We are lucky that our son, Pepijn, lives and works in Istanbul. He can show us around in this beautiful city. We will therefore not only visit the usual highlights, such as Hagia Sofia and Galata Tower, but above all discover his favorite spots. Welcome to Istanbul!
We spend the night with our son, Pepijn. He has a nice apartment in the Beyoglu district. From here we set out every day.
We have now visited for the second time. Scroll down to ‘ stanbul in Autumn’ to read this report.
Breakfast in Beyoglu
The streets in the Beyoglu district are full of shops for daily necessities, nice small restaurants and a mosque. It is lovely to wander around here. Pet the cats that populate the stairs and enjoy the environment. We have a nice breakfast outside the door.
That means you get a table full of delicacies for little money. Bread, bowls with olives, with cucumber and tomato, with cheese, with honey, tahini and jam. You can also order eggs or Gözleme, a kind of tortilla with melted cheese. Or Böregi, these are a kind of fried dumplings that taste a bit like oliebol. Delicious! It’s a nice start to the day.
We visit our son’s office and have a view of the busy Bosphorus from the roof. The ships sail in one direction for a few hours, the other in the next. Across the Golden Horn we see the Topkapi Palace, the Sultan Ahmet or Blue Mosque and the Haghia Sophia. Closer we see the Galata Tower.
Drinking tea at the Galata Tower
We walk to the Galata Bridge and see the Galata Tower up close. You can also visit this tower and enjoy the view. We just stood on the roof of the office and an apartment complex, so we’ll skip.
Enjoy a short break at the Galata Tower at a cafe. Everywhere you can take a break and order a cup of tea. Usually it only costs about 40 or 50 cents. The tea is served in narrow glasses on a saucer. You get a spoon. The tea, for us, is fairly bitter in taste, but you solve that by adding some sugar. Tea is drunk all day long, coffee is only available for special moments. If you no longer need tea, for example during your breakfast or lunch in a restaurant, where they keep refilling your glass, then put your spoon on your glass, then they know enough.
The Haghia Sophia
We take the tram to Eminönü and get off at the Sultan Ahmet or Blue Mosque. Here we walk across the square that lies between the Haghia Sofia mosque and the Sultan Ahmet mosque. It is landscaped in a park-like manner. It’s quite busy, but still doable. The Sultan Ahmet mosque turns out not to be open, because there is just a call to prayer. We walk further to the Haghia Sofia, where we are allowed to enter. This church is more than 1400 years old and has only been converted into a mosque since the 15th century. The minarets, tombs and fountains date from that time. At the time when Istanbul was still called Constantinople, this was the largest cathedral. It is a huge building with an impressive space with a height of 56 meters. The dome is beautiful.
We walk back through the gardens of the Topkapi Palace, the Gülhane Park and the Archaeological Museum. We have lunch on the edge of the park. The trees provide pleasant shade on this hot day.
Orient Express Station
The station where the Orient Express, the Marmaray Sirkeci Istasyonu, looks a bit old and dilapidated. The light shines nicely in the waiting room. This is the station where the most luxurious train stopped. It’s extinct now, but who knows in the future?
The ferry to Kadikoy
We take the ferry to Kadikoy on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus. The first settlement was founded here by Greek settlers. It is the oldest part of Istanbul, but certainly not old-fashioned. It is modern and progressive and has many cinemas, theatres, universities and trendy restaurants and bars.
We walk through the neighborhood, it is quite busy. We find a nice restaurant on the water, the Sea of ??Marmara. There is a holiday atmosphere, with a harbor with boats. After this pleasant break we walk to the part where the second-hand and antique shops are located. Here we poke around a bit.
Eating at Ciya Sofrasi
Ciya Sofrasi is Kadiköy’s most famous restaurant. The chef has traveled all over Turkey to look in pots and pans in remote villages. He wants to present the local recipes from the time of the Ottoman Empire to his guests. They are mostly rural forgotten dishes.
We can first make a choice from salads and starters from the buffet. You indicate what and how much you want and this is placed on a plate. We take a little bit of everything. That board is weighed and that is how the price is determined. Then we take a look at the simmering pans. Here we point out again what we like. Soup, stews, delicious rice and vegetable dishes. Our table is then filled with all kinds of dishes and we receive an explanation. We eat small bites of everything and it is delicious! We also get dessert…they are tiny little bites: sugared pumpkin, walnut, aubergine, really tasty! Afterwards we get a glass of oregano tea on the house. After this feast we go back to the ferry. Above Istanbul hangs a huge thunderstorm with lightning, luckily we keep it dry.
The Black Sea
The next morning we order breakfast and then drive to the Black Sea on time. We drive along the Bosphorus, via Besiktas and Ortakoy. There are beautiful houses here and it is pleasantly busy on the boulevard.
Via the Bosphorus Bridge we drive to the Black Sea. On one side you can see how vast the city is, on the other it is striking how quickly you get out of the crowds and you are surrounded by forest.
The Black Sea is one of the least visited parts of Turkey. We drive to Sile and look for the beach there. There is a sandy beach near the town, but if we clamber over the rocks for a while, there is also a small idyllic rocky beach. Unfortunately, there is a lot of junk on the beach. That’s a shame. The view makes up for a lot and the salty bathing water is wonderful!
We continue via narrow roads to Agva Merkez for lunch. The (fishermen’s) villages are friendly and pleasant.
The beach looks so enticing that we decide to take a walk on the beach. We agree with Pepijn where he will pick us up again. So we walk along the beach. At first it is still busy, but soon it is deserted. The sea here is surprisingly rough.
When we see each other again, we are feeling excellent!
We drive back to the main road. When we drive past a forest we see a fox and we come across a herd of cows with a shepherd. We are really in the countryside.
Once in the direction of Istanbul we get hopelessly stuck in traffic. As fast as we could leave the city behind us this morning, that’s how slow it is now. Eating at a brewery
In the evening we have dinner at the Populist, a former factory building with a beer brewery. Several restaurants have been created around a square here. A cozy place with hip people. It feels a bit like Hell’s Kitchen in New York. If you don’t feel like the real Istanbul, this is your place. We eat a nice cheeseburger and enjoy the beer.
The next morning Pepijn has to go to work after breakfast. We walk through the streets of Karakoy to the Galata Bridge, where we take the tram.
We still want to see the Sultan Ahmet mosque. Unfortunately, there is little to see inside because the mosque is in the process of being renovated.
We walk to the Grand Bazaar, Kapali Carsi. It is a labyrinth of streets and there are thousands of shops. Fortunately it is not too busy and we have plenty of time to view all the merchandise. We also marvel at the ceilings and arches. Special how this is all built!
After the grand bazaar we continue to the Spice Bazaar, Misir Carsisi. The scents and colors here are beautiful! This bazaar dates back to the 17th century. Traditionally, spices from the Orient have been traded. It’s not crowded here either, but we feel less at ease. It seems to be mainly touristic. When we walk outside the Spice Bazaar the next day, we see the residents there doing their shopping. This feels rawer and less slick.
Lunch and shopping at Istiklal Cadessi
We walk back through the fishermen of the Galata Bridge and take the Tunel up. The Tunel is an underground tram, which ensures that we can easily bridge the difference in height.
We have a nice lunch at Welldone Midpoint. A quiet restaurant with an excellent menu. Then we go shopping. We look at Gap and Levi’s and walk into a number of other cases. The price level is slightly more attractive, especially for jeans.
At the end of the afternoon we go back to Pepijn’s apartment
Luxurious Turkish dining at Aheste
In the evening we go out for dinner with Olaf. Nice to get to know Pepijn’s direct colleague. We eat at Aheste. A somewhat more expensive restaurant where the menu is Turkish, but does not contain the usual dishes. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is great. The staff is correct and friendly, but not cocky or anything. So it is definitely recommended. Visiting mosques
The next morning we decide to visit a number of mosques. We want to go to the Cihangir mosque, but it is only open during a service. Then we walk to the Nusretiye mosque. This mosque was built in 1523 and is part of a military complex. Here a man walks in and we get a personal tour from him.
Then we walk further to the Kilic Ali mosque. This is being restored, but we can go inside. This mosque has the same plan as the Hagia Sophia. Every mosque looks different, especially the tiles make an impression. This mosque also has a tomb and a hamman.
Lunch at Limonlu Bahce
We have lunch with Pepijn at Limonlu Bahce, a nice restaurant with an outdoor terrace. A green oasis in the middle of the city. There is of course a cat walking around here, but also turtles!
After lunch we walk through the antique streets in the area such as Firuzaga. This is a nice neighborhood with funny shops. We make another attempt to go to Balat, on the other side of the Golden Horn. Here are colored houses. However, the traffic appears to be hopelessly stuck and walking is too far.
Our visit is over. We have seen and done a lot. Especially tasted a lot of atmosphere and seen how our son lives and works in this metropolis. We look forward to our next visit!
The cats of Istanbul
If you walk around in Istanbul, you can’t miss it, there are a lot of cats living here. These cats do not look like the usual stray cat, unkempt and skinny, but healthy with a shiny coat. They are in fact very well cared for by the residents of Istanbul. Everywhere you see special cat houses, bowls of food and water.
The cats are pampered, petted and cared for. Motorists stop in front of the cats in the middle of the road and bring them to safety and no one gets angry or surprised. And did you know that a special cat village has even been created in Antalya, with heated houses?
Istanbul in Autumn
Our second visit to Istanbul! We are very much looking forward to it. Nice to see and catch up with our son and his girlfriend. Enjoying doing things together and eating good food. In addition, discover other sides of the city. That will surely work!
Princes Islands or Adalar
We went to the Prince Islands, or Adalar, for a day. These islands, four of which you can visit, are located in the Sea of Marmara, an hour and an hour and a half boat ride from the center of Istanbul. You can take the ferry at Kabatas or Eminönü. You pay for the ticket with your Istanbul card and it will cost you a few euros. In the summer it seems to be very busy here, but in the spring and autumn it is pleasantly quiet. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, a visit to one or more islands is wonderful. The boat trip alone is nice!
The islands are named after the royal palace built in 569 on Büyükada. At that time, the islands were places of exile for Byzantine princes. In the second half of the 19th century, the islands became popular among the wealthier people and because a ferry service was introduced, the islands became easily accessible.
You used to be able to discover the islands by carriage, but recently the horse-drawn carriages have been abolished. The horses were not always well cared for. An alternative is cycling or walking, because there are no other means of transport. That makes these islands a quiet destination!
The smallest island, Kinali, can be reached by ferry in about an hour. The second island, Burgaz, is just a little further. We walked around here. There are some restaurants, cafes and shops and there is a museum. No major attractions. There is a pleasant, pleasant atmosphere.
Hiking at Heybeliada
Heybeliada and Büyükada are the two largest and busiest islands. We also visited Heybeliada and were given a tour by a colleague of Pepijn. She recently moved to the island.
At the harbor we first had lunch on one of the many terraces on the boulevard. Then we walked into the main street, towards the maritime school. Here you see beautiful old wooden houses, some need a lick of paint, some are shining there with their white bay windows, stained glass windows and balconies.
In this street you will also find a number of nice second hand and antique shops, a beautiful flower and plant shop and some nice cafes. We walk back through the pine forest and head towards the boulevard where we drink a cup of tea. We are pleasantly surprised by Heybeliada and actually curious about Büyükada. Perhaps on your next visit?
Impressive Topkapi Palace
The next day we go to Topkapi Palace. We start the day early with a breakfast with a view over the city. Then we take the tram to Gülhane, the last part to the palace we walk up.
There is virtually no queue and we buy tickets for both the palace and the harem, the part where the sultan’s concubines lived. With an audio tour, in Dutch, we walk under the gate. There are several websites that offer ‘skip the line’ tickets. However, these tickets are much more expensive than the tickets you buy at the palace box office. I saw tickets for 38 euros, while they cost 21 euros at the box office. If you come on a weekday and early, there is virtually no queue and you do not need such tickets.
The Topkapi Palace, built in the Middle Ages by order of Sultan Memhet II, consists of four different courts. Squares with pavilions, barracks, kitchens, reception areas that you can all visit. All equally beautifully decorated and worth taking a look!
We walk directly to the Harem. You have to pay extra for this part, but it is well worth the 100 lira (5 euros). We found this part very impressive. It is huge and you can only see one of the six floors. Beautiful halls, richly decorated doors, cupboards and ceilings and the audio tour gives you a good impression of how people lived here.
Besides the harem, we liked the library and audience hall. We also enjoyed the view over the Bosphorus and the park at the fourth court.
You can spend hours in the palace. We were there for about four hours and didn’t even see everything. When we visited there was a long queue for the relics of Mohammed. These are important items for Muslims, we have skipped them.
After our visit we want to take the tram to Beyoglu, but the trams are not running. We have a long way to go and it is also going to rain. We immediately notice that the street is extremely busy, traffic is at a standstill, people are rushing by. Yes, this is also life in this big city.
In the evening we go to a traditional Turkish restaurant, a Meyhane, where we enjoyed all kinds of small snacks and live Turkish music.
The Balat district
On our third day we start at the Galataport. A new cruise ship port where a brand new shopping center has been built. When we are there, it is very quiet, but I can imagine if there is a cruise ship (and that is quite often) that it will be busy.
You will find all the major brands and it might be a good alternative to Istiklal Caddesi. The Galataport is a beautiful quay, which is hidden from view as soon as ships are docked. If there are no cruise ships, you can enjoy a pleasant stroll along the Bosphorus.
Then we go by tram and bus to Balat (stop Fener). A neighborhood where many minorities used to live, including Greeks and Armenians. Now mainly strictly religious Turks live there. Balat has become known for the colored houses that are a hit on Instagram. But Balat is so much more than that row of houses.
We start our walk through the neighborhood at the Bulgarian Saint Stephens Orthodox Church from 1898. This church stands on the remains of an earlier church and is completely built of cast iron. The parts were made as a kit and then assembled within three months. If you look at the church it looks like wood, but everything feels really cold and therefore made of iron. The church has beautiful details and decorations and the inside of the church also looks impressive.
We walk into the neighborhood. After a number of shops and cafes, the street rises sharply and ends at the imposing Greek Orthodox School. A beautiful red building!
We walk around the neighborhood. Many old, dilapidated houses, where people still seem to live. It’s a poor neighborhood. The laundry is hanging outside, the doors are crooked and the balconies are not all safe… and that is an understatement. Here and there a really dilapidated house, which is about to collapse.
It certainly has its charm, like any old neighborhood in a big city, but it also feels a bit weird. The people who live here have a difficult life and we come here to take pictures. At the colored houses, the insta girls are ready for a photo session. They are captured by girlfriends in different outfits. A strange sensation.
Cable Car Pierre Loti
After Balat we go up with the Pierre Loti cable car. The cable car runs above a huge cemetery. In this busy city you don’t lie quietly even when you’re dead. Graves piled up between the trees. On top of the hill we have a nice view over the Golden Horn.
At the café with terrace you can order a simple lunch or a cup of tea.
This corner of the city is difficult to reach. Work is currently underway on a new tram line that has already been partially completed. You can take this to the metro line (stop Halic) or take the bus to Eminonu Kantarcilar. You can walk the last part to Eminonu Mavi Marmara, where the ferries and the tram to Beyoglu leave. An alternative is a taxi, but many taxis find it too far to drive to the other side of the Golden Horn, so this will automatically cost you more.
We take the ferry to Üsküdar , on the Asian side and then to Ortaköy. A nice busy area. Where you have a few touristic streets but where you are also among the residents. Here I buy delicious Turkish Delight and nice smelling soaps at Ortaköy Aktari. What a nice store! Then we have a nice dinner at Rumman, a Syrian/Lebanese restaurant. We end the day with a cocktail at Rika in Beyoglu.
Our visit was busy and intense, but we like that we got to know another side of Istanbul. Looking forward to next time!