Discover Istanbul in 3 days by Alsha Coppolina
Discover the beautiful ancient city of Istanbul without compromising rich culture, amazing food, experiences or your budget! Amazing piece to read for any wanderlust. Written by our amazing Karma Bikini contributor @alshacoppolina Follow Alsha on instagram and checkout her amazing life full of travels, exploration and fashion as she kills the modeling scene in Dublin. https://www.instagram.com/alshacoppolina/?hl=en
A year ago
I boarded a plane to Istanbul just days after US President Donald Trump pulled his troops from the Turkish/Syria border. I was a bit apprehensive hearing stories on the news, but once I landed I was put at ease. The streets of the city were painted with crowds of people – this is one thing you need to be prepared for when visiting Istanbul – the huge crowds almost everywhere you go! You will be weaving your way through other tourists and locals to get where you need to go when shopping, sight seeing and on public transport. Safe to say, the announcement didn’t bother the many tourists exploring the beautiful city and I felt completely safe throughout my whole time there.
Before travelling to Turkey, remember you will have to purchase a visa online. This will allow you to travel throughout Turkey for 90 days from the day you purchase it. Being a non-EU citizen, it set me back around €63. If you are from the EU you will still have to get a visa but it isn’t this expensive!
When booking flights, also be aware that there are two different airports in Istanbul. There is Istanbul Airport (IST) on the European side and Sabiha Gokcen (SAW) on the Asian side. It took me around 45 minutes to get from Istanbul Airport to the city centre by taxi and cost around €30, while it took my partner over an hour on public transport from Sabiha Gokcen Airport and cost about €3.
On my first night, I didn’t arrive until around 8.30pm on a Friday so we just had time to explore the area of Old Town where we were staying and grabbed some dinner. We took a stroll through the streets and noticed a lot of quaint eateries; many of them have shisha available! We finally chose a place to eat - somewhere that serves wine is a must for me. One of the local specialties was the Testi Kebab - a meat casserole style dish with a twist. It comes out in a clay pot and they cook it in front of you over a small fire. It was a beautiful way to start the trip and I highly recommend trying this meal!
The first stop on our list was to visit the Blue Mosque. There are a number of different ones throughout Istanbul, but this one was the closest to our hotel. Once we arrived I had to hire a headscarf (keep in mind that at any religious building your clothing must go below your knees and must cover your arms as well) and we lined up for about 10 minutes. There was no entrance fee to get into the mosque. Unfortunately, half of the building was under construction and wasn’t worth the wait in the line. If I were to go again I would recommend snapping your photo outside and admiring the mosque from afar!
We then made our way to the Hagia Sophia Museum, by complete accident! We thought we were lining up for the Topkapı Palace (oops!). By the time we got to the front of the line and realised we were in the wrong place we decided to go in anyway, and I am glad we did! It cost around €11 for admission and we spent a good half an hour inside exploring the history of the beautiful architecture. It was used as a church for more than 900 years and then as a mosque for nearly 500. There is a movie room inside the museum, which gives you all the information you need to know.
At the end of our first full day we opted to eat at a restaurant that boasted stunning views of the city. We ate at 360 Istanbul and shared a bottle of wine while watching the sunset. Their menu was great if you like to share food – an interesting mixture of Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. In addition to the stunning views, the atmosphere was incredible – from live trumpet players, to girls performing on silks. While the dining experience was a bit more on the pricier side, it was worth every cent!
We also stumbled past a place called Solera Winery where we enjoyed delicious wine and food. A perfect end to our first full day in Istanbul!
The Topkapı Palace was the first stop for the day – we didn’t have to line up for too long to purchase tickets, which were also around €11 each. We spent a couple of hours exploring the palace and the views of the ocean it offered. There are many different areas you can explore and there is a café that overlooks the ocean if you get peckish.
After enjoying a local kebab for lunch, we ventured to the Galata Tower. To get there we caught a tram, which will set you back about €1 – the trams can get you to most places around the city. The line for the tower was extremely long - we waited for almost an hour to get inside, but it was worth the wait! Once inside, we paid around €4 each and then got the lift almost to the top. There were then a few flights of stairs to climb before we were taken away by the stunning views of Istanbul. What a beautiful city!
We enjoyed Solera Winery from the previous night so much that we decided to go back for more - sharing the cheese platter and pesto pasta.
On our final day we decided to stay close to our hotel and keep it pretty relaxed. We went for a stroll at the nearby Gülhane Park. It is very close by to the Topkapı Palace, and is a great place to walk around and soak up the sunlight.
On the way back from the park, we stopped by the Basilica Cistern. The line wasn’t very long and only cost €4 to get in. We only spent around 20 minutes underground, exploring the largest of the several hundred ancient cisterns that are underneath Istanbul.
I had heard about the traditional Turkish bath through a friend, and I was instantly intrigued. So we decided to give it a go and lucky for us there was a spa connected to our hotel that offered this service. I wore bathers to the spa, as you have to get almost completely undressed for the bath. The first thing we did was go into a salt room, YES a salt room – which is meant to have healing properties for the skin. Then we spent some time between the steam room and the sauna, and then the fun began! We were taken into a room and laid down on the stone bench and then actually given a bath! Washed completely with water, scrubbed, then bubbles – it was like an adult bubble bath. They even washed my hair for me. Once we were rinsed off and a few laughs later, we decided to have a 30 minute massage. While this traditional experience set me back around €50, It was a great way to end the trip and something I wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else!
Follow Alsha on instagram and checkout her amazing life full of travels, exploration and fashion as she kills the modeling scene in Dublin. https://www.instagram.com/alshacoppolina/?hl=en