Beautiful Istanbul – off-season visit

These days (beginning of June 2013) the streets of Istanbul are looking like the battlefield. That’s why it is important now to remind to ourselves how beautiful this city is, and we hope will still remain in the future.

Istanbul

We’ve visited the Istanbul at the end of February for two days on our way to China. This was an offseason time and it meant the cheaper hotel prices and quite tourist areas. We booked a standard room in a standard hotel in Sultanahmet (old city area). The location appeared to be superb, as it was only 5 minutes’ walk from main attractions: Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque.

We’ve enjoyed just walking and sitting in Sultan Ahmet Park, between these two massive historical buildings,

Istanbul -Sultan Ahmet Park

Istanbul -Sultan Ahmet Park

 

especially at night, when everything is lightened by beautiful and colorful lights.

Istanbul - The Blue Mosque - In night lights

Istanbul – The Blue Mosque – In night lights

All the hotels in this neighborhood have a dining room located on the roof terrace, from which you have a fantastic view of the sea.

Istanbul - Hotel - view from the terrace

Istanbul – Hotel – view from the terrace

Our hotel was located on the street filled with restaurants. At first we would pass near them throwing curious glances inside, but the owners then began to jump on us quite aggressively, inviting to come in. We guess that the lack of tourists at this cold time of the year is probably making them very cautious to every passing tourist-like creature.  From this reason, later we began to avoid walking on this street and made a circle around it to get to the hotel. In general, the owners of restaurants and bars in Sultanahmet made a not so good impression on us. It felt like, when they look at us, they only think how much money they can get from us. So, no wonder we’ve avoided them, but not after we tasted some local delicious cuisine.

Istanbul - Delicious cuisine

Istanbul – Delicious cuisine

Near our hotel’s street there was a small bazaar with beautiful gift shops and carpets. Of course we couldn’t resist and bought several small gifts.

Istanbul - Endless giftshops are haven for shopaholic

Istanbul – Endless gift shops are haven for shopaholic

 

Because we had only two days for this visit, we had a very clear plan. We wanted to visit famous Hagia Sophia, make a cruise along the Bosporus strait and visit the old and famous Istanbul Grand Bazaar.

Hagia Sophia

We were not disappointed from choosing Hagia Sophia as a starting point. This piece of art left us in complete awe. The high and beautifully decorated dome shifted us to the religious moods. Everything here was telling a story of two religions fighting for dominance. Hagia Sophia was first built as a largest church of its time, then converted to mosque by Muslim conquerors and finally had become a museum opened for everybody.

Istanbul - Hagia Sophia - The unforgetable interior leaves you in complete awe

Istanbul – Hagia Sophia – The unforgettable interior leaves you in complete awe

From outside Hagia Sophia was also a pleasing sight for our eyes.

Istanbul - Hagia Sophia - Very pleasing sight for our eyes

Istanbul – Hagia Sophia – Very pleasing sight for our eyes

 

We would spend all our time gazing on Sultan Ahmet park’s benches, but we noticed one guy, or more exactly to say, one guide. He was holding the plate with name of the company, which is making the cruises on Bosporus.

Bosporus strait Cruise

We wanted to do this for a long time. And we were very glad to discover that the ticket for cruise for one person is only 15 Turkish lira. We bought the tickets and were told to come to this meeting point in half an hour.

 

Istanbul Bosporus cruis - It is a must for all first-timers

Istanbul Bosporus cruise – It is a must for all first-timers

After half an hour together with big group of other tourists from different countries we were taken to the shore and there the small ship was waiting for us. The whole cruise lasted for 2 hours. The first hour the ship was going closer to the European side of Bosporus and the second hour it was coming back closer to the Asian side.

Istanbul - Bosporus strait cruise - Big city in the haze - view from the ship

Istanbul – Bosporus strait cruise – Big city in the haze – view from the ship

 

Only from the deck of this ship you can grasp how big and beautiful is this city.

Istanbul has the most perfect location on Earth connecting the two continents. During the cruise the ship was passing under two bridges which are connecting the sides of the strait, which is an unforgettable sight.

Istanbul - Bosporus Cruis -Passing under the bridge which connects two continents

Istanbul – Bosporus Cruis -Passing under the bridge which connects two continents

After two and half hours of the cruise it was a time to go back to shore and to visit the Old Istanbul Grand Bazaar.

The Istanbul Grand Bazaar

We assumed that it was impossible to see all the market, because it contains around  61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops (if to believe to statistics). So we just went there blindly without any specific plan.

The Istanbul Grand Bazaar- Mission impossible

The Istanbul Grand Bazaar- Mission impossible

The only word we have here to describe this place is “Wow”. Boy, they have a lot of stuff there. Carpets, lamps, teapots, coffee jars, nargiles (turkish water pipe), clothes, soaps… you name it.

Istanbul Grand Bazaar - Turkish nargiles of all kinds and sizes

Istanbul Grand Bazaar – Turkish nargiles of all kinds and sizes

 

Our only pity was that we couldn’t take a little bit of everything with us. The luggage limitations, you know.

Istanbul Grand Bazaar - Famouse turkish lamps

Istanbul Grand Bazaar – Famouse turkish lamps

 

So after walking for several hours on its streets and buying some very small souvenirs for friends we decided that this was enough for the first visit. We left Grand Bazaar promising to ourselves that someday we will come back for more. We just loved the spirit of abundance of this place.

Istanbul Grand Bazaar - Spirit of abundance

Istanbul Grand Bazaar – Spirit of abundance

The next day we decided to dedicate to window shopping in famous İstiklal Avenue.

İstiklal Avenue

 

When we left the tourist area we’ve discovered that there are indeed a lot of people living in Istanbul. It looks like all the 15 million of city inhabitants are avoiding Sultanahmet area, probably because of higher prices there.

But they for sure like to take a walk on Istiklal Avenue.  There were endless crowds of people walking, buying, eating and chatting. Here we could taste the famous Turkish kebab, it was so yummy and we were so hungry that we forgot to take a picture of it.

Istanbul - İstiklal Avenue - the busiest avenue of the city

Istanbul – İstiklal Avenue – the busiest avenue of the city

 

Here we also found a numerous stores selling cheap and good quality clothes made in Turkey and not in China (finally).

But again we couldn’t buy much and most of the time just played pretending that we are models. Looking on the istanbulians and the cheap prices, we could guess that this is where they all probably buy clothes for themselves.

Istanbul - Playing top model in one of the clothes stores

Istanbul – Playing top model in one of the clothes stores

If you are in Istanbul you have to go and find these stores and to get dressed.

One more thing we have to mention is, we noticed that the animals in Istanbul are feeling themselves very comfortable.  During the day we’ve met a lot of sleeping dogs and cats everywhere. And nobody seemed to be disturbed by their presence. Not in every city you can see such a thing.

 

 

Istanbul - the white cat sleeping in window of one of the giftshops

Istanbul – the white cat sleeping in window of one of the gift shops

We were very happy to finally put the Istanbul on our traveling map and for sure we will come for more.

Istanbul - Hunting for tourists to take a picture in traditional clothes

Istanbul – Hunting for tourists to take a picture in traditional clothes

 

 

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9 Responses to Beautiful Istanbul – off-season visit

  1. Hi, thanks for sharing this article on the BytefulTravel Blog Carnival. I look forward to hearing from you.
    Jim

  2. Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are two destinations I’d like to travel to, too. Your photos are amazing and your report very interesting. Thanks for sharing it !

    • Hi Crischo!

      Yes Istanbul is amazing. We will be there again very soon.
      Thank you for high rating of our photos. We know, that they are far
      from perfect, and are learning constantly to improve our skills.

  3. Thanks for the trip down memory lane! I’m a big fan of Istanbul… I don’t think I’ve ever walked so far in my life … up and down the hills to see all those sights! Even before I left, I was vowing to return!

    p.s. discovered you on Jim’s Blog carnival!

    Jay

    • Hi Jay!
      We want to go back to Istanbul as well.
      Three days of being there was too short time for all
      wanders that this city has to offer.

      By the way, how can we participate in your Expat Carnival?

      Thanks.

  4. Ah, beautiful. I’d love to visit Istanbul too. Maybe next year.

  5. every kind information about Istanbul for tourists pls visit http://macigcityistanbul.blogspot.com

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