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Istanbul is amazing! I knew it would be a great city, but I didn’t expect to be blown away. As I started to write this Istanbul travel blog, I realized that Istanbul has surpassed Barcelona as my favourite European city.

Really, what is there not to like? The people were so friendly and helpful. I didn’t run into a single person who didn’t speak English– most of them spoke multiple languages. The city itself can be chaotic at times, but it’s very tourist friendly with its popular attractions, tasty cuisine, and laid back atmosphere.

All those fears people have about visiting Turkey are completely unfounded. Unless you plan on visiting the Syrian border, the country is 100% safe. My only regret is that I only visited Istanbul- it would have been great to see more of Turkey.

The Istanbul basics

Accommodations – The two most popular areas to stay in Istanbul are Sultanahmet (the old town) and Beyoğlu (popular for shopping). Both areas have good mid-range hotels for around $150-200CAD a night. What area you chose really comes down to preference, both areas are nice, but I personally chose to stay in Sultanahmet.

Airbnb will always be cheaper– apartments in Beyoğlu can be found for to $90-120 a night. Costs can add up in Istanbul so it’s a good option if you’re travelling in a group. If you haven’t tried Airbnb before, sign up with my referral link for a credit of $30 on your first stay.

Transportation – Istanbul has a fantastic public transportation that features trams, subways, funicular, buses and ferries. At first glance it can be intiidating to navigate the system, but once you arrive, you realize how simple it is. Purchasing an Istanbul Kart is a must since it’s a pre-paid contact-less card that allows up to 5 people to use the different modes of transportation.

Eat and drink – Turkish food is delicious, and it’s really not that different from what you would find in North America. Grilled meats, vegetables, fresh fish, falafel, and baked bread are vfound everywhere. A good meal will cost you under $20 a person, but be aware that near the tourist areas, many restaurants charge a premium, so don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. Two staples can’t be missed are the fish sandwiches for $3 at Eminonu pier and Turkish coffee.

Attractions – Most of the historic sites are located in Sultanahmet and are even more beautiful when you see them in person. The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace are the are the most popular attractions, but be sure not to miss Galata Tower, the Basilica Cistern and Dolmabahçe Palace. The Grand Bazaar is a giant tourist trap, instead head over to the spice market where prices are listed. The Istanbul Museum Pass does offer value, but you should check to see if you’re interested in all the attractions before purchasing it.

Bosphorus Cruises – Some would consider a Bosphorus cruise the highlight of their trip, but travellers should know there are many different companies offering tours. You’re guaranteed to be approached by someone on the street offering cruises, so do your research and book in advance. These cruises aren’t cheap either, but through my affiliate link you can save on morning, dinner, and sunset Bosphorus cruises.

Here’s the rest of my Istanbul travel blog through pictures.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, commonly known as Blue Mosque dates back to the 1600's

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, commonly known as Blue Mosque dates back to the 1600’s

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The upper levels are painted blue hence the name Blue Mosque

The upper levels are painted blue hence the name Blue Mosque

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This is easily the most popular tourist attraction in Istanbul

This is easily the most popular tourist attraction in Istanbul

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Hagia Sophia is located directly across the Blue Mosque

Hagia Sophia is located directly across the Blue Mosque

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It started as a Greek Orthodox Church before being converted into a Mosque

It started as a Greek Orthodox Church before being converted into a Mosque

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However since 1935 it has become a public museum

However since 1935 it has become a public museum

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The Basilica Cistern has 336 marble columns

The Basilica Cistern has 336 marble columns

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This inverted Medusa head supports one of the columns. No one knows where it came from

This inverted Medusa head supports one of the columns. No one knows where it came from

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 Eminönü pier is a popular a popular place for locals and tourists. Fresh fish sandwiches are just $3 here!

Eminönü pier is a popular place for locals and tourists. Fresh fish sandwiches are just $3 here!

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Here's the view of Eminönü pier from Galata Bridge

Here’s the view of Eminönü pier from Galata Bridge

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The New Mosque located in Eminönü was actaully built in 1650

The New Mosque located in Eminönü was actaully built in 1650

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Located just behind the New Mosque is the spice bazaar

Located just behind the New Mosque is the spice bazaar

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The spice bazaar does indeed sell other things

The spice bazaar does indeed sell other things

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Galata Bridge is a popular spot for locals to fish, you can see Galata Tower in the distance

Galata Bridge is a popular spot for locals to fish, you can see Galata Tower in the distance

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Taking the tram is the easiest way to get to the new area. Public transportation in Istanbul is excellent

Taking the tram is the easiest way to get to the new area. Public transportation in Istanbul is excellent

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A view of Sultanahmet (old city) in the background from Beyoğlu (the newer area)

A view of Sultanahmet (old city) in the background from Beyoğlu (the newer area)

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The base of Galta Tower is popular for musicians. At night many locals gather to have coffee and catch up

The base of Galta Tower is popular for musicians. At night many locals gather to have coffee and catch up

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Istiklal Avenue is a pedestrian only shopping street with all the major brands. There's even a Shake Shack here

Istiklal Avenue is a pedestrian only shopping street with all the major brands. There’s even a Shake Shack here

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Topkapi Palace is another popular attraction not to be missed

Topkapi Palace is another popular attraction not to be missed

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Although you have to pay extra the harem (living quarters) is a nice thing to check out

Although you have to pay extra the harem (living quarters) is a nice thing to check out

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These lions of Babylon are part of the Ishtar Gate and are located at the Istanbul Archaeological Museums

These lions of Babylon are part of the Ishtar Gate and are located at the Istanbul Archaeological Museums

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There's an entire building dedicated to tombs in the Istanbul Archaeological Museums

There’s an entire building dedicated to tombs in the Istanbul Archaeological Museums

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If you have time check out Dolmabahçe Palace. For some reason they don't allow pictures inside

If you have time check out Dolmabahçe Palace. For some reason they don’t allow pictures inside

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There are restaurants everywhere and most of them have outdoor seating

There are restaurants everywhere and most of them have outdoor seating

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As you can see Istanbul is very lively

As you can see Istanbul is very lively

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Of course a trip to Istanbul wouldn't be complete without a stop at the Grand Bazaar. Be warned this place is basically a giant tourist trap

Of course a trip to Istanbul wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Grand Bazaar. Be warned this place is basically a giant tourist trap

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Located not too far from the Grand Bazaar is Süleymaniye Mosque which does not see too many tourists

Located not too far from the Grand Bazaar is Süleymaniye Mosque which does not see too many tourists

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Outside Süleymaniye Mosque is the graveyard which is worth taking a look

Outside Süleymaniye Mosque is the graveyard which is worth taking a look

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2 Comments

  1. Johanna Trace on December 23, 2019 at 6:38 PM

    Our Istanbul visit was an unforgettable trip. For the ones that consider visiting Istanbul I have little tip. Bargain! if you gonna buy something. Don’t use the cabs they will probably overcharge you. Use metro and buses.

  2. Anna Hollingworth on January 24, 2020 at 8:08 AM

    Great blog, loved reading all about Istanbul! I am going to visit Istanbul in April and looking for a boat cruise on the Bosphorus, something more exclusive than the big ferry cruises.

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