Istanbul – Top five experiences

Süleymaniye
When visiting Istanbul everyone knows to head to the famous Blue Mosque. However Süleymaniye is in many ways preferable. Like the Blue Mosque it is free to enter but the complex itself is bigger with more areas to explore. As it’s generally less well known it’s also quieter – not quite some many selfie-stick wielding tourists! The mosque itself is beautiful and is set within gardens which offer a great view back over the city. It’s a nice place to relax with plenty of shade to escape the midday heat. Süleymaniye is located on the Third Hill just north of Istanbul University and it takes about 10 minutes to walk there from the Grand Bazaar.

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Beautiful ceiling in part of the Süleymaniye mosque



Serüstü Tea Gardens
The Serüstü tea room is set within the Gülhane park neighbouring Topkapi Palace. The tea room itself is somewhat unremarkable but the view is marvellous. Get a table near the sea and you will be treated to views of both the European and Asian sides of Istanbul while you sip your tea. Given the location the menu is reasonably priced and a pot of tea goes a long way. It’s an excellent place to sit and watch the world go by.

The Grand Bazaar
One of the more famous tourist hot spots the Grand Bazaar does not disappoint. There are plenty of stalls and shops selling baklava, heaps of spices and beautiful lamps, jewellery and scarfs. If you’re here on a short trip (or at the end of the a long trip) it’s a great place to stock up on souvenirs, such as Turkish tea sets and hanging lamps. I’ll be honest it’s a bit of a tourist trap but fun to have a walk through all the same.

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A shop selling hanging lamps in the Grand Bazaar

Bosphorus Cruise
The experience itself is incredibly touristy but rather enjoyable. The five and half hour cruise sets off from Eminönü dock in the morning and heads to Anadolu Kavagi. Once there it is possible to take the 30 minute walk uphill to a medieval castle, stopping for lunch on the stroll back down. The restaurants are all a bit samey and of average quality, so go for the one with the best view! The return boat trip costs 25TL and if you can cope with all the Chinese tourists taking yet another selfie you’ll be grand.

Dinner by the Galata Tower
Due to the high cost of actually going up the Galata Tower (19TL) we decided to skip that and go for dinner nearby instead. The Guney Restaurant offers nice food at a good price along with views of the Galata Tower. I had a vegetarian pide and a soft drink which came to 22TL (including taxes etc). Meat dishes were slightly more but still reasonable – starting at around 25TL.

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Dinner by the Galata Tower was well worth the price

Other sights worth seeing around Istanbul include the Blue Mosque (free), Topkapi Palace (30TL), Hagia Sofia (30TL) and Basilica Cistern (20TL). Plus it’s worth taking the ferry over the Asian side for an explore (8TL return).

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