Last month I went to visit a very gorgeous friend of mine who has been living in Istanbul for the past year. I headed out for three nights and enjoyed two full days in the heart of Istanbul. It was magical in so many ways, I loved the vibrancy of the city, the smells and the hustle and bustle of it all.
Istanbul sits across two continents, Asia and Europe, it is divided by the Bosphorus and has a incredible mix of history, culture and art. We wandered through the city admiring the architecture, enjoying the markets and loving endless amounts of delicious Turkish food.
During Ramadan, the Koran is read out through tannoys over the city, this instantly reminded me of growing up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Where it differs to Saudi is that Istanbul is full of the friendliest people which makes it an easy city to get around and enjoy and without the strict dress code, it is a far cry from Riyadh.
In my eyes, no trip to Istanbul would be complete without a visit to the famous Grand Bazaar. One of the most colourful and chaotic markets I’ve ever been to, the Grand Bazaar is quite literally like nowhere else I’ve been before. As the biggest covered market in the world (with over 3000 stalls and shops), there is nothing you cannot find here; though be warned, you’ll need to get your haggling hat on as everyone is there for the best bargain. My advice? For the most authentic shopping experience, prepare to get very lost, very hot and just go with the flow. If you’re with friends, I’d suggest sticking together as it’s pretty hard to find anyone or anything when you’re in the belly of the beast.
The Blue Mosque
Wow. This iconic, historical mosque is simply breath taking and covered, with some 20,000 hand painted blue tiles, it really is stunning. As a woman, you have to cover up to enter but access – via the same entrance as worshippers – is very simple. If you are choosing one of the many mosques to visit, The Blue Mosque will definitely leave a lasting impression. Built over 400 years ago, the mosque is still active today with five daily prayers; the first call to prayer is at sunrise and the last one at nightfall. Plan your visit in advance as the mosque closes for 90 minutes at each pray time.
Boat ride on the Bosporus
Jumping on a ferry for the morning is a great way to get a view of two continents from the water, sailing between the stretch of water that divides Europe and Asia was a fantastic way to look at the country from the outside in. We sailed up and had lunch at a brilliantly inspiring cooking school with views over the water. Though we opted for a shorter journey, longer trips are available and you can even book a sunset trip – great for a romantic getaway.