Top 7 things to do in Istanbul, Turkey

Monday, July 21

"If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul"
Alphonse de Lamartine

The quote above? Not an understatement. True as can be, Istanbul is a site for the world, and in it are treasures for the eyes and excitement for the mind. Kevin and I were a bit swept away by Istanbul..and it only grew on us. 

Despite the endless supply of activities, Kevin and I pinpointed our top favorite things to do/see/eat in this city! I hope you enjoy! 

1. Moques: 
Capturing the skyline are the impressive and highly ornate Mosques of Istanbul. It can be a little overwhelming to figure out which mosques to visit, however, we would recommend visiting the Hagia Sophia (which is now a museum), the Blue Mosque, and the Suleymaniye Mosque (which is the biggest mosque in the city). Each has their own unique story to tell, incredible architectural feats, along with gorgeous mosaics and colors:) It is a feast for the eyes. Visiting each Mosque gave us a pulse on the religious life of the city, as well as a context for the historical underpinnings of the last few hundred years. {for more pictures of the beautiful mosques while on our trip, click here}

2. Turkish Baths {Hammam}: 

This was by far our favorite experience in Istanbul. To begin, attending a Turkish Bath is an extremely cultural experience. I was bathing side by side (naked!) with many local Turkish women, and it felt so genuine. I would recommend visiting one of the Baths at the end of the day, when your feet need a break and you could use some extra pampering. The Baths around around $50-60 a person, and you can either find a co-ed bath (where they give you a bathing suit) or a segregated bath (where you go naked). It will feel a bit crazy intimidating at first (!!!) but soon you will relax and just enjoy the process. The first bath Kevin and I did was segregated. I changed out of my clothes, and took my towel and bath bag (they gave me) into a gorgeous room that was hundreds of years old that was essentially a was hot! I laid down on a marble slab in the middle of the room, and let my body sweat all the toxins out. Then, a Turkish women pours hot water over you, and begins to use a loofa to scrub the heck out of your body! (it actually feels really good!). Then she covers you in a bubble bath and massages you, followed by rinsing off your body and a good hair wash. I have never felt more relaxed. Then, when your wash is done, you can take all the time you want to sit in the hot tub/pool before you go back out and change. I would recommend the Cemberlitas Hammami {segregated} or the Süleymaniye Hamamı {co-ed}. But whatever you do, DO THIS! 

3. Grand Bazaar and Spice Market: 

You cannot go to Istanbul and not shop at the oldest outdoor mall in the world, the Grand Bazaar! There are so many gorgeous items to behold, you will be wishing you had an extra suitcase to bring everything home! Part of the fun is watching all the shop keepers guide you into their store…they come up with some pretty hilarious lines, haha! A mile away from the Grand Bazaar is the Spice Market. I actually preferred the Spice Market, as it felt more authentic and Middle Eastern to me! I loved sampling the dried fruit, turkish delight, and other interesting items! It's an experience you won't forget! {to see more of our Grand Bazaar and Spice Market pictures, click here}

4. Topkapi Palace:  
The Topkapı Palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years (1465–1856) of their 624-year reign. As well as a royal residence, the palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments. Essentially, this palace will give you a taste of how the royal sultan's lived for centuries! I literally kept thinking about the little sultan in Aladdin, hoping Princess Jazmin would pop out at any time haha! One word of warning…the Topkapi palace is at the top of a hill, and requires some exercise to get up there. I would recommend seeing the palace at the start of your day, as opposed to the end of your day. Kevin and I were like walking zombies at this point, and fell asleep in the gardens, haha whoops! But it is an amazing site, and there are some beautiful views of the ocean below! {More pics of Topkapi from our trip, see here}

5. Walking tour of Istiklal Street
 {Taxsim Square & Galata Tower}: 
The main attractions in Istanbul are divided between the "old city", called Sultanahmet {where the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace are} and the "new city" of Beyoglu {where you will find Taksim Square, Istiklal Street, and the Galata Tower}. This street is filled with incredible shops, cobblestone alleyways, vines climbing walls, and adorable coffee shops. I could have spent all day on this walking tour! If you are going, make sure you do the Rick Steve's walking tour! Start at Taksim Square and end at the beautiful Galata Tower! {buy some fresh squeezed juice along the way!} For the entire walk of Istiklal street from our trip, see here.

6. Bosphorus Cruise: 
One of the most unique things about Istanbul is all the waterways converging on its shores! Istanbul is a transcontinental city, straddling the Bosphorus—one of the world's busiest waterways— between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. So much water is just flowing through this city it's unbelievable! The views are just stunning! Take a cruise along the Bosphorus to see the gorgeous homes, palaces, mosques, forts, and other interesting buildings along the coast. Make sure you have your camera, because it's just stunning! For the basic hour and a half cruise (which is like $5 a person) just head over to the Emınönü port. Just as an FYI, you will have So many people coming up to you when you are around the Mosques asking you if you want to take a Bosphorus cruise. Simply decline {unless you want to be scammed} and just head straight to the port! More Bosphorus pics, see here. 

7. Food: 

Istanbul is full of all kinds of surprises, and food is no exception! Kebabs, a major staple in the city, are literally found on every corner! If you are searching for cheap food on the go, look no further! Kevin bought a kebab almost every day for $2.50 and it was enough to fill his hungry traveler belly! I loved trying the vegetarian dishes, filled with lots of cooked tomatoes and other vegetables! The white beans were my favorite! They also had some wonderful falafel, hummus, and other mediterranean dishes!  One of our favorite things to do in the city was try new foods! Be adventurous in Istanbul, and I think the cuisine will surprise you:) Our favorite night in Istanbul was when we found a rooftop restaurant, and ate our yummy meal while staring out at the dreamy lit skyline! 

Anything I missed? I'd love to hear!! Happy Monday! 


Thursday, July 17

Epp! It's summer. I love the heat, the fresh cherries, apricots, nectarines and peaches too! Happily, I only have one more week of school before I can fully claim summer as my own:) Yesterday I went to the park. I took the fresh flowers I had at home {thanks Trader Joes!} and just sat to admire all the beauty around me.

I walked in bare feet, relaxed on a blanket, and pulled out my latest monthly package from the Pennie Post cards! I got these cards in the mail at the beginning of July, and this month's theme was "farmer's market". Aren't they adorable? How can you not just love this little "mon petit chou". 

There really are so many small pleasures to be thankful for every day, even in the midst of busyness. I loved this quote by Celia Thaxter, that says, "There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart". Isn't this just so true and powerful? How wonderful that we can cultivate a warmth that radiates from deep within our souls when we thrive on contentment. The most magnetic people I know are those who are content with whatever the circumstances. 

I hope you are having the loveliest of summer days! Happy early weekend dear friend! 

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” 
Henry James

There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart. 
-Celia Thaxter

Then followed that beautiful season... Summer....

Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape

Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

dress: Lulu's //  hat: forever 21 // necklace: oh hello friend // blanket: sari bari //
 belt: vietnam // ring: turkey // bag: cambodia // cards: Pennie Post

swedish invasion

Tuesday, July 15

At the expense of sounding extremely redundant (especially for those that follow on Instagram), my Swedish relatives came in this weekend to visit us:) I always love having visitors because it allows Kevin and I to do all the fun/exciting things that we've always wanted to do in our own backyard, but never get around to it! This weekend we spent a lot of time at Newport beach, teaching our cousins how to play Spike Ball, introducing them to our favorite Trader Joe's beach snacks, and of course taking them to our favorite restaurants in town (Bear Flag Fish Co. and True Foods!). We also tried our hand at paddle boarding in the back bay, which was a real treat (and ended with me laying on my board and kevin pulling me, haha! I actually liked paddling, but I was going too slow cause i'm a weakling, so Kevin had the brilliant idea of pulling me so we could catch up! #weakgirlproblems…anyway…). We spent lots of time playing games at night, such as scattagories (which is hilarious with two languages going on!) and Nerts!  Sunday began in downtown LA trying out the new Hillsong Church for the first time, and then watched the world cup game from a sports bar in LA Live. It was nuts. That evening, my cousin Samuel, who is a chef in Stockholm made us the most delicious authentic Swedish dinner. We actually found a Swedish bakery/deli in downtown LA called Olson's and were able to snag ourselves some fresh lingonberries, which was a real delight! We spent the evening out on the balcony overlooking Marina Del Rey, drinking coffee and telling stories.  I asked the question "when was a time in your life where God changed you" and we all went around and answered it. I am always amazed that no matter where we go in this world, there are powerful stories of God tenderly moving and touching lives…transforming us all. At one moment, I sat holding my tea, gazing out upon the marina and then to all the faces around me, and just felt so full of thanksgiving. God is good:) This weekend continued to remind me of His blessings:)