Istanbul in a day

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Evening skies and minarets

Istanbul in 24 hours

We only had a day to see in Istanbul. On the way back from Japan, calling in at the airline’s hub we took the opportunity to go Turkish.  We had booked a lovely Air bnb in a central location in the Sultanahmet area.

It was above a shop where our host made beautiful lamps out of gourds. A view of the majestic dome of the blue mosque was afforded from our room. A whistle stop plan was hatched to visit both the Asian and the European sides of this ancient city on the shores of the Bosphorous – in one day.

City of colours

The wooden houses of Istanbul

The day started with breakfast at the Naz Wooden House, one of Istanbul’s few remaining wooden buildings which represent early domestic architecture. The house is an elegant example of Old Istanbul.  You can breakfast there on the balcony overlooking the two sides of the Bosphorous and its busy shipping lane activities, for just 5 Euro.

Fresh potato Dauphinoise was served straight from the oven  together with crumbly white salty Turkish cheese – delicious! The selfie stick (acquired from Claire’s Accessories, Harajuku Street, Tokyo) was employed on the balcony.  Looking from the European side to the Asian side of this cultural melting pot of a city.

Put your best fruit forward

The Blue Mosque

Next stop, the famous blue mosque is still an active place of worship. It is so called because its dome is covered in stunning blue tiles and its impressive minarets spiral up into the bluest sky. We bounced through into the courtyard first thing, and ticked it quickly off our list.

The Grand Bazaar is a another major tourist attraction within the walled city of Istanbul. It is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 indoor streets and over 3,000 shops. For market lovers such as myself it is a place to feel very much at home in. It would normally be somewhere for me to spend many hours mooching around.

On our whistle stop tour however, it was a more of a scan the main streets activity, with a bit of light shopping thrown in. We even managed a cup of Turkish tea with a friendly local antiques dealer.

Bazaar illuminations

Istanbul – the carpet shop

We paid a visit to a local carpet shop. We were subjected to the customary unrolling display of lots of magnificent Turkish carpets. Although we liked them very much, we were not in any position to purchase today. These kind of negotiations can take a very long time, and be rather costly.

Next we went on to the Topkapi Palace, the primary residence of the ancient Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. It has four main courtyards and a treasury which boasts jewels which make our own crown jewels look a bit pathetic. The Treasury was off limits for the day tour though, as this involved lots of queueing, thus eating up too much valuable tourist time.

Uptown accommodation

The Topkapi Palace

We visited the Harem where the women were obliged to stay in a grand sort of slavery to service the Sultan’s needs. Between them, they had hundreds of children for him.

Everywhere on the walls were the very gorgeous ornate Iznic tiles which are typical of Turkey. They have bright botanic style repeat patterns which are quite delicious. These tiles, along with ornate gold ceilings which were in evidence everywhere made a great background for photos. The Sultans of the Ottoman Empire were apparently a rather hedonistic lot. One of them drowned in his own fountain after drinking too much champagne – but what a way to go!

Selfie stick portrait

Istanbul – from Europe into Asia

We then walked across the bridge from the European to the Asian side of the river. We feasted on a fresh fish wrap from the waterside market, which has featured on Ainsley Harriet’s Street Food Programme.

Without slacking, we continued up the steep winding streets built long before  the invention of the car, noting juice stalls piled high with bright skinned grapefruits, oranges and pomegranates. We had a coffee in the very funky Holy Coffee café (which also served Holy water for the especially thirsty.) We browsed the eclectic antique shops in the Cukurcuma district.

Flying tonight?

We then got the ferry back across the Bosphorus and braved a few wandering local Turkish hands on the very packed tram back up to the city centre.

There followed a final shop in the very cool Arasta bazaar near to where we were staying. There was an amazing variety of Turkish ceramics there, and I really, really wanted to buy them all.  The lovely tiles, the Raku horses, the fantastic plates and bowls.

I knew I didn’t have anywhere to put them when I got home and that I didn’t need any more stuff, however mouth watering the selection. Now if I’d had a gigantic palace to put it all in, that would have been different.. I did manage to buy some beautiful Turkish cotton dressing gowns and towels though, which just about fit into the case after sitting on it for a while.

A plate penchant

Istanbul – eating out

Evening was now drawing in. A local restaurant served us a meal of delicious prawns and garlic sizzling in a hot dish. There was some with bongo playing entertainment, and smiley waiters who called us ‘honey’ a lot.

The transcontinental capital  city of Istanbul is the biggest in Turkey and one of the most populous in the world. It used be called Constantinople – a fact forever recorded in the song sung by Bing Crosby which featured in the 1953 film ‘Putting on the Ritz.’

It is a very beautiful old capital with a rich cultural and religious history, and one I have wanted to visit for many years. I am very glad I finally got to go there, it was an amazing day.

Downtown graffiti


What about afterwards?