Day 2. The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

After a good night’s sleep, we tucked into a hearty breakfast in the elegant dining room of the Holiday Inn Istanbul Old City. As well as the usual offerings I was tempted into sampling some local cheese and olives.

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Restaurant, Holiday Inn Istanbul Old City

I did, however, give the local Turkish coffee a miss as I’d tried it before and it wasn’t to my liking but thankfully cappuccino was available so I was able to have that instead. To complete my breakfast I found it impossible to resist a slice of honey drizzle cake – not something I would usually have at that time of day but rules can of course be broken whilst on holiday.

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The entrance arch to the University of Istanbul

By 9.30 a.m. we were ready to set off and the temperature, already in the low 20’s was very pleasant. Our first stop was at Beyazit Square in Fatih to take a look at Istanbul University which is the oldest in Turkey. From the square, we entered the university campus through the main entrance gate and then wandered through the grounds as far as the Beyazit Bell Tower which stands 279ft tall and was originally constructed as a fire watch tower. These university buildings were previously the headquarters of the Ministry of War in the Ottoman Government.

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Beyazit Bell Tower, University of Istanbul

Leaving the university it was then just a short stroll to our next destination, the famous Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, open daily with the exception of Sunday. The bazaar contains a staggering 61 covered streets and more than 4,000 shops selling everything from jewellery to ceramics and Turkish carpets.

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Inside the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Wandering the maze of narrow alleyways we soon lost our sense of direction but it didn’t matter as we soaked up the local atmosphere and admired its decorative, arched ceilings. We weren’t tempted to buy anything but if you are, then haggling over the ticket price seems to be the usual approach to secure a deal.

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Exploring the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Dozens of stalls next to each other sell similar products making haggling part of the local experience. Our mid-morning visit was well timed as it was fairly quiet and we weren’t jostled by large crowds. The Grand Bazaar boasts 22 entrances so. despite not knowing where we were, we at least found our way out and then used our phone to navigate to another of Istanbul’s historic landmarks, the Blue Mosque.

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The Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Sultan Ahmet Mosque (The Blue Mosque) was built between 1609 and 1616 and designed as an imperial show of strength to compliment the imposing Hagia Sophia which faces it across Sultanahmet Square. The mosque is supported by four ‘elephant foot pillars’ and its central dome is surrounded by four semi-domes creating a rectangular shape and is unusual as it has 6 minarets.

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The Prayer Room, The Blue Mosque, Istanbul

The Blue Mosque can be visited free of charge daily but is closed during prayer times. Modesty garments can be borrowed without payment from an adjacent kiosk and along with the majority of visitors, we were politely informed that we needed to cover up. I actually thought that I’d dressed modestly selecting a knee length dress and donning a thin cardigan to cover my arms but it wasn’t enough and I had to wear an ankle length black skirt and wrap a large scarf around my head and shoulders. My son was wearing a short sleeved shirt and long shorts and he also needed to wear a long skirt similar to the one I was given. At the mosque entrance we removed our shoes and carried them around with us in one of the reusable bags provided.

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Exploring the Blue Mosque, Istanbul

On viewing the Blue Mosque from the exterior, I had wondered why it was called ‘blue’ as it didn’t give that appearance. All was revealed once we stepped inside as over 20,000 handmade blue ceramic tiles adorn its interior featuring tulip, rose, carnation and lily designs. The luxurious thick carpet felt silky smooth under our bare feet and we were able to view most of the interior including the main prayer hall with its feature, large pillars.

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Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Leaving the Blue Mosque we continued onto the nearby Hagia Sophia, entrance 72 TL. We joined a lengthy queue that moved extremely slowly and with the midday sun beating down on us, we decided to move on and to hopefully return a different day when it was not so busy and a little cooler.

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Gülhane Park, Istanbul

To get some much needed shade we followed a path into Gülhane Park which extends to Kennedy Road near the waterfront. ‘Gülhane’ translated means ‘Rose House’ and these gardens were once part of the outer gardens of Topkapi Palace.

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Our first glimpse of the Golden Horn, Eminönu

We enjoyed a long but pleasurable stroll through this large urban park and on reaching the water, we crossed a busy main road and continued along to Eminönu with its bustling ferry terminal where boatloads of passengers were arriving and departing. The area was thronged with commuters and tourists taking ferries and tour boats.

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The bustling Eminönu waterfront

Eminönu is located on the south side of the Golden Horn at the southern end of the Galata Bridge. The Golden Horn is also known as the Bay of Istanbul and is the body of water that separates the north and south, old and new parts of European Istanbul.

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View of the Yeni Cani Mosque, Eminönu

We walked part way along the Galata Bridge which has a lower level lined with rows of bars and restaurants specialising in seafood with terraces on each side of the bridge. On the upper (road) numerous fishermen were hoping to land a catch as they leaned over the side of the bridge with their rods. We didn’t see any fish being hauled in, but we did enjoy the views across Eminönu with the beautiful 17th century Yeni Cami Mosque dominating the skyline.

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Galata Bridge, Eminönu, Istanbul

Our stroll then took us slightly inland to the Spice Souk which had been built around the same time as the Grand Bazaar. Its interior looked very similar albeit on a much smaller scale and I actually preferred the Spice Souk to the enormous Grand Bazaar.

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Exploring the Spice Souk,Istanbul

As we strolled around, we breathed in the delicate aromas of the colourful spices and glanced at the other local delicacies on offer. Although it’s still the Spice Souk, it has obviously diversified over time, now selling gifts and other merchandise.

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Some of the spices on sale in the Spice Souk, Istanbul

Our feet were starting to ache after so much walking so we caught a tram from Eminönu back to Sultanahmet where we soon found a pleasant cafe for a rest and some delicious tea and cakes.

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Ceramics on sale in the Spice Souk, Istanbul

Back at the hotel we relaxed in its Turkish Bath and sauna and were fortunate to have the entire suite to ourselves. Then, at around 6.00 p.m. when the temperature had dropped a few degrees, we went for a walk through the bustling streets near Yenikapi metro station.

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Our evening meal in the Yenikapi district of Istanbul

We stumbled upon an inviting restaurant which had some comfortable sofas on its terrace. Here we feasted on gently spiced chicken and beef dishes accompanied with a large basket of delicious flatbread whilst watching the sun set – a perfect way to end another enjoyable day exploring Istanbul.

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61 thoughts on “Day 2. The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

  1. jasonlikestotravel

    Istanbul is quickly rising up my list of places to visit. It looks like you had a good start to your trip, interesting that you preferred the souks to the grand bazaar.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely day you had! I remember buying a handful of scarves from the Grand Bazaar – where all of them are now, I have no idea. The Blue Mosque was so impressive. We went in winter, so we were covered up fine, only had to don one of the newly acquired scarves on our heads to go in. Hagia Sofia is also such a beautiful building. Istanbul has so much to see, we spent a whole week there!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We were just there a few months ago! I’m glad you said it seems safe there, I felt that way too & was surprised when I had several warnings not to go. I blogged about it, very different from yours since I blog about several topics besides travel & was there visiting new family.
    https://helleren.blog/2019/09/24/1139/
    & about the coffee….The word comes from Kaave originating in Turkey. Two of my favorite things, coffee and turquoise, were named there. It might be a little strong & bitter, but if you flip your cup upside down the grounds can be read as a fortune like tea leaves. There’s even an app you can take a picture of for a reading.
    My son’s wife is from Turkey, it’s now one of my favorite places!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When I saw the heading of your post Marion I was looking forward to reading about your adventures and seeing your photos but I had such a nice surprise to see the Blue Mosque – I would love to see it as isn’t it the largest in the world??. Excellent post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sue, the Blue Mosque is stunning. It has the largest dome in the world and I think it’s the second largest mosque in south east Asia after Jakarta. We’d considered visiting Istanbul previously but had delayed going due to safety fears. So glad we made the effort as we loved our trip.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Flavia for your inspiring thoughts. We had also hesitated about visiting Istanbul over concerns of safety but finally decided to go. We felt perfectly safe everywhere we went, even in the late evenings and found so much to see and do! that I would highly recommend a visit, hope you enjoy the remainder of the series too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for waiting in line to see Hagia Sophia. Of all the structures in the western world, that one — along with Sagrada Familia in Barcelona — tops my “must see” list. Spectacular shots of the bazaar and the spice souk. Thanks for getting me there.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another excellent post, I really love markets and that one looks like a beauty.

    As for the coffee, I spent a bit of time in Cyprus and Greece where it is the same style and I love it, it is certainly good for waking you up in the morning!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post and wonderful photos. Istanbul looks truly fascinating and the bazaar and mosque seem fabulous. Didn’t the stall-holders hassle you as you wandered through the bazaar though? that often happens in places like that. Did it feel like a safe city to visit?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your much appreciated thoughts Jonno. We felt completely safe at all times whilst visiting Istanbul. It’s a very busy, crowded city but we didn’t encounter any problems. It would be helpful if the locals could learn to wait for passengers to get off trams and the metro though before piling in! Some smallholders did try to pester us in the bazaar but that was more often when we paused to look at something.

      Liked by 1 person

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