Istanbul is an amazing city. Turkey’s capital is bustling with energy, activities, people and sights, so it can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many blogs dedicated to this interesting city and so many great activities that you can do, that I decided to write this blog as a negative advice: don’t make these mistakes once you are visiting Istanbul. I absolutely loved Instanbul and in this blogpost you will find my recommendations to make your visit as enjoyable as possible.
Stay for only two days: I spent about 48 hours in Instanbul and it was not enough time to get to know this fascinating city. I felt like I was only able to touch the surface, because my time in Instanbul was way too short. I was lucky to visit Instanbul with a guide, so we were able to fit in a lot of activities in a short time frame, but I was still left wanting more. I didn’t get to visit the colorful neighborhood Balat, wasn’t able to visit the Ortakoy mosque, couldn’t do a Bosporus boat trip, didn’t visit the Topkapi palace and the Dolmabahce palace. To properly explore Instanbul, while also relaxing every now and then you need four days. Istanbul is a very large city, so you need to factor in time to travel between attractions.
Overspend time in the Grand Bazaar: I didn’t love the Grand Bazaar and I would recommend you to not reserve too much time for it, unless you are looking for something specific. I found the Grand Bazaar a bit overwhelming and expected a more exotic looking Souk-style bazaar, however it felt more like a shopping center to me. Lots of stores sold (fake?) luxury goods, instead of authentic gifts and handmade items.
Wake up early for the Galata tower: We did an early morning photoshoot at the Galata tower, but weren’t able to beat the delivery trucks on their route, blocking our view. The contrast of the light was very harsh in the early morning, so I didn’t love how my pictures turned out. Galata Rooftop has amazing views of the Galata tower, so if you are looking for a good picture go there instead (you can make reservations via Instagram).
Only visit the Blue Mosque: The Blue Mosque is not the prettiest mosque in Instanbul. The coming years the inside is covered in scaffolding, so you must factor that in when visiting. Nearby you will find the Hagia Sophia, which recently was turned into a mosque, which is absolutely gorgeous and super original. I also loved the Süleymaniye Mosque, which is not as well visited as the Blue Mosque, though it is stunning and not covered in scaffolding. You can actually take decent pictures in there. The mosques are very impressive and free to visit, so try to visit as many as possible. Just make sure to cover up your hair, shoulders and knees.
Just visit popular rooftops: Istanbul has many great rooftop restaurants, but a few of them are very popular on Instagram. This causes them to have so many visitors, that the experience becomes less fun. We visited Mimar Sinan rooftop, my travel group was able to privatize the photo spot with the view of the Süleymaniye Mosque for € 8 per person. We weren’t greeted very kindly and our visit felt a bit rushed, though we got beautiful pictures. Apparantly, the food at Mimar Sinan was not amazing.
Our experience at Panoramic restaurant was very different. It is a little bit hidden, but you can find it inside Adamar hotel. Our local guide arranged this visit, we had never seen this restaurant on Instagram before and we were received with the best service. This restaurant has views of the Hagia Sophia and the food was absolutely delicious. They also had a photo spot, which we were able to use for free, as we were having lunch there. You will be rewarded if you find a restaurant which is a little bit more off the beaten path.
Hire a photographer from Galata Rooftop: We also did a photoshoot at the Galata Rooftop, which had three viewpoints of Instanbul to take pictures with. You might know this rooftop from the beautiful pictures with seagulls. This came at the hefty price of € 80 per person, including a flying dress, a photographer and hundreds of pictures. I felt a little bit uncomfortable because the male photographers didn’t allow me to smile in pictures. They had a set routine, which they wanted you to complete, including uncomfortable positions. After the photoshoot you didn’t receive the pictures on a SD-card but you had to transfer them to your own device, which took a very long time as lots of others were waiting for their pictures too. I got some extremely beautiful pictures and really love my pictures with the Galata tower, but the experience itself was not very good. I received over 300 pictures, but lots of them I would not use, because I look too serious in them or I don’t like the pose. I would recommend to book a visit to the Galata Rooftop, with a photographer who knows your style, for example your Insta husband or a photography friend. Oh, and I didn’t edit out the seagull shit on one of the pictures below…
Pay for a luxury hotel with a view: Instanbul is full with midrange hotels, that provide nice enough views. I personally wouldn’t recommend to pay a lot of money to get a hotel with a good view, as there are so many rooftops on which you can enjoy the view. We stayed in the Manesol Galata hotel, which costs around € 50 per night including an extensive breakfast buffet. The rooms were comfortable, with the internet working most of the time and its location was perfect in the Galata area.