The gorgeous Blue Mosque at night in Istanbul Turkey

An Honest Opinion On Istanbul

The trip to Istanbul couldn’t have come at a better time, as a quick getaway was definitely needed to escape this city, projects, deadlines and waking up at ungodly hours. So I used my remaining two vacation days from last year and hopped on a plane that took me to the Turkish city in only an hour. Shortest flight I’ve ever been on!

I had to take the metro from the airport for a few stops, then change and take a tram. The first thing I noticed was the warm temperature, so much nicer than the weather back home. So we were off to a very good start! But then the tram arrived, ooooh, the tram! Let me get you up to speed, the T1 line carries 320,000 passengers daily and has trams that are 59 m long. Fifty nine meters long! That’s a lot of meters! And naturally, the entire city population was in that tram, as I barely had any space to move. It was then when I’ve decided I wouldn’t like to visit the city during the summer when millions of tourists come visiting, in addition to the 14 million people already living there. If there’s one thing you should know about me, is that I don’t like crowds, they make me feel uneasy and I’d choose a smaller city every day instead.

Even now, a week later, I’m still not sure how I feel about Istanbul. I know that for a lot of people it was love at first sight, but I didn’t get that “OMG I can’t wait to return feeling” I usually get, so I thought I’d make a list of all the things I liked and didn’t like.

The good

View of the Galata district from the Bosphorus ferry in Istanbul Turkey

Let’s be honest, Istanbul is gorgeous! It’s a city that doesn’t have anything to hide and with each step you’ll discover your new favorite part of town (for me it was the Beyoğlu district). I loved its cultural diversity and hearing the prayer calls from early in the morning to late in the evening.

Luckily, it only rained for half an hour one morning and the rest of the time it was sunny and warm, this was a big plus for me. I’ve never imagined I would eat ice cream outside in January. Speaking of food: Delicious (with a capital D!). And you don’t even have to spend a lot on it, you’ll find street food at any corner and trust me, you’ll be asking for seconds! You can also kiss your diet goodbye, with every showcase inviting you in with their Turkish delight, baklava, kadayıf and sütlaç. By the way, do not try the sugarless pomegranate Turkish delight. It is a heavenly little devil and you won’t stop eating it. 😀

So far so good, what about….

The bad

When I think of words to describe Istanbul, chaotic is the first one that comes to mind. Traffic jams, crossing the street whenever and wherever, people in a hurry, merchants pulling all the stops to get you to buy from them. I didn’t like the constant invitations to come into their shops, being asked where I’m from or what I bought from other stores while walking on the street. Not to mention that every time I stopped to photograph a cat, someone would try to start a conversation and my reaction was always like this:

My over the moon face in Istanbul My over the moon face in Istanbul
Another thing I wasn’t a fan of is that there are shops and restaurants literally one right next to the other all over the old town, where most of the sights are. You’ll find everything you want here and this is dangerous, especially if you’re a shopaholic on a budget (like I was).

Of course, despite all this, I can’t deny…

The beautiful

All things considered, Istanbul is a gorgeous city and I’m happy I had the chance to see it with my own eyes. I wandered a lot and visited all the sights I wanted, so you can definitely expect more posts in the next few weeks. Here’s a sneak peek of what you will see on the blog soon.

Have you visited Istanbul? What did you think of it?

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  • Great post! And so very candid… We were only in Istanbul for 2 days and our initial reaction was like yours about uncertainty! And reading this post stirred up a lot of our original thoughts. Overall, there was just something about the vibe of the place and then probably the rest of our Turkey adventure that may have biased us into loving Istanbul as well… . No denying it, though, we loved it and would love to go back 🙂

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought this! I’m not sure if I’d go back to Istanbul, but there are still destinations in Turkey that I’m interested in! 🙂

  • “I didn’t like the constant invitations to come into their shops, being asked where I’m from or what I bought from other stores while walking on the street.” – I feel you here! I’ve only been to Kusadasi in Turkey, but the bazaar was just awful at times. At first we were all laughing but by the end of it I felt sooo tired from the constant questions.. Great post by the way! Love how you highlighted the negative things too 🙂

    • Thank you! I didn’t like the Grand Bazaar at all, I preferred buying from other shops all over town. For some reason, the Spice Bazaar seemed much nicer for me.

  • Lovely photos 🙂

    • Thank you! 🙂

  • Heather Hall

    I still can’t believe how different the weather was just a few weeks before! Eating ice cream was the furthest thing from my mind lol! But even in the cold and snow I absolutely loved the city. No one bothered me while I was photographing the cats and I didn’t find the city to be the least bit chaotic. But then again, I lived in Shanghai for two years so my definition of “chaotic” is probably a bit different 🙂

    • I assume that after Shanghai not can be chaotic anymore 😉 I’m happy it was warm, haha!

  • Love this! I was intrigued when I read the title as I’ve never been to Istanbul and to be honest, despite the love everyone else seems to feel for the city, it’s never appealed to me at all. I’ll look forward to the upcoming posts you write!

    • Thanks, Clare! I’ve always wanted to go to Istanbul and I can’t say I regret I’ve been.

  • Your pictures only make me miss this crazy city!! <3
    hahaha thank you for the mention!! And I love your honest opinion about the city!
    I guess the chaotic part wasn't a negative thing for me, Istanbul really reminds me of São Paulo, so it wasn't something new to me. I guess Brazil is that chaotic in most of the cities haha.
    I am glad it only rained for a short time and that you enjoyed the food <3

    • You’re welcome! 😀 The weather was perfect and the food was so delicious! 😀

  • Interesting to read your take on Istanbul, and have to admit I know what you mean. I enjoyed both my trips there and found it a really fascinating city, but it was so busy and the amount of hassle meant I ended up feeling a bit drained by the end of it. One to see for sure but not somewhere I’m desperate to go back to.

    • Same here about not being desperate to go back! Well, I didn’t really feel drained as I traveled with my grandmother and she’d have to go to sleep early (for me, at least) so I had plenty of time to relax, haha! 😀

  • I totally hate the crowds too. I’ve never been to Istanbul (I am fairly indifferent to Turkey as a travel destination), but I had two girlfriends visit it and they said they felt if not quite unsafe, then definitely uneasy ALL the time bc of the non-stop skeevy kind of male attention, comments, approaches, etc. I usually travel by myself so this is far from ideal for me.

  • Great photos, as always, Vlad! Istanbul looks so beautiful.

    I know what you mean about not being too sure how you feel about a city you’ve just visited. That happened to me when I went to Boracay, but there were the good bits, for sure.

    All I could think when you were describing the chaos was how much it reminded me of South East Asia. Should I be worried when I take you around someday? :p

    • There are always good bits, right? 🙂 Don’t worry, should I ever come to South East Asia, The Amazing Race has prepared me well enough to know what to expect 😉

  • I am in love with Istanbul. Been there for 8 times and I have never got enough. But I did find it very different from years back. I was there about 13 years ago for the very first time and looking on Istanbul now it did changed a lot – I guess the main difference are the crowdes…. so many people are traveling and visiting Istanbul now…

  • Wow, 8 times!!! 😀 A colleague has visited Istanbul about 10 years ago and what was telling me sounded a lot different than what I found today.

  • I really liked this post. Very honest. I’ve never been to Istanbul but it’s always good to hear about the good parts and bad parts to a destination so you can be prepared and also make up your own mind. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for reading, I’m happy you liked it! 🙂

  • galanda23

    I had mixed opinions about Istanbul too, Vlad. That is not to say that it is not an amazing city with a rich history and great landmarks. Very honest post and a lot of great photos.

    • Thank you! I was under the impression you’ve loved Istanbul, glad to hear I wasn’t the one with mixed feelings about it.

  • I look forward to reading more, and really enjoyed this, as sometimes you just read pieces which rave about a place. This is more measured and better for that (that many people on a tram sounds worse than London underground!)

    • Funny you should mention it, I’ve only seen the London tube as crowded as the Istanbul tram one time: when I left after a concert on Wembley Arena, haha. 🙂

  • Tim

    It has been years since I was last in Istanbul and back then I remember falling in love with the city. But times have changed and like so many places I once loved I am a bit hesitant to return as I do not want to shatter my memories.

    • I know what you mean, the second time I was in Paris wasn’t as charming as the first time.

  • I spent five days there and still wasn’t sure about it either afterwards. It just didn’t charm me like other places have. I ended up accidentally getting caught in the middle of the protests in Taksim Square and that actually made me like it more.

    • I had the same feeling too! What was it like to be in the middle of the protests?

  • Hi Vlad. I really love your honest opinion about Istanbul. I have not been there yet, but it is on top of my bucket-list. Good that there are more good and beautiful things than bad. And I think that no city is perfect, and I really would still like to go despite some bad sides…
    Have a wonderful weekend! I am by the way posting a post where I will continue nominating for the Premio Dardos Awards 🙂

    • I hope you’ll enjoy Istanbul, it’s definitely a city worth visiting! 😀

  • I’m in love with the coloured stairs ! I’ve never visited, but it has always tempted me 🙂 I don’t really like crowds, so I’m trying to avoid them as much as possible.

    • I’m not a fan either, if you want to visit Istanbul, you should go during the low-season. 🙂

  • I loved the fact that cats dominate that city … love stroking new kitties every day!

    • I loved that too! 😀

  • First of all, I love the Veronica Mars GIFs. So great.
    Istanbul has been on my list for so long, it’s nice to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. One thing I would love to try is the food! But also experience all of the architecture, I love the picture of the colorful stairs.
    Thank you for the honest opinion. No place is perfect.

    • FINALLY someone has commented on the gifs, thank you!! 😀 The food is delicious, definitely something I’d go back for! 😀

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  • What is you top 5 to eat in Istanbul Vlad? 🙂

    • I’ve only eaten once at a restaurant and it was an open buffet, so I didn’t know the name of the food, haha. What I loved the most were the fish sandwiches bought near the Galata Bridge and the baklavas, I would stop a few times a day for a Turkish coffee and a baklava 😀

      • Sure! I heard about this fish sandwiches near Galata and it’s already on my list 🙂
        Thanks Vlad :*

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  • The colored stairs are very nice.