With a dream of traveling the world, one day I decided to take my first solo journey and I booked a flight for Istanbul.
No idea, A full-on filmy boy, one day watching a Bollywood movie “Tiger” in which they showed the amazing landscape of Istanbul and there and then I made my mind to visit Istanbul “Crazy” Isn’t it”?
My first solo travel journey starts with Istanbul. I was very much excited and, at the same time a little bit nervous too as I never traveled outside my home country alone before.
Now it’s time to board the flight, while cruising at above 30,000 ft altitude, there were so many thoughts running in my mind about my first solo journey like, how I will communicate with locals? how I will pass the immigration? how I will reach to the hotel? where I am going to change the currency? what If somebody robs me? what If I lose my luggage what if someone steal my passport? many such stupid thoughts…
My passion for traveling the world, was the only thing motivating me that time and without thinking much I plugged my earphones and started listening to my playlist.
After having a safe flight, I landed in the beautiful city “Istanbul”, which historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople. The only city in the world which connects Europe and Asia through Bosphorus.
The city is very diverse in its culture, food, and religion. I would say it is a very good mix of modern and traditional lifestyles which can be observed while interacting with locals. The locals here are quite open-minded and very friendly.
The city is famous for good food, ancient art, great music and many tourist attractions including the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 1 (Old City; Sultanahmet) Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern.
My first day starts with the voice of Asr- “the afternoon prayer” the voice mesmerized me so internally that I couldn’t stop myself to deeply lost in their prayer,
While standing in the queue for a ticket, I was already in love with the soulful voice of Asr, although it took me an hour to enter into the mosque. When I got inside the mosque I was stunned with the ancient architecture on the roof of the mosque.
I spend quite a peaceful time here, watching a few families passing their culture to their kids and teaching the process of praying, I must say that was a very emotional moment for me.
After then, I head up to Hagia Sophia another major popular tourist attraction who stands for its ancient architecture. Although they say, it was a church before during the Ottoman Empire time, and they converted that into the mosque, as a central prayer place for everyone.
After spending few hours I head towards Topkapi Palace which is just a few minutes walks from Hagia Sophia, A home of the Ottoman empire and their sultans, a masterpiece architect stands today as a sign of their excellent marble carving on the roofs with breath-taking chandeliers and colorful carpets on the floor.
After then I visited Basilica Cistern, this place will take you to ancient history. The most unique thing about this place is the two heads of Medusa; one upside down and the other is sideways at the base of two pillars. Why is it like that? Still a mystery?
I suggest spending quality time in all the above attractions to get the feel of how the Ottoman’s used to live and know about their culture & history. An audiotape is available at a cost if you want to know more about each place.
As you are in the heart of Old City and If you are a foodie like me, Sultanahmet is the best place to be at any time of the day. This place is filled with many local food delicacies which will boost your taste buds and bring a soothing sensation to your pale. Depends on your preference you will find a lot of good restaurants and cafes.
Day 2 Grand Bazaar, Suleymaniye Mosque & Bosphorus Cruise.
I started my day by visiting Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest markets in the world, with more than 60 different streets and over 5,000 shops which attract tourist attention from the different part of the world.
Here you will get each and everything from clothes. accessories, souvenirs, etc. It is obvious that when there is a crowd the chance of pickpocketers is more. Just be safe and take good care of your belongings especially your passport and Lira.
Suleymaniye Mosque, it just a few minutes, walk from the grand bazaar, another beautiful mosque showcasing its unique calligraphy on the walls of the mosque. After that you can take a City Tour (Hop on Hop off bus) It’s a very affordable way to visit Istanbul.
The bus covers all the major tourist spots, you can hope off and hope on at any time till your ticket is valid. Depends on your preference you can buy either single day pass or 2-day pass which normally covers both the routes (Redline & Blueline).
In the evening, I would highly recommend taking a Bosphorus cruise with dinner, to experience the breathtaking view of both the side; Europe & Asia with awesome Turkish food served on the table and great cultural activities on board.
Day 3 (New City) Taksim Square.
Taksim Square is a new and modern part of the Istanbul famous for its nightlife, modern restaurants offer great food, many shopping malls with various multinational brands.
You need to very careful while visiting this place as it is a very active place for pickpockets. If you are in a Taksim avoid going with any stranger who wants to hang out with you or offers a drink or wanted, you to take to any club. Be safe and extra careful.
I highly recommended that walking is the best way to explore Taksim. There are many famous attractions, from the Taksim Square to Istiklal Caddesi towards Galata Tower through Galata Bridge. It will be a good 3hr to 4hr walking tour depends on your fitness level.
If you don’t want to walk there is vintage tram runs within Taskin Square a good attraction for tourists and a bit affordable way to explore Taksim Square only. There are many street food joints along both sides of the road offering different varieties of foods at a very affordable price.
If you are a coffee lover then Taskim is a paradise for you, as many cafes are serving the best of Turkish coffee & tea accompanied by some mouth-watering Turkish delights.
There is also a museum of innocence located along the road, where many novels are placed (make sure you take audio headphones for more details) if you want to know more in detail about the history of Istanbul this would be the pick for you.
The most famous tourist attractions in Taksim is Galata Tower, which offers you the panoramic city view of Istanbul and the best place to watch the sunset, but the only challenge is to wait for the long line before you get into the tower.
Keep walking towards the Bosphorus you will now find yourself on the Galata Bridge, a dedicated place for fishermen who are anxiously waiting for their catch of the day. Below the Galata bridge, there are plenty of restaurants where you can get freshly catch grilled fish with different kinds of salads to boast your taste buds.
All the restaurants offer a spectacular view of Bosphorus, especially during the night. This is also a great place to take some nice pictures of the Blue Mosque at a distance.
After walking for a few hours, you must be feeling exhausted and there is nothing can be better than experience a Turkish accident bath called A Turkish Hamam. It is a process of cleaning and relaxing your body. Although it’s quite expensive but worth experiencing such a unique way of bathing during the Ottoman period.
After experiencing Turkish Hamam, your mind, body, and soul rejuvenate and you will feel relax and fresh. It is better to stay and chill at your hotel that night and get a sound sleep.
Next day morning you will get up fresh and It’s time to say Goodbye Istanbul!!