4 days in Istanbul: not a Guide, a Diary

It took me some time to write these posts, clearly, since our trip was back in June 2019. But I didn’t want to rush it. I took my time reminiscing about the trip. Like telling a friend a story, instead of an excursion tour.

Here’s a recap of it, day by day:

To be completely honest, I have mixed feelings about our trip to Turkey. On one side, it was magical. On the other, there was a lot of haggling and bargaining. At the markets, sure. At the Grand Bazaar, fine. But it felt like it was everywhere. Being a tourist there, I felt a bit like everyone was trying to take a piece of me – and it took me off guard. I think it was also a matter of adjusting expectations. And truth be told, Istanbul was not the main culprit of this feeling – Kapadokya, our next destination, really was.

So keep this in mind, be prepared, and don’t let it ruin your experience. Be a savvy tourist. And enjoy Istanbul. It’s very much worth it.

You will find extensive lists of tips and tricks online (and I advise you to read them, they helped me a lot, like this one) but I’ll leave here the tips I remember the best and that were the most important from my experience there:

Beware of the tourist traps…

… ’cause there are many:

  • water is cheap. Near the shore it was 1,5 Turkish Lyra (TL) per 33cl bottle. On Sultanahmet Square the price was 5 TL.
  • I mentioned it in the post about the last day, but the boat ride: don’t overpay. Purchase the ticket at the official ferry company’s booth. I think the ticket stand closes early (around 15h00) so I advise you buy the tickets the day prior.
  • Food is also inexpensive. Even in touristy places. So if something is on the 60 euros range, unless is an signature chef, run. You’re being taken for a fool.
  • Don’t buy souvenirs at museum stores. Ever. The items there are not exclusive and the prices are a shameful rip-off. Embarrassingly so. I purchased a spice grinder at the museum shop of Hagia Sofia for 50 TL (around 8 euros) and saw the same for sale at multiple stores trough Istanbul for as low as 6 TL. I felt dumb.
Inside Hagia Sophia.

Rely on the best the city has to offer

  • The tram works wonderfully. And it’s very inexpensive as well.
  • People are willing to help you if you have questions. No one will turn away from you or be too busy stop and help.
  • Some places are surprisingly inexpensive. Like the café inside Galata Tower.
  • The parks! Take advantage of them. The monuments, the art, the history: it’s all very impressive, but it’s also what you already know you’re going to see. What took me by surprise were the gardens and the parks: so tranquil, so well kept… and so full of life. You’ll find the most diverse groups of people hanging out in those parks.
  • Oh, Baklava. And Shisha. Do a lot of both, if you please.

Photos by Sir Fiancé.

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