Welcome to our Destination in a Flash guide for Istanbul, Turkey. Whether you want some inspiration for your next trip, or need advice on making the most out of 24 hours, this is the guide for you! We’ll tell you our favorites from our adventures in Istanbul and what we recommend to see, do, eat and skip!
What to See:
Hagia Sophia: The Hagia Sophia is one of the most influential buildings in Istanbul. Constructed in the 6th century, it was the largest Christian cathedral for almost a millennium. But after the Turkish conquest in 1453, it was turned into a mosque. The building has withstood many invasions, raids, natural disasters and conflict. Due to its significance in both Christian and Muslim history, the government realized it could not longer be deemed specifically a cathedral or a mosque, and turned the Hagia Sophia into a museum in 1943. Inside, you can literally see the history of the building on the walls through layers of paintings, mosaics and religious additions made throughout time. Even if you cannot get inside, it is worth seeing this influential structure in Istanbul!
What to Do:
Blue Mosque: Right across the park from the Hagia Sophia lies the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, commonly known as the Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque doesn’t look quite as blue as the name describes, but the interior is covered in beautiful, intricate paintings! The large columns and high dome ceilings make the space seem massive, and you may strain your neck a bit trying to take in all the beauty inside.
What to Eat:
Haydari: There is no shortage of AMAZING food choices in Istanbul! Fish, meze, pita, and of course Kebab! While we ate ourselves silly, there was one dish that we ordered at almost every meal – Haydari. Haydari is a lemony, garlic yogurt dip that is SOOO good. I’m drooling just thinking about it! It usually comes with bread on the side for an appetizer, or add it as a sauce on top of your Kebab. Each restaurant makes it a little differently – some had more lemon, some had mint, and others had a lovely dill taste. Try a few and find your favorite Haydari – I know we did!
Where to try it: Platinum Cafe and Restaurant, Cankurtaran, Kutlugün Sk. No:33 D:35, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
What to Skip (and what to see instead):
Skip the Grand Bazaar: The Grand Bazaar is a stretch of stalls where you can buy spices, teas, souvenirs and much much more. After recently visiting Marrakech, we felt that the vendors were much nicer and less pushy, but that it lacked the authentic feel of a real bazaar or lively market. The stalls seemed to all carry the same items, and it appeared to be more geared towards tourists than actual goods from Istanbul.
See the Hippodrome instead: This was definitely not on our radar, until we took the free city walking tour. The Hippodrome, which now appears as a long plaza, was once a track for chariot racing and other ancient sporting events during the Byzantine period. While there aren’t many remnants of the chariot track left, you will see an obelisk that was shipped from Egypt, and a bronze statue featuring 3 snakes woven together, forged from the swords of their enemies! Around the corner, there is also the Nakkas carpet shop with ancient cistern in the basement! No need to purchase an expensive oriental rug to check it out, just let them know you would like to see the cistern and enjoy!