Istanbul I: Exploring The City + Suleymaniye + The Blue Mosque

To catch you up to speed check out earlier posts about my trip:
My travels around Israel

Last I left off, we were taking off on a Turkish Airlines flight and heading from Tel Aviv, Israel to Istanbul Turkey. Now it was about 80 degrees in Israel (even in November!) so I was wearing a long thin skirt, hot pick tank top and thin cardigan. We get off the plane in Istanbul and I notice that everyone in the Turkish airport is wearing dark pants, dark thick winter jackets, and big black scarves. Everyone was in dark gray or black. Um… I clearly didn’t pack for the weather of Istanbul. Since most of our time on the trip was to be spent in Israel, I packed for the desert. I’ve made a huge mistake. In the passport line, there were 100 people and I was the only one in colorful clothing and not in a thick jacket. Crap.

We arrived midday and took a car service to our hotel  in Ortakoy (wear I promptly layered up anything I had packed with long sleeves. We were starving and walked down the hill (Istanbul’s very hilly) to the water and ate at the Hanedan Restaurant over looking Bosphorus. 


It was strange to think we were a quick 2 hour flight from Israel, and yet the weather was SOOO different. Everything was different. Israel is the Middle East, Turkey is very European (and Asian). Istanbul is a city in two continents, which I did not realize until we arrived. We spent most of our time on the Europe side (since it has the main city attractions) but I will talk about a quick trip we made to Asia in a later post. 


Since this city is so hilly, there are beautiful views everywhere. Every restaurant we ate at the entire time here, had excellent views. 


After our late lunch, the sun started to set (it was around 3:30p) so we decided to walk along the river and explore the city by walking until dark. 

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This is the view looking south into the touristy/historic section of Istanbul. See all the silhouettes of the minarets and mosques? So pretty. Plus in the evening (and several other times a day) they do the call to worship. It’s really beautiful and after a few times of hearing it, you get used to it. In fact it’s like a clock, as the singing alerts you to what time it is. It’s also helpful as a tourist because after the call to worship, the active mosques will be closed to tourists for about 20 minutes. So when you hear the singing, you know you have 20 minutes to get to where you want to visit. 


This is at the Dolmabahce Palace. There are many palaces in Istanbul. 


Not only does Istanbul still have pay phones, but they are all different animals! Too fun! What a photo op! 


We walked well until after sunset (which happens so early). It was very beautiful and very very cold. 


I was telling our friends Brian and Andy about my secret stair walks when we spotted these not so secret stairs. Up we go! 


We meandered up and downstairs just exploring. It was a fun first taste of the city. 


We passed many beautiful mosques and walked through Sanatkarlar Park (which was a little sketchy, so don’t hang out here alone after dark). We meandered into shops and a beautiful art gallery. 


We made our way back down the hill to the main road and Tophane-i (Ali Pasha Complex Mosque), and caught a cab back to the hotel. We had 8p dinner reservations at the top of our hotel at the Meze Restaurant and we all needed to warm up. 


Since it was chilly we sat indoors instead of on the terrace. More excellent views and a delicious meal.


The next morning we decided to start our day at one of the many famous mosques, the Suleymaniye Hammam


It was so quiet here. We were the only tourists for a while. 

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Since it was cold and I was wearing basically all the clothes I had packed, I had a hoodie on which was handy at the mosques. Women have to cover their heads and I didn’t bring a scarf (since I knew I would buy one while I was there- why pack one?). You also have to remove your shoes outside and you can see we (tourists) are restricted to certain areas of the mosques. Tourists men and women stay together, although if we were members there to pray, women have a tiny section in the back and the men get all this floor space above. It’s like this at all the mosques. 

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We walked through the Grand Bazare (more on that later) and then made our way to the back side of the Blue Mosque to a special lunch spot. 


What beautiful walkways. It’s so European compared to the winding pathways of Jerusalem. 

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Above is the view of the Blue Mosque from our restaurant spot at Seven Hills. Even though it was cold, we had to sit on the outdoor patio level. How could we miss out on looking at these buildings. 


Here’s the view of Ayasofya from the restaurant. 

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The Blue Mosque, above. 

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This is the inside of the Blue Mosque… it’s more red than blue- false advertising! It’s beautiful in here. This is also an active mosque (unlike the Ayasofya. 


Prayer time was ending as we were allowed in after lunch. This was a beautiful yet very crowded mosque. You wouldn’t know it from this photo, but the tourist section is packed with people.

This evening we ate a special dinner at the Sunset Grill and Bar. It had beautiful views (like all the restaurants), it was a delicious meal and it was fun to be with good company. 

My next Istanbul post will be about our time exploring Topkapi Palace Museum


3 thoughts on “Istanbul I: Exploring The City + Suleymaniye + The Blue Mosque

  1. Pingback: Istanbul II: Topkapi Palace | LifeAbsorbed

  2. Pingback: Istanbul III: Hagia Sophia and the Cistern | LifeAbsorbed

  3. Pingback: Istanbul IV: Taksim Square, Asia, and the Grand Bazar | LifeAbsorbed

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