Straddling the Bosphorus, Istanbul is not just a fascinating city geographically, but culturally, and historically immensely rich. Turkey is one of the (few!) countries on the European continent I had yet to visit, so needless to say that I was jumping for joy when I won this weekend away during a charity auction. Naturally, I took my absolute favourite travel buddy and husband, Antonio, with me to explore for a whirlwind two days away.
Before even giving you some of our touristic highlights, I just want to note how incredible the overall atmosphere of Istanbul was. From the moment we arrived, we could feel a lively buzz: a unique excitement mixed with our anticipation at cramming in as much as possible in 48 hours!
Hagia Sophia was an absolute must-visit: we couldn’t even envisage travelling to Istanbul and skipping it. We also made sure to stop by the Blue Mosque, taking in its grandeur and Byzantine and Ottoman architecture.
The Grand Bazaar was the perfect place to wander and spend the afternoon combining shopping and marvelling at this 15th century trading centre. With over 5,000 shops and covering 60 streets, getting lost here is a marvellously disorientating experience and I can’t recommend it enough.
Topkapi Palace was one of my favourite visits of the weekend: I felt privileged to be able to see firsthand such a legendary building, including the apartments of the Queen Mother and the numerous courtyards inside the complex. I learned some incredible facts while there, here are some of my favourite:
- Did you know that the harem has 400 rooms? At one time, the sultan had as many as 300 concubines living there.
- At one point in history, the palace was home to approximately 4,000 people!
- Covering approximately 400,000 sqm, Topkapi Palace is the largest and oldest surviving palace in the entire world.
Two days is definitely not enough to truly explore Istanbul and experience everything that this city has to offer. Our trip was, however, short and very sweet; ending with a sunset boat trip on the Bosphorus. And there, right in the between Europe and Asia, I knew we’d be back.