The last leg of my 10 day Turkey Itinerary was Istanbul, the old city with so much history. As the largest city in Turkey, it is the melting pot of Western and Eastern cultures and the only pan continental city in the world (Europe- Asia). There is so much to say about this charming city that attracts millions yearly. With 99% of it’s 15 million inhabitants being practicing Muslims people often wonder what it’s like to visit istanbul as a solo female traveler, they often have question on how to dress and if it’s safe to visit Istanbul alone.
Safety has been a concern in Turkey in recent years especially with the recent terrorist attacks and the instability in neighbouring countries like Syria yet despite these, Turkey and Istanbul are pretty safe for travel. Like any big metropolitan city they grapple with petty crime and theft which can be mitigated through situational awareness .
Most of the historic sites are located in Sultanahmet or old city so I choose a hotel in Fatihl which was close by yet removed from all the touristic traffic ,its alleys lined with little cafes, restaurants and spice shops. On the taxi ride from the airport, I could tell Istanbul was very different from the other cities, there was a feeling of excitement and urgency that the other parts of Turkey didn’t have.
My first stop after my hotel was the Hagia Sophia, one of the most iconic buildings in Istanbul. As I walked around in the park, the people were friendly but I did feel targeted by young men who approached with welcoming smiles only to try to get you to visit their shops which was a little off putting.
My next stop, which wasn’t far from the Hagia Sophia was the Blue Mosque. Istanbul is a metropolis and you’ll find people wearing anything from designers off the Paris runways to the most traditional outfits and hijabs are very common yet there isn’t a defined dress code for Istanbul. But if you plan on visiting any mosques, then you’re required to dress modestly with covered shoulders, dress or skirt below the knees and head covered, You can get a head covering at the Mosque as well. Entry is free an open to the public except during prayer times.
I spent the rest of the day walking around the old city unfortunately didn’t take many pictures because my fingers were constantly sticky from sampling Turkish delights 😁.
Later that evening I joined a food tour with Zeynep and it was an incredible experience . Zeyneb was very knowledgeable about the city and the rest of the group comprised of fun characters. It was a beautiful night on rooftops in great company, drinking exotic teas and eating great food. Sorry, I didn’t take many pictures 😩.
My last day in Istanbul and Turkey was dedicated to shopping. I went to the Grand Bazaar, the oldest covered market for some spices, coffee and gifts.
Tips on Istanbul
|> The new airport is located on the European side and is 45 minutes by taxi from the old city (Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia).|
> The cheapest way to get into Istanbul from the airport is by bus. Walk out of the airport and look to the right. The Busses go by city and leave every hour.
> Best place to stay in Istanbul is Fatih.
> Best place to people watch is in Taksim and it also has lots of shops.
> Entry to the Blue Mosque is free but the Hagia Sophia is paid.
> One toursite trap in Istanbul is “I know the best rooftop for best views” which is just a ploy to get you to buy from them.
> The Grand Bazaar isn’t the cheapest place to shop, walk out and visit the shops nestled nestled to it for better deals.
Top Places to visit in Istanbul
- Blue Mosque
- Hagia Sophia
- Sultanahmet Square
- Basilica Cistern
- Grand Bazaar
- Misir Carsisi
- Istiklal Caddesi
- Get lost in the city 😉