The one country I visited and grew to love immensely was Turkey. There was something about the culture, the people and the history there that truly invigorated my happy place.
I am a Persian-American and I totally thought I would fit right in when I went there, but I was completely wrong. The whole time the Turkish people thought I was Italian or from Spain. I appreciated the compliment, but come on, I am closer to being Turkish than from those places! Must have been my blonde hair and hazel eyes? Or the fact that I was wearing these tiny denim casual shorts in a very muslim country. Note to self, while traveling to countries, to do a little research on what people wear there. We should always strive to respect their beautiful cultures!
I got over not being considered a middle-eastern quickly as I was too busy being completely in love with the magical city of Istanbul. I luckily connected with friends who had lived there or visited and received a complete breakdown of where I should visit. Through their recommendations and the ones I gathered from the local Turkish people I met along the way, I present to you my Istanbul recommendations below!
Best Hotels in Istanbul:
W Hotel - If you are a Starwood fan, I highly suggest the W Hotel. It is located in a classy neighborhood and it has plenty of cafes that you can walk to. The service was fantastic, the rooms were very modern and their breakfast buffet was delicious. Baklava and turkish tea every morning? Yes please!
They treated us so kindly here. They decorated our room, brought us champagne and a room filled with treats and balloons. The bathroom was also equipped with a hammam style shower. Now who wants to scrub-a-dub me?
Four Seasons Bosphorus- Breathtaking hotel right on the Bosphorus Sea. Super luxurious and filled with the most gorgeous flowers, just like the George V Paris. The pool (pictured here in this post) was so lovely. Loved the fruit infused water!
Now if you want a ultra luxurious hammam experience, I highly suggest getting it at their hotel spa. Unreal and ridiculously relaxing. You can even opt to do their couple hammam massage if you happen to go with your significant other. The resort is truly a 5 star experience!
Ciragan Palace- Oh my goodness! Right next to the hotel is the palace that can be booked if you are ridiculously rich or famous. It is incredibly beautiful and the royal red carpet is kind of a big deal. I looked at some weddings that were hosted there and let’s just say Jeff Leatham, the floral genie, sprinkled his magic there and it was breathtaking!
Best Places for Sightseeing in Istanbul:
Sultanahmet (old town)-
In Sultanahmet, known as the Old City, you will see some of the most beautiful depiction of the many empires that once ruled there. The glorious Hagia Sophia has a soaring dome and intricate Christian Mosaics, while the open space Roman times Hippodrome was for hundreds of years the area of chariot races and Egyptian obelisks remains. In the Old City, you will find the many famous sight seeing spots that you must see! You can even do these all in one day if you start early. But if you do have the time, I highly suggest you split it up. Maybe day 1 do the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, then grab some lunch at Medusa Cafe and see the Cistern next. The next day go to the spice market and the Bazaar and afterwards go to my favorite restaurant in Istanbul, Old Ottoman Cafe. The food was divine! The eggplant dish I am still truly dreaming about. Say hi to the owner, Erol. He was fantastic! Your cultural dreams and foodie dreams will come alive in Istanbul. This I promise you!
Also as mentioned earlier, there is a dress code. Women must not have exposed legs, chest or arms if they plan on entering the Blue Mosque. I stayed in the outside area, but I did not stay for long. I came back later when I had some more clothes on and went to explore the inside. I do want to note it was 90 degrees outside, so that is why I was trying to stay cool in light linens.
Throughout the city the mosques have a prayer they play through the loud speakers. You can hear it during the different times of the day outside. It was very cool to experience that.
Lovely area by the Bosphorus where you can walk along the water and you will approach this area of town with vendors and tons of cafes. This also happens to be the nightlife area, which I will get to later!
I did a little shopping for silver jewelry in the outdoor market and found some gorgeous evil eye necklaces to bring back for my loved ones back home. The evil eye necklaces are supposed to ward off bad energy from others. I am definitely into these necklaces and I received one as a gift while I was there and I have not taken it off since! LET THE GOOD VIBES IN! (Insert both hands up emoji)
Throughout town you will notice that sitting at cafes is something the Turkish youth and adults love to do. One cafe I loved was the House Cafe, especially the one located in Ortakoy. The view of the Bosphorus was so cool. There is also the House Hotel it is connected to, which was super modern and chic. I would have loved to stay there!
If you want high end Hermes, Chanel shopping, then come to this area. In this area you will also find an amazing kabob shop Kosebasi. I ate here two nights in a row. It truly was incredible! There were an abundance of side dishes to choose from. They present them all to you on a platter at once and you can choose which one you would like to keep. I wish all restaurants were like that!
Located on the Asia side of Turkey, this new, cool, young, hip spot has great cafes and restaurants. I wandered over to Chilai, a sexy Miami-like vibe restaurant that was right on the water. Everyone would arrive via their boats and park their boats right outside the restaurant. So cool! It is great at night because they have a cool DJ and delicious food. I loved the sea bass there. Highly recommend it.
Other cute cafes in the area are Midpoint Cafe and Bar, Mangerie and Banyan Patisserie Shop.
Overnight Trips in Turkey:
Izmir- Cesme - I highly recommend spending 2-3 days here. We did and we never wanted to leave! It is one of the most gorgeous beach cities I have ever visited.
Cappadocia- Ride a hot air balloon and take millions of gorgeous photos. Stay at the Cave House hotel. It is so unbelievably dope!
Day Trip to Pamukkale- visit the ‘Cotton Castle’ hot springs for some zen in this white wonderland.
Hope you enjoyed my recap of Istanbul. I loved my experience there and hope you plan a trip there as well! The summers are extra hot, so if you can go early Fall, I highly suggest it!