I can still smell the fresh börek with spinach, the burnt scent of chestnuts in the street and hear the echo from the evening prayer when I close my eyes. As I fly out of this fairytale city, I wrote down my top reasons why Istanbul is worth a visit. But first, some practical info for you:


There are direct flights from many big cities in Europe. I booked my ticket a little late, so had to do a stop over on the way. From the airport you can take the metro to the center, but you have to change once. You can also take a taxi for about 40 turkish lira which is around 20 USD or 125 norwegian kroner. There is also a bus that leaves from near the Taksim square to the airport every half hour, but not late at night.


Starting from end of March, temperatures increase significantly. In July and August day temperatures are over 30' C and you can feel it much more combined with humidity. Starting from December till March temperatures are around 5-10' C. It was pretty windy and cold when I visited in the end of March, so the best time would be to go a little later in spring.


I stayed at a great hostel called Pembe Cati right near the Taksim square. Very central, clean and a cheap place to stay. The staff was very helpful and it was right near the metro station and the main street. Only a 40 minutes walk to all the sights in Sultanahmet.

There are plenty of places to stay around the city, but I recommend staying near Taksim Square if it is your first time in the city. From there it is easy to walk to Sultanahmet and to take the metro around the city.


I paid around 40 euros per night to stay at Pembe Cati. You can get accomodation in most price categories in Istanbul.

You can buy a delicious kebab on the street for 5 turkish lira (2,5 USD). You can get cheap food everywhere, but if you want a nice turkish meal you can pay a little extra and get a great food and cultural experience at Hatay Medeniyetler Sofrasi near Taksim Square.



When Aladdin rubs the oil lamp in the famous Disney movie, magic starts to happen. The story has the perfect ingredients of a fairytale - a love story, a beautiful palace set in an old city, markets with old lamps and carpets, mosques and golden treasures. Istanbul is like that fairytale. Here, both good and evil has been fighting side by side for centuries. The history of the city is magnificent and brutal at the same time. Every day you can dig a little deeper into what took place here, and when you leave you feel like you still have a lot to learn. Istanbul has been the center of three huge empires throughout history. The Roman, Ottoman and Byzantine Empire. Join me into the most visited tourist attraction in the city, the Topkapı Palace where the sultan lived for 400 years.

The Topkapı Palace


The Topkapı Palace is a large palace that was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years (1465–1856). It also contains important holy relics of the Muslim world, including Muhammed's cloak and sword.

Stepping into the Harem

In front of me is a huge door made of marble. Several hundred years ago, young teenage girls from all around the world would walk through this door. They were taken far away from their families and the world they knew. What thoughts went through their heads as they entered the Harem? They were the most beautiful and intelligent girls, taken from other countries during wars and brought to the sultan in Istanbul. As they entered this door, they were told "Once you enter the Harem, you will never walk out again." They spent the rest of their lives behind the stone walls.

Such a beautiful door stands before me, but it was also a prison gate that separated these women from the outer world. This door would have so many sad stories to tell, if it could only speak about the history of the Harem..

Even though the Harem days are long gone, I could still picture the teenage girls walking into the Harem for the first time. I was happy I was only a tourist, and not a concubine in the Ottoman empire.



The Imperial Harem occupied one of the sections of the private apartments of the sultan. It contained more than 400 rooms. The harem was home to the sultan's mother, the concubines and wives of the sultan; and the rest of his family, including children and their servants.


The Imperial Hall is a domed hall in the Harem, believed to have been built in the late 16th century. It has the largest dome in the palace. The hall served as the official reception hall of the sultan as well as for the entertainment of the Harem. Here the sultan received his confidants, guests, his mother, his first wife, consorts, and his children.


The blue mosque


The Blue Mosque is right next to the Topkapi Palace in the old area called Sultanahmet. The interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade İznik style ceramic tiles, in more than fifty different tulip designs. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is possible to visit for free, apart from during praying times. If you are a woman, bring a head scarf!


I was amazed when I came inside. I sat down for half an hour on the floor, just looking at the beautiful dome.


You should definately also see the Hagia Sophia. It is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica that has been turned into a museum. It was constructed in year 537 and is just across from the Blue Mosque. In the same area you can find the Basilica Cistern. Also called the "Sunken Palace", or "Sunken Cistern", it is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. The cistern is located 150 meters southwest of the Hagia Sophia and was built in the 6th century.




Feeling hang over after a night out in Istanbul? Or do you just feel like a fresh juice as you walk through the streets? You can buy freshly squeeszed fruit juice almost everywhere.

I never eat kebabs at home. But I did every day in Istanbul. They are so delicious!

I recommend "Kizilkayalar" on the corner of Taksim square, to the left of the beginning of Istiklal street. My favourite istanbul breakfast! For a real turkish restaurant experience, go to Hatay Medeniyetler Sofrasi a few meters down. The food is a bit more expensive but its truly worth it when the chef makes your bread on a fire right in front of you. And, they gave me strong coffee on the house.



You should also get a fish burger on the pier in Eminönü. Fresh fish fried on a boat on the pier. Yum!



The Galata Bridge crosses the Golden Horn into Eminönü and the mouth of the Bosphorus opens into the Marmara Sea. And up on the hill stands Topkapı Palace, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Eminönü is one of the places where you can go on a boat trip to see the strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. Hop on a boat and enjoy the view!





Ortaköy is the posh part of the city for nice dinners and drinks overlooking the Bosphorus. I went to the charming House Café. It was a rainy and cold day, so I ordered some ginger tea.


Later in the evening I went back to Reina, one of the best night clubs in the city. Christiano Ronaldo, Sting, Paris Hilton etc have partied here! Expensive drinks but if you want to get an great view of the Bosphorus at night and mingle with the posh people, this is the place to go.


I hope you enjoyed some tips from this fairytale city. These were the things I had time to do during my four day visit. I still have more left to do, so I might just have to go back!




Welcome to my blog!

Hi! My name is Ida and I am a journalist for Norwegian Broadcasting who is living in Cape Town, South Africa. I would love to share my experiences from my life in the rainbow nation with you. On this blog, you can also find posts from my travels around the world.

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