My favorite day in Istanbul

It started out rather strangely, actually, when we were served French fries with breakfast at our hotel. Maybe that’s common in Istanbul but we didn’t get French fries when we had breakfast elsewhere in the city. So that was the first thing. Then later on that morning, a seagull massively shat all over my husband. I told him being pooped on by a bird is good luck in some cultures but, understandably, it didn’t make him feel any better.

But things could only get better after that, right? And they did. Our first stop on my favorite day was Basilica Cistern, a subterranean structure built in 532 A.D. by Byzantine Emperor Justinian. This underground reservoir is made up of 336 columns, and once held 80,000 cubic meters of water which was delivered to the cistern from the Black Sea via miles of aqueducts. To see the above-ground entrance to the cistern, one might never guess what lies beneath. I definitely was taken by surprise, and I was mesmerized by the symmetry and the rows of columns. It quickly became my favorite attraction in Istanbul, ahead of places like Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.

Basilica Cistern

Next stop was the Karaköy ferry, which we rode for 2TL (Turkish lira) per person to the Asian side of Istanbul. Visiting this part of Istanbul was a must-do for me as it would provide me the opportunity to set foot on my sixth continent – a pretty big deal for me. We focused our time and attention on the Üsküdar neighborhood and I was immediately enamored. Üsküdar is quite residential and there definitely weren’t as many foreign tourists as on the European side. The streets were alive. Modern, low-rise apartment buildings looked out over the Bosphorus. There is seating along the waterfront, similar to bleachers, and it all is lined with cushions. People of all ages reclined on the cushions, enjoying cups of tea and the late autumn sunshine. There was just so much for me to fall in love with. I tried my best to take it all in. As in other parts of Istanbul, there is no shortage of cafes and restaurants in Üsküdar. We blindly chose Filizler Köftecisi and we were not let down. The view of the water from our rooftop table was just as delicious as the food.

Residential Üsküdar

Üsküdar Waterfront

Later that afternoon, we rode the ferry back to Karaköy without any real plan of what to do next. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves sitting at a table outside a bar on the bottom level of Galata Bridge. We had the most enjoyable evening, drinking a fair share of Efes beer, watching the fishermen above us reel in fish after fish, and taking in the sunset. Maybe it was all the beer but hunger started to set in again, so we headed back to Sultanahmet for döner at our favorite place, Baran 2 Restaurant. The next stop would be our last for the evening – our hotel for a pleasant night’s sleep after the most perfect day.

Fish being reeled in at Galata Bridge

Enjoying an Efes and the Bosphorus

Sunset silhouette (taken with Instagram)

Chicken döner from Baran 2 Restaurant

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11 Responses to My favorite day in Istanbul

  1. Leah Travels (@L_e_a_h) November 30, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    This does sound like a great day! I love the Basilica Cistern. It looks amazing. I’m glad y’all had fun…sorry about the seagull incident. 🙂

    • Francesca November 30, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

      Thanks, Leah! The “seagull incident”… LOL. We’re laughing about it now but hubs didn’t think it was very funny at the time!

  2. Anne July 11, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    Well, if sitting under the Galata bridge with an Efes and watching the sunset over Istanbul’s skyline isn’t just the MOST delightful way to spend an evening…my heaven! Thanks for taking me back via this post! Love your photos.

  3. Cassie July 11, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    Sounds like a really lovely day! The Basilica Cistern looks fascinating, I’m always amazed by the engineering detail, scale, and beauty (in this case) of these massive historic infrastructure projects. I also love the phrase “massively shat” 🙂
    Cassie recently posted…A Summer Camping ChecklistMy Profile

  4. Jenny @ A Thing For Wor(l)ds July 11, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    Istanbul was where I first stepped foot in Europe, so I loved this post! Such a special city for me. And your pictures are amazing!
    Jenny @ A Thing For Wor(l)ds recently posted…10 Tips for the Spanish Housing HuntMy Profile

  5. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer July 11, 2014 at 11:41 pm #

    Istanbul is still on my list of ‘must do’s’ in the near future. I really love that sunset shot! 😀
    Chanel | Cultural Xplorer recently posted…Discover Queens: 7 Things To Do In Queens This SummerMy Profile

  6. Aggy July 12, 2014 at 7:21 am #

    Looks like an amazing day 😀
    That Basilica Cistern looks gorgeous and your pictures are making me ask myself why I have not been to this amazing city!
    Aggy recently posted…Penang For the Street Art LoverMy Profile

  7. Mindi @ 2foodtrippers July 12, 2014 at 9:17 am #

    French fries for breakfast sounds like a great start of the day to me, but not the seagull. I’m glad your day turned into such a memorable one, in a good way!
    Mindi @ 2foodtrippers recently posted…Biting into a Memory at Union Square Cafe in New York CityMy Profile

  8. Michael July 13, 2014 at 4:52 am #

    I love watching the fishermen of Galata Bridge – they make it all look so easy!
    Michael recently posted…Lure of The South – Eastern Anatolia Region of TurkeyMy Profile

  9. Pola (Jetting Around) July 16, 2014 at 11:51 pm #

    French fries for breakfast… Well, that would be a first one for me too! Glad the day picked up from there. The photos look lovely, so peaceful, and I really like the architecture of those condos in Üsküdar. Congrats on reaching the 6th continent! 🙂


  1. Things to do as a family on your first visit to Singapore | The Working Mom's Travels - February 16, 2013

    […] we count the day I spent in the Üsküdar neighborhood of Istanbul, I have not been to Asia. Admittedly, no country in Asia, other than Mongolia, has made it onto my […]

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