Chase and I have both been so interested in visiting Turkey while living here in Europe.
Right now with the volatile environment, we weren’t sure if it was the smartest thing.
Months ago we had booked a short visit and purchased our visas to visit, but as it drew
closer and with more unrest we were unsure. We waited until the day before to decide
whether we should go, and after changing some travel plans and upgrading to a more
secure hotel we decided to visit this beautiful country while taking careful precautions.
We only went to Istanbul (nowhere near the capital of Ankara or toward southeastern Turkey)
and we took taxis pre-arranged by our hotel…no metro. We also planned to avoid the main public
areas, but we still wanted to see and experience the local culture and city feel. This is where a new
travel service came in so handy. It is called Journy and provides custom travel itineraries tailored
to your specific needs and interests. These days I feel that there is no need for travel agencies, but
rather online, tailored and simple tips from locals. This service is very much for today’s traveler,
and the concierge can handle any bookings for you if you desire. Normally in Europe I like to do
all of my own research and plan things out, but since we were going to a less familiar place with
some safety concerns, I requested some plans and tips to help us get to know the place but stay safe.
Traditional travel agencies can tend to take over all plans and charge hundreds per day, but this
service is just $15/day for however many days of the trip you prefer. You go through a really easy
5 minute survey and pick either a chronologic, day-by-day itinerary OR a flexible itinerary with
recommendations from chefs + local experts by activity type. Within about a week you’ll get
your customized itinerary which you can keep all in one place on your phone, or print it out!
**At the end of this post you can find a special offer discount code to use Journy! :)
Here is the rough itinerary we followed – you can see lots more photos in this post.
Accommodation: Hotel Amira…we loved this little boutique hotel. It was an ideal safe & quiet location right near the main sights, had lots of charm, a rooftop terrace, afternoon tea, and top notch service. We left feeling like we were friends with all of the staff!
Main sights: (we could walk to almost all of these from our hotel!)
– Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque): One of the major historic mosques with such a beautiful interior.
– Hagia Sophia Museum: A former Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica, later an imperial mosque, and now a museum.
– Topkapı Palace: One of the major residences of the Ottoman sultans. Visit the museum if time, otherwise stroll the grounds. Do not miss the bordering Gülhane Park with tulips in the spring!
– Basilica Cistern: Walk beneath the city in this subterranean ancient cistern.
– Spice Bazaar: The famed spice market is incredible to walk through taking in the sights and smells in the Eminönü quarter of the Fatih district. *It’s called the Mısır Çarşısı in Turkish!
– Grand Bazaar: One of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, this market has 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops. It’s overwhelming but there are a lot of good finds!
– Sultanahmet: The Old Town of the city, and where we stayed!
– Bosphorus River: Definitely make time to stroll the river, take a boat ride on it, or even cross over to the Asian side on a very cheap ferry!
– Istiklal Caddesi: One of the most famous avenues in Istanbul, Istiklal Avenue is a perfect combination between traditional and modern Turkish culture. Lots of more modern boutiques and shopping here.
– Haseki Hürrem Sultan Hamamı: Experience the traditional Turkish Baths here, if you dare! :)
– Arch Bistro: Our favorite meal in Istanbul, by far. This family-owned restaurant offers an ideal blend of typical Turkish food that we cannot stop thinking about. See more from it here and order all the same things!!
– Turkuaz Gurme: This restaurant name translates to “Turquoise Gourmet” and it’s in a fun neighborhood! Order meat in a clay pot and they will bring it by the table on fire and crack it open! It’s a little touristy but fun.
– Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi Selim Usta: A good and famous place to try kofte.
– Armada Terrace: Offers probably the best view in the city with international fare.
– Cuppa: Perfect for a healthy bite, this was recommended by the Journy concierge and was a great break from some of our Turkish delight :)
– Tea time: The Turks love their tea, and tea gardens are a major thing in Istanbul– the view at Sarayburnu çay Bahçesi is hard to beat, especially with some apple tea in hand!
– Street food: Try Turkish kebaps, pistachio baklava, Turkish delight (lokum), börek pastries, falafel, Turkish pizza, meze appetizers, Turkish pilav rice, mercimek köftesi lentil balls, Turkish ice cream, and more! Yum!
It helped us so much in Istanbul to know of some safer areas and ways to see the city despite our last-
minute changes. I can’t wait to use this in the future to help me stay organized + inspired during travels!
If you want to try Journy out, use my code EMI25 to get 25% off any itinerary. I’d LOVE to hear how it goes!
You can see examples of amazing stories by Journy users and staff by scrolling through this page!
Thank you to Journy for partnering on this post, and helping our trip be successful and safe.