Dolmabahce Palace – There are two must see palaces in Istanbul, this one and Topkapi Palace. The two are very different as this dates back to the 1400 so there is wonderful furniture decoration, culture and history. Topkapi Palace is much older so it’s very interesting to compare the two. Hysterical story to share from this visit. Lisa and I arrived around noon (although we’d get up 9:30/10am by the time we had coffee, showered, had a game plan somehow each day it wouldn’t be till noon our sightseeing began). After waiting in line to get tickets we entered the site and realized you needed to be with a group to join in on a tour or wait until a large enough group formed and the site assigned a guide. We snuck in with a group entering the palace and within moments were asked if we were in the group. We said yes in a friendly American tone and immediately were told we had crashed a NATO tour group of people who all knew each other and realized we were not in their group. Although they could have probably arrested us or done something official, they loved it! They were so welcoming, and we met Americans, Turkish and even French soldiers during our entertaining tour. Gotta love it. Us Americans taking care of each other where ever we are.
Walking along the Bosphorus River – On our first afternoon in Istanbul we wanted something active since we’d both been travelling a few hours and we wanted to see the gorgeous city we had just arrived in. I’d suggest a walk along the river. Our hotel, the W Hotel was located in a great location called Kabatas which was a 1 minute walk from the water and centrally located near other great hotels (the Four Seasons, The Ritz Carlton, The Park Hyatt….). The location was also ideal for sightseeing since we were in the middle of the two ends of the city.
Galata Tower – This is a fun site to see that’s historic and conveniently located next to one of my favorite Istanbul shopping districts! Apparently there is a great restaurant at the top of the tower people suggest you try.
Blue Mosque – This is on the way to Topkapi Palace so I’d suggest visiting here first. It’s a 10-15 minute stop but it’s gorgeous inside and interesting to see all the people praying. Very strange to see the female quarter’s are separate from the men’s. Also the females are in the back sectioned off you can barely see them unless you’re looking. (last picture below).
The women’s prayer area since Men & Women pray separately
Topkapi Palace – This is an enormous site which has a ton to see. I’d allow 2-3 hours for this since there’s a Palace, a lot of grounds to see as well as other museums/exhibits within the palace. There’s also supposed to be a great restaurant if you go in the morning have your concierge make a resi for lunch there as it’s supposedly crowded.
Turkish Spa – Lisa and I have a tradition of enjoying Spa time together wherever we are. It goes back to when she was studying abroad in Florence and I visited from London and we enjoyed authentic Italian massages (You may not know what an authentic Italian massage is until you have one, or ask me to tell you the story!). It was only appropriate to visit a Turkish Bath while in Turkey. Our hotel recommended The Anantara Spa Bellevue. We loved this place! It was a very cool experience. To begin, you enter a gorgeous marble over sized bathroom (imagine a steam room without the steam and benches). We did the treatments in the same room which was great since the treatment was a bit intimidating and you may want a friend/partner for moral support. You are literally scrubbed down (not a gentle scrub I must add) then soaked with hot water, your hair is washed and there was a little massaging. It was a very relaxing soothing experience (once you relax and get used to the rough scrubbing technique) which I’d recommend you try if in Turkey.
Emily, also known as The JetSetting Fashionista, or The J.S.F., is the creator and curator behind the blog, The JetSetting Fashionista. A prime destination for those who crave the best in Lifestyle, Travel, Fashion, Food, Wine, & Other Must Do’s. It is visited by luxury and fashion seekers and lovers of food, wine and travel around the world.