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Istanbul Attractions

Istanbul Attractions

The first stop on our way to Gil and Lior's wedding was Istanbul. It's changed a lot since I was first here in 2007, but it is still one of my favourite destinations.

Mat Hollingsworth
Mat Hollingsworth

5 min read

The first stop on our way to Gil and Lior's wedding was Istanbul. It's changed a lot since I was first here in 2007, but it is still one of my favourite destinations.

We spent six days and five nights in Istanbul. Each day we explored the city in a somewhat unstructured way. Rather than organise this post chronologically, I've structured it by location or subject.

A few clips around Istanbul


We stayed at Soho House in the posh inner city suburb of Beyoğlu. The Hotel was beautifully decorated and included a rooftop bar for members and guests and the most amazing gym that I've ever seen in a hotel. Unfortunately the service didn't quite match its price tag.

Beyoğlu was a great place to base ourselves. It was pretty sleepy during the day, with only cafe's and boutique stores open. During the evening it had a good range of bars and restaurants on offer. It was a bit of a walk to the old city and some of the other neighbourhoods, we could have used public transport more, but we prefer to walk.

Our favourite haunts included Drip Cafe, which served up excellent espresso and Comedus which had a good range of Turkish craft beer and high-end deli goods. Gara Guzuwas the best that we found while in Turkey.

Rooftop Bars

Istanbul is home to many impressive rooftop bars where you can take in the view of the city and the Bosphorus.

We visited Leb-i Derya, Istanbul 360 and Mikla.

Mikla was easily the best view, the most pleasant atmosphere and the best quality and value drinks. The cocktails were delicious. My favourite was the Barbados, which was a bit like a whisky sour.

Leb-i Derya was pleasant, but the view wasn't as good as the others and it was enclosed (possibly because of the weather).

Istanbul 360 was expensive (the most expensive). The view was good, but I think it's more of a nightclub.


Eminönü is quite touristy and a bit unremarkable. But it's an access point to the main tourist attractions and connects the old part of Istanbul with the new; so we found ourselves passing through several times.

We enjoyed walking across Galata Bridge and watching the fishermen.

Hot tip for new players, if a shoe shiner walks past you, and then drops his brush, don't pick it up for them. It's a ploy to get you to talk to them so that they can sell you a shoe shine. I fell for it last time I was here.

Blue Mosque

We, of course, visited the Blue Mosque. It's an great building. I don't know much about it. We spent about ten minutes in there.

Hagia Sophia & Bascilica Cistern

The Hagia Sophia is the most impressive of all the religious attractions. It was once a church and then a mosque and now a museum. It was under going renovations while we were there, but it was still impressive. The sheer scale of the space is overwhelming.

We were lucky enough to be there during the call to prayer and saw a great view of the Blue Mosque.

We also visited Basilica Cistern, but it was also undergoing renovations and had been drained, so some of its impact was lost.

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace is an impressive 15th-century Ottoman palace located near the Hagia Sophia.  


We took a ferry tour of the Bosphorus from Eminönü up to Rumeli Castle and back. The bough was oversold, so we stood at the front to get a better view. It really is a beautiful city.