A family holiday to Istanbul on the prestigious Turkish Airlines is just what the doctor ordered. As we pack our bags we are not sure what to expect from this unique city. I could only start imagining colourful, vibrant markets and street cafe’s with Turkish water pipes and delicious kebabs.
As we make ourselves comfortable in our seats we are greeted by our on-board chef, the menu looks delicious! Turkish airlines is the only airline that offers a candle light dinner – in air! So we make ourselves comfortable for the night’s sleep in the fully reclinable seats. As the morning sun rays beams through the windows we couldn’t help but wake up with an exciting heart, we are almost in Istanbul, we got served a beautiful hot breakfast with some delicious coffee before we descent into Istanbul.
Upon arrival at our hotel we quickly unpacked our bags, had a shower (I had a bath – I am from Cape Town hahaha) and slipped into comfy clothes before we ventured out to explore Istanbul. Our first stop had to involve food so our kind tour giude, Mehmet, took us to his favourite spot. ” No need to look at the menu or order anything”, Mehmet says with a smile on his face – they will bring you a bit everything to taste. We didn’t even sit for a minute when the food started filling up our table! We had a proper feast in proper Turkish style and if I should say so myself it was the best Turkish kebabs I have ever tasted.
After our delightful lunch we took a short cable car ride up the Pierre Loti hill and enjoyed some home brewed Turkish coffee with a stunning view of Istanbul.
We also visited Minaturk which is a place that exhibits the “mini treasures” found in Turkey, there are about 105 models done in 1/25th scale. Half of them are from Istanbul and the rest from Anatolia and the Ottoman territories outside of Turkey. This is a great way to see all the attractions in and around Turkey if you don’t have enough time to physically go visited all these historical sights!
On the seond day we started our adventures off in the city center sqaure of Turkey called Beyazit Square. This was previously known as Freedom square and is home to many shops, the Istanbul University, State Library and Beyazit mosque. It is close to the Grand baazar. From here you can take a tram to famous Sultanahmet district. It is one of the most beautiful squares of Istanbul’s history. From here we walked to the Spice Bazaar en got to explore and discover all the rich textures, flavours, sights and sounds the traditional Turkey has to offer. We tasted true traditional Turkish sweets, tea’s, oils, spices, nuts, dried fruits, textiles.. the list goes on and on and on!
After our market shopping we walked though the small historical streets paved with cobble stones, it was warm en buzzing with people, there is so much culture and so many traditional shops around every corner. We often replenished our energy with some super freshly squeezed juices available everywhere. Our last stop for the day was Topkapi palace, this palace served as the main residence in the 15th century and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans. It is now a large museum and forms part of the historic areas of Istanbul. Topkapi means Cannon Gate, this name was given in the 19th century. Only a a few of the rooms are open to public to view, there is also a museum collection which also includes Ottoman clothing, weapons, armor, miniatures, religious relics, and the Topkapi manuscript. The views from Topkapi palace is really amazing as you can see the Bosphorus strait which separates Europe from Asia
Be sure to visit the Konyali Lokantasi restaurant when you are at Topkapi Palace, the food and views are incredible!
Just some tips when visiting Istanbul:
- Make sure you have Turkish money on you when you arrive at the airport for the luggage trollies! They cost 1 Lira each, luckily we did find a money exchange kiosk within the arrival terminal for this.
- Don’t take any pictures of the cabin crew on Turkish airlines – it’s against their airline policy and you can get into big trouble for this!
- If you are pregnant and traveling on Turkish airlines make sure your letter from the Doctor states clearly that you are healthy and fit to fly, how many weeks you are and that your letter is stamped according to the Turkish airlines rules and regulations (They differ from other airlines). I was sadly almost rejected to board my flight back home due to the fact that I didn’t have the correct stamp.
- It’s best to have a translator app on your phone as we found that many people (including restaurant staff couldn’t speak English)
- If you buy stuff from the markets double check your parcels and boxes before they seal it. We got a few extra unwanted, paid for, surprises when we opened our box at home.
- Always bargain at he markets!
Did you know:
Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents: Asia and Europe.
Istanbul is built on seven hills to match the seven hills of Rome.
Under the Ottoman Empire, the city was renowned for having more than 1,400 public toilets
While not the capital, Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city with more than 13 million people – 99 per cent of which are Muslim.
Snow is common in the city!
Istanbul is home to the most mosque in Turkey. It has 3,113 mosques, including the historical Sultanahmet Mosque and the Süleymaniye Mosque.
Sultanahmet or the Old City is where most of the famous historical sights of Istanbul are located.
The Grand Bazaar in operation since 1461, is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world with 60 streets and 5,000 shops. It attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.
Istanbul is famous for its historic seafood restaurants. The Kumkapı neighbourhood along the Sea of Marmara alone houses some 50 fish restaurants, and many of the city’s restaurants line the shores of the Bosphorus.
Istanbul is the world’s top destination in the 2014 Traveller’s’ Choice Destinations awards, voted for by millions of holiday makers, ahead of Paris, New York, Rome and London
On my next blog I will share some more shopping tips, handmade carpets, leather jackets, more food and our expereince on Turkish Airlines returning home!