If someone was to ask me what pops into my head when I think about Turkey, I would say that that’s an amazing country which I always go back to because it awakens excitement, delight and joy in me. As previously mentioned, I visited this country several times in all seasons but I enjoy it the most in summer and early autumn.
The first time we visited Istanbul was back in 2017, and soon after that we started travelling there frequently. As we often traveled with Turkish airlines to some further destinations, we would always choose a long-haul flight to Istanbul to have enough time to visit the city, eat baklava, drink Turkish coffee and feel Istanbul’s energy.
I remember my first time in Istanbul very vividly and it’s not enough to say that I was amazed immediately. Exactly for this reason I kept going back there and I never got bored, on the contrary I had more and more desire to repeat the journey.
You often ask me which trip I would recommend to all of you who are beginners in travelling and discovering our beautiful planet. My answer is always the same – Istanbul! You might ask why? Well, there is countless reasons for that, and I will list some of them in this travelogue.
Istanbul is known as the key city of two continents, a city that divides east and west and a city rich in history and culture. In my opinion, it is the closest destination to Croatia that gives us the opportunity to feel something new, something fresh, something different that can’t be experienced in any other European city. I have visited hundreds of them so I can say that with certainty. Whenever I have to choose between any European city and Istanbul, the decision is clear.
How long does it take to visit Istanbul? Well, if you ask me a lifetime wouldn’t be enough because the city is huge. This is another reason why I always go back to it – it amazes me every time over and over again.
In terms of price, Istanbul is definitely a lot cheaper than most places in Europe. Even though ticket prices vary, if you follow Turkish Airlines’ deals you’ll most definitely know that you can get a return ticket from Zagreb to Istanbul for around 100 euros. You can also find a ticket through Pegasus airlines (low-budget turkish airline) which offers tickets from Vienna for around 70 euros (plus luggage).
Moving around the city is very easy. I advise you to buy an ‘Istanbul card’ upon your arrival because it covers all sorts of public transport in the city, including tram, bus, metro and boat (the price is 6 TRY). You can always use Taxi as well because they are not very expensive, but make sure to tell your driver to turn on the taxi meter so you can avoid fraud. Both airports (IST Airport and Sabiha Gocken International Airport) have excellent connections to the city center for just a few liras.
Hotel prices range from 10 euros per night to infinity. Taksim Square is also a great location for an overnight stay because it’s perfectly connected to the old and new part of the city and it’s unbelievably fun, colorful and full of content. However, if you prefer a modern hotel then make sure you choose the Asian part of Istanbul which is both a business and economic center. The most expensive and the most elegant hotels are located next to the Bosphorus (Besiktas) because they offer an incredible and irresistable view, so you will need to prepare a large amount of money if you want to stay there. Everything depends on your wishes and desires, but whatever you choose Istanbul won’t disappoint you.
The currency in Turkey is Turkish lira (TRY). Currently 1 TRY = 0.85 KN which is good for the tourists because the prices are even lower than usual. You can exchange your money at the airport, but it’s much better to do this in the city because of the currency rate. Credit card payment is available everywhere except markets and some local places.
WHAT TO VISIT?
It is best to go sightseeing in the old part of the city because most of the sights are there and you can visit everything by walking.
- Hagia Sophia – it’s been open for tourists again since 2020, and admission is free. You can’t enter during prayer.
- Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Saray) – ticket price is 100 TL
- Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) – free entrance
- Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici) – ticket price is 30 TL
- Grand Bazaar
- Suleiman’s Mosque
- Spice Bazaar
- Gulhane Park
- Galata tower – ticket price is 25 TL
- Istikal Cadessi
- Ortaköy (Beşiktaş)
- Dolmabache Palace – ticket price is 90 TL
The easiest way to reach the Asian side is by subway from Sirkeci (Marmary Sirkeci Istasyonu) station. The place you must visit is Kiz Kulesi (Maiden’s Tower)which is one of the most photographed places in Istanbul and offers a 360 degree view of the entire city.
FOOD AND TOP INSTAGRAM LOCATIONS
It is impossible to be hungry in Istanbul. Turkish cuisine has a long tradition, and the food is around every corner. Street food is a good option when you’re constantly walking and exploring the city, and one of my favorites are freshly squeezed fruit juices. The food prices vary, but again they are most definitely cheaper than in Croatia.
The places which I would like to point out are great places for taking Instagram pictures, some of which include Seven Hills Hotel (https://www.sevenhillshotel.com) which has the best breakfast and Turkish coffee and it offers you an amazing view overlooking Hagia Sophia. Hazif Mustafa (https://www.hafizmustafa.com) has the best baklava and their pastry shops are located all around the city. Roof top bars are gorgeous because of the view, but also because of what they have to offer. My favorite one is 360 Istanbul (http://www.360istanbul.com) which is modernly decorated and it’s located on the Istikal Cadessi street overlooking the Galata Tower. The city is filled with restaurants, bars, cafes and picture perfect places so all of your needs will be met.
For centuries Istanbul has been known as the ‘shopping place’ in the whole world, and it undoubtedly still carries that title today. The most famous place for shopping is Grand Bazaar which has around 4000 shops located across more than 60 streets. I advise you not to shop there because the prices are extremely high due to the fact that this is such a popular tourist spot. Instead I would suggest shopping in streets that surround Grand Bazaar where you can find the same things for half the price.
Istikal Cadessi is a street connecting Taksim and Galat Tower, it’s 1.5 km long and it’s truly a heaven for shopaholics. You can find many well known brands there (Zara, Mango, H&M), but you can also discover many Turkish brands which are noticeably cheaper than in Europe (Pierre Cardin, U.S.POLO, Tudors, Yargici, Gizia, Ipekyol, Koton and many others).
If you are willing to spend a large sum of money on shopping, reserve your day for exclusive shopping centers such as Istinye Park or Zorlu Center.
A very popular place for taking the most beautiful photos in Istanbul is Kubbe Istanbul (https://www.instagram.com/kubbe.istanbul/), and the price for using the space and taking photos is 100 TL. A similar place where traditional Turkish clothing can be rented is Taht Istanbul (https://www.instagram.com/taht.istanbul/?hl=hr). Believe me, these places won’t leave you indifferent, and the photos taken here will remain your memories forever.
I could go on and write a lot more about Istanbul, however one part should remain undiscovered in order for you to enjoy and experience it on your own. I hope that this travelogue helps you and I wish all of you a trip to Istanbul as soon as possible so you can experience the magic that this city offers.
If you have any extra inquiries, you can contact me and I will gladly answer your questions. I hope this travelogue helps you plan your next travel.
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Thank you for reading.