for those looking for a glimpse of how the other half lived in Turkey. Topkapi, over the years, has been home to generations of sultans and their wives, as well as a breathtaking amount of treasure, which still resides there.
The great thing about taking a trip to the Palace is that it can be enjoyed at your leisure in a simply stunning setting. The network of lush green courtyards creates a beauteous background for the Palace and makes for a great setting in which to enjoy the picturesque view of the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and Golden Horn.
Shop until you drop
Whether you’re visiting Istanbul for the day or planning on staying a little longer, you’ll feel yourself drawn, almost magnetically, to the Grand Bazaar – a market that is distinctly Turkish in character and unforgettable in nature.
The 500-year-old market is packed to the rafters with shops and stalls – over 3,000 in total – stocking everything from hand-woven towels and artwork, to trinkets and Turkish rugs. The quality of the artefacts on offer is exceptionally high and the market is home to some truly skilled craftsmen, but it’s the sights, smells and ambience of the place that makes it so appealing and unlike anything you’re likely to have experienced before.
And once you’re done with shopping, there’s an array of restaurants where you can grab a quick spot of lunch, sampling a wide range of meats or ‘dolmas’, a mixture of aubergines, red peppers, rice and herbs.
It’s astounding how many holidaymakers manage to find their way to Istanbul, but don’t take the time to explore the Asian side of the city in much depth.
While some of the delights of the Asian side of the city may not be as immediately obvious as the cultural wonders of the west, taking a short ferry ride across the Bosphorus and setting foot on another continent is certainly worth considering, especially if you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of some of Istanbul’s more popular tourist attractions.
The Kadikoy district of Istanbul, on the city’s eastern side, may not be home to all manner of cultural and historical beacons, but the new-age, hip feel of the area makes it worth the visit. The district is full of cafés, bars and small local shops and has a relaxed pace of life. Indeed, grabbing some bread, cheese and baklava while sat outside a café is the perfect late afternoon activity. Once rejuvenated, you’ll be ready to wring every drop of enjoyment out of the night that lies ahead.
Watching the sun set
Galata Tower in Beyoğlu may draw all of the plaudits with its exquisite views of the modern part of old Istanbul, once home to the city’s foreign residents, but when the sun begins to slowly set in the Istanbul sky there only one place to head: Galata Bridge.
Spanning old and new Istanbul, the view from Galata Bridge at sunset is simply stunning, offering you the chance to appreciate the beauty of the city in all its glory. (And it’ll make for a pretty breathtaking photo, too.)
Istanbul by night
With so much going on in Istanbul, you’d be forgiven for being more than a little tired after spending the day exploring it. To recuperate a little before the night really begins, it’s best to find yourself a nice little restaurant where you can enjoy all of the delights of Turkish cuisine.
Seafood lovers simply must try the hamsi, with freshly caught anchovies at its center, while meat lovers will find themselves salivating at the very thought of grazing on Hunkar Begendi, which dates back to the Ottoman Empire and is derived from chunks of lamb or chicken served on top of pureed aubergine.
With a full stomach and (hopefully) a little more energy, it’s time to find the perfect place to head out to and bring your perfect day in Istanbul to a fitting conclusion, and there’s only one place to do that: Nardis.
A relaxing end to a frantic day
Nardis, located near the Galata Tower in Beyoğlu, is Istanbul’s premier jazz club and there are live performances to be soaked up six nights per week. The type of jazz you’ll find varies each night, from traditional right through to modern, but the relaxing ambience, comfortable seating and sophisticated style of the place is constant.
Once you’ve enjoyed a few cocktails and find yourself tapping away to a little music, while reminiscing about the sights, smells and sounds that you’ve enjoyed during the day, you’ll truly understand why legions of holiday makers have been drawn to Istanbul by Day Istanbul by Night for so long.