With a four-day weekend and a four-year anniversary on the horizon, the Doc and I had a good excuse to plan a trip a bit further afield. I’ve had Turkey at the top of my travel list for some time so we set our compass east and enjoyed several days exploring Istanbul and Cappadocia over the Easter break.
Istanbul is a magnificent city set along the shores of the Bosphorus, which splits the city between Europe and Asia. The historic center, Sultanahmet, and the trendy Beyoglu area are both on the European side where we spent most of our time.
Busy, romantic, and beautiful, Istanbul has a vibrant culture that reflects both a deeply rooted conservative past and a modern, progressive look to the future.
Sleep: We stayed at the Sirkeci Mansion, which is in a fantastic location in the Sultanahmet area. Service was genuine, rooms were comfortable, and we really enjoyed being in the historic part of town. Many people stay across the river in Beyoglu, which is convenient to nightlife and many amazing restaurants. It’s win-win, but I think if you are there for a short period of time and it’s your first visit, I’d recommend staying in Sultanahmet.
Eat: We only had one bad meal in Turkey at tourist trap near the Blue Mosque. Epic failure, but I suppose 1 out of 15 is forgiveable. Everywhere else, I would highly recommend.
For lunch or dinner in Sultanahmet, go to Balikci Sabahattin. Fresh fish, very good mezes, and great service. Make a booking to sit in the courtyard/garden area and note that Google Maps is wrong on the address by a few blocks so don’t be afraid to ask for directions.
Lunch at Hamdi near the Spice Bazaar and Galata Bridge/Eminonu. Known for their kebabs. Ask for a table on the third floor terrace which offers excellent views of the New Mosque and the Bosphorus.
Dinner at Meze by Lemon Tree. Teeny, charming restaurant serving modern Turkish cuisine across from the Pera Palace hotel in Beyoglu. Essential to book ahead and make sure to try several of the freshly made mezes and must get the lamb if you are a carnivore–the Doc thought it was some of the best he’s ever had. Everything was delicious!
Dinner at Ulus29. Set on a hillside in Ulus, north of town, with incredible views of the Bosphorus and city. Upscale restaurant and bar, filled with dressed-to-the-nines Turkish clientele. The modern Turkish food and experience lived up to the price tag, and we would recommend with a group or for a date.
Things to Note:
*Get the museum pass! It is 85 TL and gives you access to Topkapi Palace (including the Harem), Hagia Sophia, and the Archeological Museum, as well as a few other places we didn’t go. The BEST part is that it let’s you skip all the lines, which can be huge during spring and summer. Ask your hotel to get one for you.
*Take a wrap/scarf with you as you need to cover you hair in all the mosques. It’s nice to have socks as well because shoes aren’t allowed inside the mosques. Blue Mosque doesn’t open until 2:30 on Fridays.
*The 90-minute Tinyurl Bosphorus cruise leaves every hour, costs 12 TL, and is a great way to get a good perspective of the size and layout of the city. We went early and ate fresh fish sandwiches along the water beforehand.
*Taxis are abundant but traffic is terrible. We walked almost everywhere, and though we never took it, heard the tram was super convenient and easy to take.
*The airport is about 30 minutes from Sultanahmet in a taxi and costs 50 TL each way. Get cash from an ATM at the airport, you’ll need it for tips, taxis, and many restaurants.
As much as we loved Istanbul, Cappadocia was incredible. Post to come later this week…