Istanbul, I love you
Merhaba! (“Hello” in Turkish)…Jason and I went to Istanbul, Turkey in November during Thanksgiving week. We had spent a few days in Paris and then headed over to, my favorite city in the world, ISTANBUL! My parents are originally both from Turkey, so Turkey obviously is very meaningful to me. I absolutely love visiting! Jason has been to Turkey with us several times and is now a tourist pro in Istanbul! We had such an incredible trip and got to spend lots of time with family and friends! We got to stay with my amazing cousin in her beautiful Istanbul home! It was just lovely! Although we were only here for 5 days we squeezed in a lot! From sight-seeing to drinks with friends to a Turkish futbol (soccer) match. We had an incredible time! For those of you who haven’t visited Istanbul, I highly suggest it! It’s a city that links the world’s major religions, and has an immense amount of history. It served as the capital of 4 empires: Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman. Interestingly, Istanbul lies partly in Europe and partly in Asia (the commercial and historical center is on the European part but many people, about a third of the population, live on the Asian side). The Bosphorus separates the two continents. Istanbul has a population of 14.1 million and is the 3rd largest city in the world by population within city limits. It’s the world’s 5th most popular tourist destination and has an incredible wealth of history and culture! Hope you have a chance to visit! Thanks for reading!
Posing on the walk along the water by Bebek.
One of my favorite spots in Ortakoy. Ortakoy has some beautiful restaurants, cafes and shops alongside this beautiful view.
We always stop in to this beautiful restaurant called House Cafe. This chain has multiple locations all across Turkey and many beautiful locations in Istanbul. This is my favorite, especially in the summer when it’s absolutely perfect to sit out on their terrace, literally on the water and have a beautiful view of the Bosphorus.
Jason and I doing “Cheers” (in Turkish “Serefe”) with our Raki (Turkish hard alcohol drink). You typically drink this with Turkish mezes ( appetizers) or seafood. This picture was taken while we were eating at a delicious Kebap House. This is not my favorite drink (mainly because it takes like black liquorice, which is not my favorite flavor), but I still had my Raki fix this trip. (Above): Jason and I saw this clock and we found it really fitting as this was our exact trip! We left New York City, headed to Paris and then went to Istanbul.
(Below): In front of Hagia Sofia. Hagia Sofia was built as a church, converted to an imperial mosque, and is now a museum. It’s really awe inspiring inside with beautiful mosaics dating back many centuries.
(Above): The picturesque Sultan Ahmet Camii, popularly known as The Blue Mosque is one of my very favorite sights in Istanbul. This gorgeous mosque was built from 1609-1619. It has one main dome, 6 minarets and 8 secondary domes. Inside, the stunning interior has more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles (called Iznik tiles) and more than 200 stained glass windows. (see picture below).
(Above): A rainy night walking down Istiklal Street in Istanbul. The street is lined with hundreds of shops, cafes and restaurants. (Above): The beautiful decor in Backyard restaurant. We loved it here so much that we went one night for late night drinks, and another time for a delicious brunch.
(Above): Soccer is like a religion in Turkey. Everyone has a team and you are loyal to that team your whole life! It’s a BIG deal! So, my dad’s team since he was a kid is Fenerbahce! Since my sister and I were kids we’ve heard all about Turkish futbol and specifically about Fenerbahce. So, obviously, we’re Fenerbahce fans now. And, Jason is now a big Fenerbahce fan too! We were so very lucky because some close family friends of our were able to get us tickets to a derby game between Fenerbahce and another popular team, Besiktas. It was really an incredible experience! We had the most fabulous time! The stadium had a level of intensity and excitement that I couldn’t believe. As big soccer fans, we’ve been lucky enough to get to experience a lot of soccer games in different countries (including games in Germany at the 2006 World Cup), but this game was really awesome! The sign above that we made says “We came from California for Fenerbahce!”
On our last morning in Istanbul, we went to a beautiful Orthodox Church with family and friends, called “Ayin Biri Kilisesi” (First Day of the Month Church). On the first day of every month people of all religions and beliefs come to this sacred site and buy little silver and golden keys (1 Turkish Lira), representing their wishes. You line up and pass through a beautiful garden, and then proceed through a small, but beautiful interior. Here you can light your prayer candles and walk through the Church. As you walk, you pass by old carvings and pictures. You are supposed to rub your key on the stone carvings as you make your wish. Then you go downstairs and drink some of the blessed Holy Mary water that comes from the well. As you head back upstairs, you line up to be blessed by the Priest. If your wish comes true, you are supposed to return to the church and return the key. Whether you believe in this or not, I find it to be a beautiful idea and worth a try. But, my favorite part of the morning was seeing so many different types of people, and people of every belief, religion and background all coming together. If nothing else, checking out a beautiful historical site that has been around from the Byzantium era was amazing!(Above): A taste of all the delicious food that we ate in Turkey! From incredible Doner Kebap (gyro), to exquisite pastries to delicious Turkish breakfast. I am obsessed with all the amazing food in Turkey! Love, love, love!
Here are some of the amazing restaurants we enjoyed in Istanbul!
- Divan (in Bebek)
- Happily Ever After
- Cup of Joy
- Mini Dondurma
- House Cafe
- Gunaydin Kebap House
- Baylan Patisserie
- Namli (my dad’s very favorite breakfast place in Istanbul! It’s so delicious!)
4 Responses to “Istanbul, I love you”
Melis! Backyard restaurant and Ayin Biri Kilisesi – I’m sold! I cannot wait to go. Beautiful photos and travel story 🙂
Hi Melissa, Love your blog. Hope your new job is going well. What is a good airfare to look for to Istanbul -also which airline? Thanks
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Hi Di! Thanks for the sweet message! 🙂 Glad you love the blog! We traveled on Turkish Airlines. They have increased the number of direct flights from US hubs (NYC, LA) to Istanbul, and in doing so they have been having some great deals! I would definitely check them out! Also, Lufthansa usually has good options. In terms of pricing it depends on what time of year you are traveling. I would say that the best times to visit Istanbul (and Turkey generally) are Spring and Fall. I personally love being there in the summer but it gets really hot (which some people don’t enjoy). I would say (May/June) or (Sept/October) would be the best times to go. Depending on if you want to travel within Turkey (ie: down to the beach cities like Bodrum, Antalya, which are incredible and I highly recommend!) or just stay in Istanbul, is what I would take into consideration in terms of weather. Summer is also the most popular time for tourists to visit so ticket prices go up. I think from NYC an average flight cost would probably be about $800/$900 (more expensive in summer probably). But, I looked on Turkish Airlines recently just out of curiosity for what spring prices were looking like, and they were about $850. If you want to talk more about it I’m happy to chat! I think you guys would really enjoy it!
Thanks Melis! Reading your post gets me fired up for our trip, thank you for all the insight!