Istanbul

We enjoyed what little we saw of Istanbul and would like to come back when we have more time.

Day 1: Travel to Istanbul

We wanted a place to break up the long trip to Bangkok and when I saw that Turkish Airlines offered free Istanbul stopovers and had nonstop flights to Detroit and Bangkok I said “Yes!”

Our flight landed in the afternoon so we had little time to do anything our first day. We got a kick out of the starry light ceiling in our taxi from the airport. We arranged rides to and from the airport with our hotel to avoid hassle. We like to keep arrival uncomplicated after a long overnight flight. 

Our driver took us to the wrong hotel initially. I was glad I had some idea what the outside looked like. He was a bit embarrassed. Our hotel welcome was very warm. We had the first of many free cups of Turkish tea. 

We had dinner reservations and a little time kill before then so we walked around to stretch our legs and see the neighborhood. Our hotel was only a couple of minutes from the palace and the two main mosques. Istanbul is famous for cats and we saw one with interesting markings on our walk. Dinner was good with a nice view over the water. Many of the nearby restaurants were rooftops, though it was a little chilly for us to eat outside. We experienced our first calls to prayer also. Loud and eerie. 

Day 2: Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque

Breakfast was included at the hotel, in a rooftop dining room with views over the water and both nearby mosques. There was a wide variety of hot and cold items plus delicious apple tea.

With so little time here — today is our only full day, we fly out tomorrow night — we prioritized the things we wanted to see. Starting with the Topkapi Palace since we thought we would spend the most time here, and we did. 

palace courtyard
A courtyard at the palace.

Hagia Sophia was next, and right next door. 

Our final highlight was the Blue Mosque, a pleasant walk though a public square from Hagia Sophia. 

Blue Mosque exterior

At some point we hit an ATM for cash, since we didn’t have any local cash yet. We discovered all ATMs charge a fee so we tried a couple to find a smaller fee. There were a couple of banks of freestanding ATMs near the square. And we actually saw someone using one of the local footwashing stations. 

We had dinner at Vista Roof Lounge around the corner. Our host had recommended it the night before and his friend conveniently standing there offered to take us over to see it. We eventually extricated ourselves, explaining that we had dinner reservations already and would be back tomorrow. It looked nice so we came back. 

Day 3: Tea and Rain

We had another delicious breakfast, checked out, and parked our bags with the desk. We had planned to walk to the Grand Bazaar. We thought we would have time to do that before returning to the hotel to catch our ride to the airport. But it was pouring rain and walking two miles in the rain to politely fend off persistent vendors sounded unappealing, even if it was perhaps the world’s oldest market. (And I love a street market.)

So we spent the day in the comfortable lobby, drinking tea and reading until 5:00PM, when we hopped our arranged car to the airport for our night flight to Bangkok.

Here’s a last look at Hagia Sophia.

Essentials​

Lodging

The Hotel Valide Sultan Konagi  was very warm and welcoming. Our room was small but lovely and felt local. We had a peekaboo water view from our room and panoramic views upstairs with the delicious and varied breakfast. 

Dining

We had salmon and mackerel at the Seafront Lounge along with fries and beer. At the Vista Roof Lounge we had a delicious appetizer sampler and a kebab sampler for two with chicken, beef, lamb chop, steak, donor kebab, meatball, rice, salad, fries, roasted peppers, and tomatoes. So much good food. 

Transportation

We arranged transport to and from the airport with the hotel to keep things simple. Once at the hotel we could walk everywhere we wanted to go.