After 5 wonderful days in Cappadocia, Mark and I hopped on a one-hour local flight to spend the next 5 days in Istanbul. After getting our bags, we got a Uber from the airport to our apart-hotel in Karakoy. I had booked our stays in both Karakoy and Sultanahmet to get a feel of the two neighbourhoods.
Day 1 of 5 days in Istanbul | Flight in + Sultanhamet & Karakoy Neigbourhoods
For our first two nights, we booked a flat at the Dauria Galata Flats in Karakoy. It took us about an hour to get there from the airport. The apartment wasn’t clearly marked, so we spent some time looking for it and sort of stumbled on the office of the house manager.
After a brief introduction, he led us to our apartment on the ground floor of one of several flats that they own, where we dropped our bags and got settled in. Tired from the long wait and a postponed flight at the airport, we decided to call a Uber to get us to Sultanahmet for an early dinner.
Surprisingly, the only Uber driver who accepted the ride proceeded to charge us three times the price Uber had shown. We refused to pay this amount and chose to walk over the Galata Bridge instead. It turned out to be a very pleasant walk and I enjoyed seeing all the fishermen lined up along the bridge, casting their poles into the Bosphorus Strait.
After walking for about an hour, we arrived at the Seven Hills Restaurant and got seated inside with a stunning view of the Hagia Sophia. We also went up to the terrace for a clearer view of the mosque and photo opportunities.
We walked back to our accommodation after dinner and called it a night.
Day 2 of 5 days in Istanbul | Galata, Kadikoy Moda, Taksim Square
The next morning, we headed out early to the foot of the Galata Towers for some photo opportunities. One of the main reasons for booking a stay in Karakoy was to explore places around it as early as possible, without the crowds.
As we waited for stores around to open up for breakfast, we walked around and stumbled on the Kamondo Stairs and the Umbrella Street…
After taking a few pictures, the stores around the area began to open and we got seated at Rose Papillon for a light breakfast. Then, we took a ferry to the Kadikoy neighbourhood on the Asian side of Istanbul, where we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around, eating and enjoying a ride on the tram.
We ended our second day in Istanbul by waking the entire length of Istiklal Street (which I absolutely loved) and having dinner at Tomtom Kebap restaurant.
Day 3 of 5 days in Istanbul | Suleymaniye Mosque, Istiklal Street, Grand Bazzar & Sultanahmet
The next morning, we took a walk over the Galata Bridge to the Suleymaniye Mosque. At the time we arrived, an attendant told us that the mosque was not yet open to visitors. So, we just walked around the outside courtyard before heading back to Karakoy for breakfast at Cafe Privato.
After that, we went back to Istiklal Street, walked around some more and window shopped. Then we headed to our accommodation for the last two nights in Turkey – the Istanbul Henna hotel. I had chosen this place for three reasons.
First, it was close to Sultanahmet Square – about a 5-minute walk to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Secondly, it had a lovely terrace overlooking the Hagia Sophia. And lastly, I had read good reviews about their coffee shop.
The hotel lived up to my expectations, the staff was kind and friendly and we certainly enjoyed our stay here. We spent the rest of the day leisurely around Sultanahmet Square, where we got to see a live whirling Dervish performance after dinner.
Day 4 of 5 days in Istanbul | Sultanahmet Square (Blue Mosque), Balat
On day four, we visited the Blue Mosque. It was Mark’s second visit and my first and unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to marvel at it as it was being renovated. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel for breakfast and to do our Covid test. Then we chilled for a while, took a walk along the corniche and then headed off to Balat.
Day 5 of 5 days in Istanbul | Mosques (Hagia Sophia, Suleymaniye Mosque), Old Istanbul + Outbound Flight
Finally, it was time to head back home. Our flight was not until evening, so we had a full day to explore sites that we had missed earlier. We began with the Hagia Sophia and Suleymaniye Mosques, then we went shopping in Old Istanbul and ended our afternoon with lunch at Nova Santiye Cafe. And with that, we said our goodbyes to Istanbul.
Overall, our trip to Turkey was an exciting one. I had high expectations and I’m so happy that to say that this trip lived up to it. I am certainly looking forward to visiting Turkey again and exploring other regions that we missed this time.
Some useful Q&A about visiting Istanbul…
How many days do I need in Istanbul?
There is a lot to see in Istanbul and the more days you have to spare, the better. We spent 5 days (4 nights) and I thought it was good enough to get a feel of the city. I would recommend spending at least 3 days if you can afford the time.
What is the best month to go to Turkey?
March – April and September – October are considered the best months to visit. We went in September and had a great time.
Is it better to stay in Taksim or Sultanahmet?
Most people recommend staying in Sultanahmet if you’re visiting for the first time. This neighbourhood is where you’ll find the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar and the old city. The Taksim, Beyoglu and Karakoy neighbourhoods are livelier though, so it depends on your preference.
We split our days between the two and I enjoyed staying in both places.
PS: I have written a series of posts about our time in Istanbul and Cappadocia including a FAQ post about travelling to Turkey and a cost breakdown. You may find all posts here.
Have you been to Istanbul or is it on your wanderlust list? Let me know in the comment section below! Istanbul currently shares the top spot with Cape Town as my favourite city in the world. What’s yours?