As we flew on Turkish Airlines, we ended up having a relatively long layover in Istanbul (7 hours). Of course the easiest thing to do, would be to just hang out in the airport, potentially even paying to go into one of the posh lounges….but that’s not how we travel. 😉
We’ve been in similar situations, like the time we had a layover in Munich for 8 hours on our way back from Greece. We had a great time taking the train into town, walking around the historic center, buying goodies at the outdoor market, and having beers and yummy food at the Hoffbrau House, while listening to live Oom Pah Music! So much more fun than just sitting in the airport. So, with that fond memory in our minds, we thought going into Istanbul was a no brainer. But as we got closer to our departure (partially due to our fatigue and anxiousness), we wondered if it was going to be a lot more hassle than it was worth. We ended up getting the Turkish visa online, to have one less obstacle at the airport and did some research to find the best ways to get into town. We sat next to a guy on the plane who apparently visits his friend in Istanbul every year. He suggested since we would be landing around rush hour in the evening, we should take the metro into town because a Taxi could take twice as long in traffic.
So we decided to go for it. Once we landed, we found the Left Luggage place and left behind the majority of our carry on, grabbed our scarves and gloves (the forecast showed temperatures in the 30-40s Fahrenheit (Brrr…), and headed to the Metro station. It would have been nice to go to Sultanahmet Square and see the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, but we knew that our time was very limited, so we decided to take the subway to Taksim Square, and walk down the pedestrian area towards the Golden Horn and the Galata area (where we had eaten several meals the last time we were in Istanbul 2 years ago).
The journey into town proved to be pretty easy, taking a little less than an hour. We came up to Taksim Square, to find it raining. That we were NOT prepared for! After a little trial and error, we navigated our way to the main pedestrian street and grabbed two umbrellas off a street vendor (about $5 each). It did feel really nice to be outside after a 12 hour plane ride! We worked our way as planned to the Tower and opted for a restaurant we had eaten in before. It was a yummy dinner, finished off with Baklava and tea.
After dinner and a few photos of the kids, we headed back to the airport on the Metro again. Definitely don’t regret the added hassle to go into town, as it proved to be a really nice evening and another small adventure in our overall travel experience….and besides, we LOVE Istanbul!
Now onto Kathmandu…