9 Reasons Why I Guarantee You Will Love Istanbul

Istanbul – That wondrous city that sits at the end of the line before Europe officially becomes Asia, a ‘must-see’ on my own list of life goals and it wasn’t one to disappoint.

Here’s a list of reasons why I think Istanbul will definitely become one of your favourites if you ever end up there yourself:

1. The Galata Tower

In one form or another since the 13th Century there has been a tower standing in the vicinity of the current Galata Tower. The current stone structure is a defining feature of the Istanbul skyline and gives 360° degree views of the city from its viewing deck that circles the top of the tower.

I am going to go as far as saying that visiting Galata Tower should be a non-negotiable if you ever find yourself in Istanbul.

Hot Tip: Try and get up to the viewing balcony of Galata Tower right before they close it to people who aren’t using the restaurant. Once you’re up there, they won’t ask you to leave and you can watch the Sun set over the city as it begins to glow from its lights all to the sound of the day’s final call to prayer ringing out from the many Mosques. I guarantee that will be a moment you will remember for a long time to come…

If you get up to the tower at sun set you can see this…

…become this…

2. Helpful Locals

Whether it be needing someone to show you how to steer around the extra keys on a Turkish Keyboard so you can log into your e-mail account to find out the address of the hostel you booked, trying to find your hostel that’s tucked away in the back alley’s of the Beyoglu District, or getting the best value meal from a restaurant owner who prefers being called ‘Uncle’, you will not be far from a local that will more than go out of their way to help you.

3. The Hagia Sofia

ANY conversation I’ve had in the past with someone whose brains I’ve picked in regards to their experiences in Istanbul, definitely involved the mention of the Hagia Sofia and was usually described in the same breath as the words “incredible”, “Definitely don’t miss seeing it” or “OMG its like totes amaze-balls!”

…yes, the hipster was right – IT’S TOTES AMAZE-BALLS!!!… ahem…

The Hagia Sofia stood as the world’s largest cathedral for almost a thousand years, becoming a Mosque when the Ottoman’s took Constantinople and adding features to it like it’s minarets. It was turned into its current role as a museum by Ataturk in 1935 which has lead to the recovery work on much of the original Christian artwork that was plastered over after the arrival of the Ottomans.

It is an unmatched example of “clashing cultures”, and like Rick Astley, I guarantee it won’t let you down.

The Hagia Sofia

Christian and Islamic influences inside the Hagia Sofia.

One of the restored Christian mosaics inside the Hagia Sofia.

4. It Has a Rocking Hostel Scene

Turning up to my first Hostel in Istanbul I was met at the front counter by the unforgettable character that is Mehmet: “Where you from!?” “Sydney, have you got a bed for me?” “YEAH! No Wucking Furries MATE!!!”  - By the way, Mehmet’s the Manager………..

A clear result of its popularity with budget travelers, Istanbul boasts some of the best hostels I’ve ever seen and this is mainly because the people running them add one vital ingredient: Effort.

Both Hostels I stayed at in Istanbul (The ‘Chill-out Cengo’ in Beyoglu and ‘The Orient’ in Sultanhamet) were both professionally run and maintained, ensuring that their guest’s stay at the hostels are a positive addition to their overall experience in Istanbul.

Mehmet, Manager of ‘The Orient’ Hostel basking in his awesomeness…

5. The Blue Mosque

Officially known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, this amazing fusion of architecture, design, art and culture (still used primarily as a place of worship) is Istanbul’s Grand Mosque. You will definitely find yourself having a few speechless moments while wandering its grounds and prayer halls.

The Blue Mosque.

Inside the Blue Mosque.

6. It isn’t Thessaloniki

The last city in Greece that I left for Istanbul from… If you haven’t already picked up from previous posts on Greece– I’m not a fan…

7. Beyoglu District

On the European side of the city, Beyoglu finds itself separated from the old city by the ‘Golden Horn’ River. As a result of being the home to European Traders and Embassies over the last few centuries, you could easily mistake Beyoglu for any other trendy shopping district in Western Europe. The main road through the heart of the district is home to the world’s oldest and still-functioning electric tram, which you will be sure to get a glimpse of as you stroll this, the entertainment, art, and nightlife hub of Istanbul.

The Beyoglu Tram

8. The Bazaars

The infamous Grand Bazaar and Spice Markets are the perfect place to scratch the Culture itch while in Istanbul. Sure some of the plastic “made in China” items sold at a lot of the market stalls today aren’t quite the same as the ones items that travelled there via the Silk Road on camel back hundreds of years before, but these markets are great places to take in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a place that has been used as a trade hub for countless generations.

You might want to consider carrying your ‘No! I don’t want a carpet!’ whacking stick whilst visiting here…

Istanbul’s famous Grand Bazaar.

9. The Basilica Cistern

Learn how to correctly use the exposure setting of your camera (and take a tri-pod if possible) and get here as quickly as you can – well actually, it’s underground so get there whenever it best suits your itinerary… Either way, the former water storage structure (built to supply the Royal Palace) is an incredible sight you shouldn’t miss.

Inside The Basilica Cistern


I’ve found that when you start travelling for extended periods, there are a few Cities and places that you just stumble upon while en route to the different locations on your travel itinerary. Most of the time these places exceed your expectations, mainly due to the fact that you didn’t have any expectations of those places to start with.

This definitely wasn’t the case for me in regards to Istanbul. I had been dreaming of visiting Istanbul for years. I arrived there waking in my carriage on the overnight train from Greece to the sight of this bustling city, glowing in the Sun that was beaming off the Bosphorus. It was simply more beautiful than I could have ever imagined and the following days I was there didn’t befall this initial impression. I guess this has a lot to do with the simple appreciation and internal high-fiving that comes from finally walking through a place and its sights that you’ve read and wanted to see for so long.

Leaving Istanbul so soon may have been a lot harder if I didn’t have the same level of anticipation of what the rest of Turkey has to offer…

Have you been to Istanbul? I’d love to hear any tips from your trip as I’m sure to return to this incredible City!

28 thoughts on “9 Reasons Why I Guarantee You Will Love Istanbul

    • Its true! So much has been built there but then ended being used for something else. Parts of the Basilica Cistern have Medusa Head carvings from previous temples being used to hold the pillars up! Thanks for stopping by Suzy!

  1. I’ve been wanting to visit Istanbul for years, and finally am going to have the chance to do so this summer! Sadly, I’ll only be there for about 2 days, but I plan to pack as much into those two days as humanly possible! I’m SO excited!
    Amanda recently posted..Photo of the Day: Victoria HarborMy Profile

    • Im so glad to hear you’re going to get there for yourself Amanda. I cant wait to read about your take on this incredible city! You should be able to fit most of the stuff on this list into two days if you plan your time well. Either way, gives you a good excuse to come back!

    • Thanks Miruna! Istanbul is probably my favourite city I have been to so far! I hope you get there yourself someday…

  2. Can I add Dolmabahce palace to your list? It was the palace for the former Ottoman rulers and also the place where the founder of Turkey died. He was called Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. It is an awesome place consisting of filthy rich interior decor!

    • Thanks for your suggestion Natalie! I have every intensions of going back to Istanbul in the future so I will definitely put Dolmabahce Palace on the ‘to do’ list for next time! btw- i think its hard to go to Turkey and not know who Ataturk was!!!;) Thanks for checking the article out and I love your blog too – It is definitely my new ‘go to’ site for all things Turkey!

  3. I love love love Istanbul… and all 9 of these reason are reason to love it, but I love it for so many more. I have already been twice and will go a 3rd time before heading to SEAsia. I can’t get enough of this city.
    Jaime recently posted..Faces of India in photos.My Profile

    • Oh man, easily one of my favourite cities and can’t wait to go back! See these main points and you’ll be sure to see some pretty epic off the path spots while you’re wandering around in between!

  4. I’m going to Istanbul in December and I just came across this post. Thank you, this is very helpful! I’ve had no shortage of suggestions already from friends who’ve recently visited, but I’ve still managed to pick up some additional ideas of what to see from what you’ve written (and from your outstanding photos).
    H-Bomb recently posted..H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 1: a Moroccan mosqueMy Profile

    • H-Bomb! Good to hear, your going to have an epic time there. Thanks for checking out the post, its really good to hear it helped!

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  7. Thanks for this great article. I’m actually living in Istanbul since 7 months now and I’m totally in love with the city. You missed out a few points. So let me expand your list!

    THE FOOD: Turkish cuisine is fantastic, it’s tasty, it’s with loads of vegetables, it’s cheap and it’s everywhere. If you love sweets, try Turkish delights… so delicious. And even though I’m not a coffee drinker, I love the Turkish coffee.

    THE NIGHTLIFE: Istanbul has so many rooftop bars and clubs and most of them offer quite a nice view over the city. If you like it fancy, check out 360, probably the best rooftop club in Istanbul. If you’re more on a budget, more rooftop clubs without entrance fees are Ritim Roof, Araf, Beat, Pavilon, Joker and Leila Terrace. There are plenty, these are just a few of my favs. All of these places I named are in Taksim around Istiklal Street.

    CHEAP: The longer I live here, the more I discovered actually how cheap this city is. We use to cook a lot, vegetables are very cheap here, if you buy them at the markets. One must see is the Tarlabasi vegetable market every Sunday (in Taksim). If you’re looking for cheap beers in Taksim, check out Eski Beyrut, from Sunday – Thursday a beer cost only 2,5 TL (1 EUR) between 21:30 and 23:00.

    Cheers from Istanbul!

    • wow! thanks for taking the time to add all of that Sabrina! I ll definitely make sure I check out some of those clubs next time im in Istanbul!!

  8. Thank you for the wonderful article. We have fell in love again with Turkey!
    Last year, Turkish Airlines flew a team of destination marketing experts to Uganda, Africa, on a marketing summit. held at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel. It was one of the most informative affair we have ever had, with detailed information on destination Turkey; Health in Turkey – was the most interesting session and we look forward to Turkey as #1 destination for health treatment!

    • Great to hear! I had a stack of dental work done in Thailand last year, but Turkey was definitely another place I was considering getting the work done…

  9. As someone who has now lived in Turkey for 8 months, I definitely vibe with your #2 reason – the locals in Turkey are outstandingly hospitable, offering everything to guests in exchange for nothing. I’ve truly been blown away by how welcoming and friendly they are.

    On a second note, if you find yourself in Turkey again, try to make it down to the Mediterranean! Beaches and sunshine for miles, as well as paragliding, sea kayaking and other adventuresome activities.

    • Man, what an incredible place to decide to base yourself out of.
      I managed to get myself down to quite a few different spots along the Med coast, so much to offer!

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