Istanbul at night is spectacular

Picking up where we left off in Part 1 of our trip to Istanbul, we spend the next two days exploring some more wonders of Istanbul.

Day 2

First stop for the morning is the spectacular Blue Mosque, or Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish. This is a functioning mosque where the local faithful come to pray five times a day. It has one of the most spectacular interiors I’ve ever seen and is adorned with beautiful blue tiles (hence its name). There is a sense of tranquillity and air in here that is unlike other buildings of faith. As it’s a mosque, you must take your shoes off and women are required to wear a shawl to hide their hair or bare skin. It’s all pretty easy and the staff were very friendly. Entrance is free.

Photos don’t truly give the Blue Mosque’s interior justice

The Blue Mosque is beautiful and serene

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul is stunning even in rainy weather

After the Blue Mosque, we headed up through the bustling streets towards Istanbul University, stopping off every so often for a bite of baklava or to check street prices for other Turkish delicacies. We walked through the lovely grounds of Istanbul University to reach some markets out the back and stumbled upon another gem: the Suleymaniye mosque. We spent the afternoon wandering through Istanbul’s back streets, shopping, eating and of course drinking copious amounts of tea.

Gazing at the Suleymaniye mosque

Take in the stunning architecture

The faithful preparing to pray outside the mosque

When you’re done, spend the night out in Taksim square. This large, public square attracts hundreds of locals and tourists with music and other entertainment. You also aren’t short for choices of restaurants, cafes or quick bites (in the kebab form!). Don’t feel like you have to stick to the main streets either; we spotted some really funky (and crowded) venues down many of the side streets. If you are a seafood lover, you should start there. Take your pick and enjoy. There is such a buzzing atmosphere and even despite the rain, it was crowded when we were there.

Take your pick from all the kebab vendors

Taksim Square at night

Taksim square is a busy and happening place, day and night

If you happen to visit when it’s cold and/or raining like we did, or you simply want a nice nightcap, I cannot rave on enough about salep. You’ll find it under the coffee/tea section in most restaurants and cafes and it’s delicious! It’s a thick, almost custard-like milky drink, with vanilla and cinnamon. It’s a nice alternative to a hot chocolate, with a similar texture to Spanish hot chocolates (you know the thick and gluttonous ones that you get with churros… mmmm). I couldn’t get enough of it when we were there, I even had to buy some salep powder to take home with me!

Delicious salep – perfect for an after-dinner drink

There are plenty of delicious sweets throughout the city

Visit the Galeta Tower near Taksim Square

Day 3

On your third day in Istanbul, head to the majestic Topkapi Palace, where the Ottoman Sultans spent their time lounging in luxury overseeing a vast empire. Enter the palace grounds (45TL including entrance to the Harem) and wind your way through the many gardens and buildings with their Islamic architecture. If you buy the Museum Pass (3 day pass for 85TL), entrance to Topkapi Palace and the Harem is included.

One of the entrances to Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

Inside the grounds of the beautiful Topkapi Palace

The buildings of the Sultan’s harem are magnificent in their detail

We easily spent a couple of hours here, wandering through the palace grounds and admiring the beautiful blue mosaic patterns decorating the buildings and seeing how the sultans lived during their 624-year reign.

The beauty of the Topkapi Palace

The exterior of the Circumcision Room gives a false sense of security!

A mosaic pattern in the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

Once you’ve overloaded yourself with culture, head to the café overlooking the mighty Bosphorous River for a Turkish tea and baklava.

Overlooking the Bosphorous River, Istanbul

Great views of the Bosphorous from the cafe

Overlooking the Bosphorous River, Istanbul

The perfect way to have a break from the sightseeing and indulge my sweet tooth

Taksim square was so good that we decided to go back again to continue our shopping spree – we had 72 hours after all! Far from what we had expected, Taksim has all of the big brands (Gucci’s, Armani’s, etc) through to ones we are more familiar with (Zara, Mango, Gap, etc). Let’s just say both our bags came back a little heavier….

Who knows what you’ll see when in Taksim Square!

Being followers, but by no means experts, of the slow travel movement, we spread out our sightseeing over 72 hours. We didn’t see everything Istanbul had to offer though, and plan to return in the future (and hopefully tack on a trip to Pamukkale, to see the Cotton Cliffs, and Cappadocia to take a hot air balloon ride over the amazing rocky plains). If you like your city visits fast and , take a ferry across the Bosphorus and visit the Asian side. There, you will find more sights, restaurants and attractions to fill up your time. Plus, the ferry is said to be an experience in itself.

Our picks

  • Enjoy the Turkish tea (apple was my favourite)
  • Try Salep (the Turkish alternative to hot chocolate)
  • Enjoy legit Turkish kebabs and food!
  • Visit the Blue Mosque
  • Hagia Sophia
  • Taksim Square
  • If you have more time, visit the Asian side, via a ferry over the Bosphorus
  • If you have an extended trip, add on a visit to the scenic Pamukkale or Cappadocia
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Thanks for visiting Travel-ling.com! I'm a travel addict, Hispanophile, shoe collector, musician and main author here at Travel-ling.com

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