Heading over to Greece, Turkish Airlines were having a free stopover promo in Istanbul and I couldn’t resist! So I decided to spend 2 full days in Istanbul and just hit all the must-sees.
I gotta admit – I was a little worried about traveling alone to Turkey but I actually felt quite alright in Istanbul. Other than the few occasions of men following me on public streets, trying to strike up a conversation or sell me something, it was ok. Just ignore, walk fast, and move on.
First, I checked out the Hagia Sophia.
I stayed at a central location, so it was just a 5-10 minutes walk over to this amazing cathedral turned mosque turned museum.
The interiors were dramatic and gorgeous. I was blown away. I was here in May 2018, so there were still renovations going on so half of it was closed. Nevertheless, I still some undisturbed views of the amazing architecture.
Next up, the Blue Mosque.
Do take note of the various opening and closing times of the week. The mosque will be closed for prayers and visitors are not allowed to enter.
You will be given a headscarf before you enter the Blue Mosque. Also, everybody must take off their shoes while they tour inside. I was given a bag to store my shoes in while I walked around.
Another must-see is the Topkapi Palace Museum.
What was once a home to the sultans of the great Ottoman Empire – it is now open to public to experience how it was like to roam in this amazing historical palace. The intricate details in every corner of this palace really left me in awe. It was soooo huge too, so at one point I sort of got confused where I was.
A trip to Istanbul feels incomplete without a visit to the local markets, and I didn’t dare to stray too far (I guess I was just paranoid and not THAT courageous enough) haha. I wanted to visit a market – I picked the most famous one.
My time was limited, so I chose the Grand Bazaar.
It was overwhelming. Something like Chatuchak in Bangkok – chaotic maze filled with tourists and local shoppers. This is where you’ll see all the famous Instagram lights store, and every store basically has a sign telling you to not take photos. I guess they’re sick of people doing it for the gram and not buying anything! I did ask some of the store owners whether I could take some photos though, and they were ok.
Another reason why I chose Grand Bazaar other than it being close to my hotel is that I wanted to see the internet sensation Salt Bae. He has a few restaurant outlets with one of it being in the Grand Bazaar. I decided to try my luck and I really did bump into him! He was super friendly and accommodating to people taking photos with him. Not annoyed at all. He was awesome!
Another touristy activity I enjoyed was taking the sunset cruise.
I was a little confused with which cruise could go where or which one to take, but the operators are pretty chill. There are people standing outside the gate selling you a boat ticket, and you can just hop on to whichever you wanted.
And it was surprisingly quite fun! Got to sail along the Bosporus and enjoy the coastline of Istanbul while the sun sets.
I stayed at Hotel Arcadia Blue.
It was a highly recommended hotel and definitely worth it. Unfortunately, I arrived at 6am and they let me check in early, what a relief! The views from the hotel room was amazing too.