On the 29th April 2016 I went on a city break to Istanbul, due to the previous terror issues in the area I was quite apprehensive (they happened after we had booked) – almost calling it off at one point . However I’m so pleased I did go as we had the most amazing time.
I’d been to Turkey twice before to the Dalaman region, but it was amazing to see the urban side of it rather than the traditional beach stay.
We flew Turkish Airlines to Istanbul in economy which was fantastic and I would highly recommend them. Loads of leg room, free Turkish delight, drinks and a choice of meals (which you can eat with real metal cutlery!!) But I think the best thing was having individual in flight entertainment systems with loads of the latest films and TV shows on other airlines this is almost unheard of what is technically a short haul destination.
We stayed here in a HUGE deluxe double suite, with a bath which was akin to a swimming pool and it was fantastically located right in the heart of Istanbul, yards away from Istanbul’s main shopping street and lots of bars and restaurants.
Turkish food is my favourite, so I was very excited about the amazing food we were to have to eat and it certainly didn’t let me down. On the first night we ate just down the road at No 19 dining a really trendy restaurant that we found via trusty Trip Advisor. You can see from the picture that you can pick and choose exactly what you want and then they heat it up and bring it out to you. A really novel concept at an amazing price, we had a meze to start and then I had meatballs.
Day 2 meant a long day of sight seeing. As there were very few tourists it meant that we could cram a lot more than normal into one day.
We got the Metro from Taksim Sqaure to Sulthanamet and visited the Blue Mosque which was utterly beautiful and the Hagia Sophia which was also interesting but I think I preferred the former but the scale of the Hagia Sophia was astounding.
We then stopped for a drink before heading off to the Grand Bazaar for a spot of shopping, it was really hectic but we weren’t hassled at all. It was amazing seeing all the trinkets that you can buy, I loved the Arabic style lights but we brought a fridge magnet and some pretty bowls.
Stopped off for some lunch and my boyfriend made the mistake of ordering 2 tatziki’s for starter – you only need 1 as we were drowning in it!
Following that we went on a 2 hour boat cruise along the Bosphorus, this was a real highlight of my trip it was really interesting, hot (tip – take sun cream!) We were lucky enough to spot dolphins swimming alongside the boat, how amazing to be on a city break and see dolphins!
Following a full on day we went out to a local Turkish/Armenian restaurant (again found on Trip Advisor) called Aretin Yeti. On first arriving we were the only English speakers there, we were served by the owner who recommended a menu to us, we were a little unsure at first but the food was amazing, just ensure you go with an open mind!
Day 3 meant an early start – May 1st is a major political demonstration day in Istanbul and Turkey alike, and staying in the city wasn’t advised (FCO advice as the time was to avoid all political demonstrations) and the local tube station had been shut, there were numerous road blocks in place and the city was swarming with police.
It wasn’t a problem as we’d planned to take the 2 hour ferry to Yalova, had lunch in the town then made our way to a 5* hotel (this one if anyone is interested) for a day of pure relaxation by the pool and in the spa.
(Note: whilst it was not the case for this hotel we found out when doing our research that in many hotels that aren’t in usual tourist destinations women and men may have to use the swimming pools at different times as it is a predominately Muslim country.)
We got back to Istanbul at around 6, and got a taxi back to the hotel due to the tube closures (most of the road blocks had now been reopened) and we crashed out in the apartment with the most amazing kebab takeaway. Nothing like what we get in the UK! We flew back early the following morning
So all in all, an entertaining, interesting, eye opening visit to this beautiful city. I have been upset to hear what has happened there since we visited and I hope it all settles down there for the sake of the welcoming, friendly people. I urge you to visit if you haven’t already and I can’t wait to return.