We had Friday off of school last week and used the long weekend to take Daniel to Istanbul. It’s about an hour flight from Ankara and a must-see if you’re visiting Turkey!
Where we stayed:
The first time we visited Istanbul was the New Year weekend, and our friends recommended Side Hotel and Pension. It was a very nice place, but we needed to go a little cheaper this trip. We knew we wanted to be in the Sultanahmet Square area again, and did a little searching on HostelBookers.com. Location, cleanliness, and safety were our top priorities. A place called Sur Hotel had good reviews and was almost half the price of most other options we considered.
We were very pleased with Sur Hotel! It’s around the corner and slightly back behind the main strip of hostels, but a short walk from the square and was well-lit at night. It overlooked some ancient arches and the Marmara Sea.
The room was quite large and had a queen sized bed, two single beds, and a private bathroom. The only strange thing was that there was nothing separating the floor of the shower from the rest of the bathroom. I think this was because of the location of the drain. (The building was built 120 years ago and last renovated in 1999, so I suppose there’s only so much you can do.)
Breakfast was included, and was a typical Turkish spread of meat, cheeses, tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, pastries, and hard boiled eggs. They served scrambled eggs one morning and French toast on another. Yum!
The staff was all very friendly and even let us have breakfast the morning we checked in. We definitely recommend Sur Hotel and would stay here again.
What we saw:
Istanbul is such a cool city. It was a lot of fun for us to watch Daniel take it all in. Our first stop was the Hagia Sofia. This was one of the sights we missed last time. The inside of this structure is beautiful! It was first a church, then an a mosque, and now it’s a museum. The boys figured out that 2 of their dad’s silos stacked on top of each other could fit inside. The construction was remarkable, especially for its time because of the round dome on top of a square building. Even today, the dome does not require additional support.
The mosaics and frescos were amazing:
Since it’s free, we also went inside the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque):
And of course, we had to make a visit to the Grand Bazaar! We stopped at Fez Cafe, a place we loved last time. Daniel had his first Turkish coffee:
We also visited the Spice Bazaar. What a colorful (and crowded) place!
The last thing we saw was the Archeology Museum near Topkapı Palace. Surprisingly, there was an exhibit of pieces from Egypt. I found the details of the Alexander Sarcophagus to be especially well preserved and impressive:
Where we ate:
Last time, everywhere we ate was wonderful. This time, we struck out a few times. The fresh fish sandwiches near the Galata Bridge were fantastic, though!
One of our colleagues and his friend were in Istanbul, too, and they invisted us to join them at a Korean restaurant close to Taksim Square. It was the first time Daniel, David, and I had tried Korean food. We failed at chopsticks, but the food was delicious! Also, the waffles and ice cream at Charley Temmel in Beyoğlu are worth a mention.
Other Istanbul travel notes:
- If you fly into Sabiha Gökçen Airport, save money and take the Havataş bus to Taksim. It’s only 12TL and buses run every half hour. From there, you can take the Metro to Sultanahmet.
- Istanbul is a tourist trap and appetizers like salad, bread, salça, and yogurt sauce are not always free. It is advisable to check and see if the meze is complimentary or not.