City Guide: Istanbul

Finally got to tick Istanbul, Turkey off the travel bucket list in April 2023. I had to go to Istanbul for business and managed to squeeze sightseeing in between the work part of my trip and I have to say I absolutely love Istanbul. Would totally go back there again at some point.

How many nights: 5

How I got there: I flew from Manchester Airport via Turkish Airlines. It was just under 4 hours.

Where I stayed: Marriott, Sisli. You can’t go wrong with the Marriott and this hotel did not disappoint. They had everything from a hammam (Turkish Baths), pool facilities and everything you would expect from a 5-star hotel. Can’t say I had time to use them but if I wasn’t on business then I would have! It was clean, modern and the staff went above and beyond. I was on the 29th floor, my room was fab and the views of the city were amazing. The location of the hotel was great as all shops were within walking distance (supermarket, restaurants, clothes shops etc).

Getting Around: Uber. Ubers are so cheap, with most trips usually under £7 per trip. However during popular times (mornings and evenings) they are very difficult to get. If you do end up using a cab, outside of Uber, then note they will try and charge you a lot extra so that’s something to watch out for! For the airport to my hotel, I used a company called Safe Airport Travel – would highly recommend them, their fancy cars had wifi in them and the service was great and reliable.

What to see and do

There’s so much to see and do in Istanbul, it really depends on what you are looking for. Below are just a few of the things you can do.


There’s so much rich culture in Istanbul so I highly recommend you book yourself on a tour, with a tour guide. That’s exactly what I did on my free day allowing me to see The Topki Palace, The Blue Mosque, The Hagia Sophia, The Grand Bazaar and The Cistern. They’re all within walking distance of each other and you can see them in a day.

The plus points of having a tour guide are they will explain all the history to you and take you to the hidden gems when shopping in the Grand Bazaar. We went for a private day tour via Ephesus Tours – Viator. I highly recommend them – our tour guide Erkem was amazing.

The Bosphorus Dinner Cruise

You will come across this cruise when looking for things to do in Turkey. I would only recommend this for the fact you get to cruise across the Bosphorus Strait, which is amazing at night! The views are fab as you can see the Asia side of Turkey. There’s also entertainment throughout (highlights include the Whirling Dervishes and a Belly dancer), which is fun. The food is not great so I would recommend eating beforehand. Also, they will try and sell you the VIP tables but do not go for them – the views are not VIP. I found my ‘VIP’ table to be pretty awful, as my view of the entertainment was blocked by their photographer constantly trying to take pictures. I felt the non-VIP tables had better views. Overall though it is a fun night out.


I recommend you check out the Grand Bazaar as it’s something everyone has to experience, you may find it overwhelming at first given the vast amount of shops – without a tour guide you can get lost – and the people constantly coming up to you to try and sell you items, but once you overcome this it’s quite a cool place if you know what you’re looking for. It’s known for its replica designer goods, and whilst I don’t buy replicas if this is your thing then you will come across some great finds.

Markiz Pasmina is a great shop in the Grand Bazaar if you like scarves. The owner in the shop will then take you to all the best shops for your other shopping requirements (e.g. jewelry, handbags).

My main tips when shopping at The Grand Bazaar is to haggle, haggle and haggle! Never agree to the first price that you’re told – it’s always a lot higher than the actual price. Also, do not be afraid to walk away and browse. A lot of the time you will find if you look around you will find the item you want at another store for half the price (that’s exactly what happened to me when I was buying an evil eye bracelet).

Additionally, if you’re after the famed evil eye jewelry, rugs, and intricate porcelain items then The Grand Bazaar has plenty of choice. If you’re after Turkish foods, such as halva, Turkish delight, and baklava, then I recommend you go to Sisli – it’s cheaper and the same quality.

Our tour guide took us to Vezirhan, where they showed us how silk rugs are made. If you are interested in purchasing a silk rug then this should be your go-to. They have a massive selection of good-quality rugs. After we visited Vezirhan, we went to Ruby Ceramics and gift shop, which is a great porcelain shop where you can try making your own vase. They were so nice and gave us complimentary evil eye jewelry and Turkish coffee. If you are after any ceramics then I would recommend this shop as they offer free protected shipping and the quality of the items is great.

Towels – Istanbul is known for its good quality Turkish Towels and if you want the finest quality then stop by Jennifer’s Hamam shop. They also have a four-story showroom, which they will take you to if you don’t find anything in the initial shop.

Sisli – there are so many shops within the area of the Marriott hotel, from clothing, shoes, and suitcases, Turkish sweet and savory items to food shops you can spend several hours. When shopping in Istanbul it’s good to have an idea of what you actually need otherwise you’re going to end up coming home with a ton of clothing you may not need!

If you’re after bargains (I mean who doesn’t love a good bargain?!) on clothing then I recommend you go to Büyük Beşiktaş Çarşısı bazaar area. This has a multi-story shopping mall that has so many clothing shops it’s a shopper’s dream. The prices will have you double-checking to ensure you’ve done the currency conversion correctly (yes, it’s that good!). If you love to knit then I recommend you check out Renk Yun – the lady is super helpful and they have a large selection of good quality wool at low prices! My suitcase home may have been filled with many balls of wool.

Where to eat.

There are a lot of Michlin star restaurants in Istanbul and the great thing is they’re not expensive. You’re looking at around £50 per person (that was for a starter, main and sweet).

I recommend Banyan restaurant – not only is the food great (as someone who is vegetarian and celiac I was able to have a nice dinner) but the views of the Bosphorus at night are out of this world. Make sure you book well in advance as this restaurant gets booked up pretty quickly!

Murver Restaurant is located at the top of the Novotel, Bosphorus, and again has amazing views of the Bosphorus. The food is great, it’s cooked over an open flame wood fire grill and brick oven, by the famed Istanbul chef, Mevlut Ozkaya.

Sunset Grill & Bar is yet another Michlin-star restaurant with amazing views and great vibes. It turns into quite the party after dinner.

The Dish Room Grill restaurant and bar was in my Marriott, Sisli hotel and it made for great lunch. As someone who is celiac and vegetarian, they were able to cater to my food requirements.

So yeah this is a summary of some things you can do and see in Istanbul.

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