First thing I should probably mention is that in order to visit Turkey, most people will have to acquire a visa. As Canadian passport holders, we were able to get our visa issued online ( https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/ ). You should check about the requirements for your specific nationality, because when we visited Turkey in 2017, we met an American tourist that told us that American citizens were being temporarily barred from entering Turkey, even if they had acquired a visa. This meant that she had to re book her flight back to the states at a great cost.
We submitted our visa application online, and were able to print off our visa before leaving home. You have to be able to show the airport staff in your departure city (Athens Greece for us) that you will be allowed to exit the plane in Istanbul Turkey, or they will not issue your boarding pass.
We decided to arrange a transfer, to and from the airport, with our hostel so that we could maximize our 26 hours in Istanbul. We were also a bit worried about trying to negotiate a taxi fare (having read a few scary stories). The transfer cost us approximately $25 CAD for both of us, but this was for a private transfer and only included one way. We arranged a shared van transfer back to the airport for the end of our stay, and this was much cheaper (closer to $10CAD).
Once we arrived at our hotel, which took about 45 minutes, we decided to explore the area surrounding our hotel and find some food to eat.
https://www.marmaraguesthouse.com/en is where we stayed if you are interested. The room cost us 27 Euro a night in the off season.
The Hotel was about a 15 minute walk from both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, so we walked towards these sites. We arrived at the Blue Mosque just in time to hear the incredible night time call to prayer. We stood between the two iconic mosques and listened to the call from one mosque, then the response from the other mosque, back and forth like a conversation between friends. This experience was certainly my highlight of our time in Istanbul.
After this, we wandered back down to the alleyways that were packed with restaurants, and settled on a place to eat where we could sit outside. The place we chose was occupied by many cat friends, who joined us for our meal. The meal wasn’t anything terribly special, but the complimentary hot apple tea they brought us after the meal was the star of the show!
We went back to our hotel after the meal and decided to set our alarms for 6am so we could see more sights in the morning before we had to catch our flight back to Toronto.