Magical Turkey: Istanbul & Cappadocia

Created By:
Jeff

 
My wife (girlfriend at the time) and I spent 10 unforgettable days in Turkey. We explored Istanbul's incredible food, markets, mosques, and (most importantly) got engaged with a gorgeous view of the Bosphorus. After a short local flight, we were in the desert of Cappadocia riding horses and flying in hot air balloons. Easily one of the best trips of our lives!

Hotel in Cappadocia: Chelebi Cave House

トルコネヴシェヒルGöreme BelediyesiChelebi Cave House

Amazing hotel with incredible owners who treat you like family. The hotel is run by 3 brothers who grew up in Goreme, so they are legit locals and are experts on the area (one of them is even a hot air balloon pilot, as well!). The hotel has a small family feel, with only 5 rooms, and every guest is treated like a part of the family. The cave rooms are incredible, probably the coolest hotel room I've ever stayed in. While it has all the modern amentities, a huge bed, and large spa-like bathroom, you really are sleeping in a room that was carved out of stone...amazing! Ridiculously good breakfast serve in a beautiful courtyard. The brothers who run the hotel basically act as personal travel agents for each hotel guest - they kindly planned every activity for us (hot air balloon, "Green Tour" through the valley, horseback riding, Turkish Hamam, airport transfers) and had suggestions for how to make the most of each day.

Dinner at Topdeck Cave Restaurant

Topdeck Cave Restaurant, Göreme Belediyesi/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey

Awesome food, amazing cave atmosphere. Small, family owned restaurant with amazing food. Whenever we asked anyone for recommendations for dinner in Goreme, the first answer was always "Topdeck." Really good mixed meze platter and great local wines. The ambience is super chill (also very romantic, if you are there with your significant other). Will definitely go back!

Dinner at Seten Anatolian Cuisine

Seten Anatolian Cuisine, Göreme Belediyesi/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey

Easily the best dinner in Cappadocia. We ate here on the last night of our 3 nights stay in Goreme. We had reservations at other highly-recommended restaurants our first two nights, so we tried this based on a suggestion from our hotel. It was by far the BEST meal we had in Goreme, even better than some of our meals in Istanbul. We dined in a gorgeous outdoor courtyard, which had views of the surrounding mountains. Really good mixed meze platter and great local wines. Many of the main courses are roasted in a big wood-burning oven (we actually watched the chef load logs in as he cooked). The ambience is is excellent - really trendy vibe but also a super local feel (and very romantic if you are with a significant other). We were only a table of 2 but the place definitely has space for groups too. Will definitely go back!

Dinner at Pumpkin Goreme Restaurant and Art Gallery

Pumpkin Göreme Restaurant ve Art Gallery, Göreme Belediyesi/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey

This is a small, family owned restaurant. The reviews speak for themselves - excellent food, great service. The menu is a set menu, with soup, salad, choice of chicken/beef/vegetarian main course, and dessert. We would have liked more options to choose from, but the food was very tasty. They do not serve beer or wine at the restaurant, which was a little disappointing, but the owner was kind enough to give us each a glass of some of his own local wine, which was very nice. Service was excellent

Dinner at Leb-i Derya

Şahkulu Mahallesi, Leb-i Derya, Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey

Best meal in Istanbul, best view in Istanbul. Easily the best meal we had in Istanbul. The restaurant is a bit hard to find if you don't know where it is...use the map/address on Tripadvisor! If you follow google maps, you will get lost (the location in google maps is wrong)! The fact that the restaurant is a bit hidden down a side street made it that much cooler and gave it a very local vibe. The restaurant itself if on the top floor of the building and has an AMAZING view of the Bosphorous. The food was outstanding and the restaurant had a very trendy, romantic ambience. Would definitely go back here for dinner and/or drinks (had a very nice bar as well). This is a must-go place if you are in Istanbul

Dinner at Mikla

Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Mikla, Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey

Michelin star quality food with an amazing view. Food was exceptional and the view of the city/river is hard to beat. Very fine dining-type vibe, really trendy. The menu is prix-fix. Portions were small but food was outstanding. Probably the most expensive meal we had in Istanbul, but not the best. Still highly recommended

Lunch at Ciya Sofrasi

Caferağa Mahallesi, Çiya Sofrası, Güneşli Bahçe Sokak, Istanbul, Turkey

Delicious local cuisine, reasonable prices. We went here on recommendation from a friend who lived in Istanbul. Awesome local cuisine, super casual, inexpensive. Many people we've talked to didn't even go to the Asian side while in Istanbul. If you don't explore Kadikoy and eat at this place, you are missing out!

Dinner at Durumzade

Hüseyinağa Mahallesi, Dürümzade, Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey

The cheapest meal we had in Istanbul, but one of the tastiest! This is a small, cheap, local hole-in-the wall with amazing food! It was cheapest dinner we had in Istanbul, but one of our favorites. The place is tiny and has the vibe of a late-night, drunk-food place - a single counter, small menu on the wall, and a couple plastic tables and chairs. But if you want extremely authentic cuisine and don't mind sitting at a tiny table out on the street, this place is the best! Definitely have them make you a mixed meat plate - it was awesome!!

Lunch at Karakoy Lokantasi

Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mahallesi, Karaköy Lokantası, Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey

Gorgeous restaurant, great food. This place came highly recommended from a friend who is a native of Istanbul who said it was the best seafood in town, so we had high expectations. The restaurant did not let us down. The place is beautiful, lined all around with turqouise tile, and the food was delicious. We came for lunch, which was great, but I've been told the menu is even better and more extensive at dinner. Come to this trendy spot to eat fish, drink raki, and walk along the Bosphorous after your meal

Soho House Istanbul

Istanbul, Evliya Çelebi Mahallesi, Soho House Istanbul, Beyoğlu, Turkey

The first thing we did after checking into our hotel in Istanbul was head to Soho House for a drink on their gorgeous rooftop (oh, and for me to propose on said rooftop!). The view of the Bosphorus from the roof is unmatched, both at night and during the daytime. In addition to drinks, we had dinner at both restaurants in Soho House (the first, Cecconis, is open to the public). We also lounged at the amazing rooftop infinity pool on multiple mornings (luckily we were travelling with a Soho House member!). When we go back to Istanbul, we will 100% stay here - everything about it is highly recommended.

Wandering around Taksim Square

Taksim Square, Gümüşsuyu Mahallesi, Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey

Famous square in Istanbul, you can't miss it! Lots of flower vendors and food stands. We had some excellent baklava nearby!

Kadikoy - The Brooklyn of Istanbul

Kadıköy/Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is super unique in that the city is in both Europe and Asia (split by the Bosphorus River). A lot of people who visit stay on the European side and never visit the Asian side - which is such a mistake!! Yes, most of the major sights are on the Europe side, but we spend an afternoon exploring Kadikoy on the Asian side and it was awesome. Best way to describe it is the Brooklyn of Istanbul - artsy shops, markets, cute little cafes, and just a generally chiller vibe than the larger parts of the city. Also, crossing the Bosphorus on the ferry to get here has great views!

Beyoglu is where it's at!

Beyoğlu, Istanbul, Çukur Mahallesi, Turkey

There's a debate among travelers to Istanbul whether to stay in Beyoğlu (newer, hip neighborhood) or Sultanahmet (old city). The major historical sights are in Sultanahmet, but you should DEFINITELY stay in Beyoglu. We did and it was the right choice. Much more chill than the old city and its where all the best bars and restaurants are. Take a cab to the old city in the daytime to hit the big sights, but come back to Beyoglu for everything else!

Magical Hot Air Balloon over Cappadocia

Turkiye Balloons Cappadocia, Göreme Belediyesi, Nevşehir, Turkey

This is what everyone comes to Cappadocia for and there's a reason! One of the coolest things I've ever done. We booked with Turkiye Balloons, but due to winds our flights were cancelled two days in a row (the local government regulates balloon flights so everyone was grounded...either all balloons fly or no balloons fly, which is comforting!). Luckily our third and final day, conditions were perfect and we were able to fly. If you go to Turkey, this is absolutely the one thing you should not miss.

Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahçe Sarayı, Vişnezade Mahallesi, Beşiktaş/Istanbul, Turkey

The "new palace." The tour inside was so cool!

Topkapi Palace

Cankurtaran Mahallesi, Topkapi Palace Museum, Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey

The "old palace." Personally my favorite historical sight in Istanbul, definitely should not be missed.

Blue Mosque

Istanbul, Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Blue Mosque, Fatih, Turkey

The most iconic mosque in Istanbul, can't be missed!

Hagia Sophia

Istanbul, Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Hagia Sophia Museum, Ayasofya Meydanı, Fatih, Turkey

After the Blue Mosque, probably Istanbul's most well-known sight. This really shows Istanbul's amazing combo of Christian and Muslim history (remember the Istanbul Not Constantinople song??). Hagia Sophia was a church that later became a mosque, so the architecture inside and out are unlike any other building.

Grand Bazaar

Istanbul, Beyazıt Mahallesi, Grand Bazaar, Fatih, Turkey

You could get lost in this indoor bazaar for an entire day and love it. Thousands of shops selling anything you can think of.

Beach day on the Prince's Islands!

Büyükada, Prince Islands/Istanbul, Turkey

The Princes Islands are a set of islands off the coast of Istanbul. You can take a ferry that stops at all of them, but we got off at Buyukada (the biggest of the islands). There are no cars (only horses and bikes) so it's an amazing retreat from the city for a day. We walked along the quiet roads looking at huge gorgeous houses and eventually found a tiny hidden beach club to lounge with some cold beers. One of the best days of our trip! If you don't want to walk, there are little boats near where you exit the ferry that will take you to different beaches free of charge!

 

Hotel in Cappadocia: Chelebi Cave House

Sleep
トルコネヴシェヒルGöreme BelediyesiChelebi Cave House,
Amazing hotel with incredible owners who treat you like family. The hotel is run by 3 brothers who grew up in Goreme, so they are legit locals and are experts on the area (one of them is even a hot air balloon pilot, as well!). The hotel has a small family feel, with only 5 rooms, and every guest is treated like a part of the family. The cave rooms are incredible, probably the coolest hotel room I've ever stayed in. While it has all the modern amentities, a huge bed, and large spa-like bathroom, you really are sleeping in a room that was carved out of stone...amazing! Ridiculously good breakfast serve in a beautiful courtyard. The brothers who run the hotel basically act as personal travel agents for each hotel guest - they kindly planned every activity for us (hot air balloon, "Green Tour" through the valley, horseback riding, Turkish Hamam, airport transfers) and had suggestions for how to make the most of each day.
 

View on Map

 

Dinner at Topdeck Cave Restaurant

Eat
Topdeck Cave Restaurant, Göreme Belediyesi/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir
Awesome food, amazing cave atmosphere. Small, family owned restaurant with amazing food. Whenever we asked anyone for recommendations for dinner in Goreme, the first answer was always "Topdeck." Really good mixed meze platter and great local wines. The ambience is super chill (also very romantic, if you are there with your significant other). Will definitely go back!
 

View on Map

 

Dinner at Seten Anatolian Cuisine

Eat
Seten Anatolian Cuisine, Göreme Belediyesi/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir
Easily the best dinner in Cappadocia. We ate here on the last night of our 3 nights stay in Goreme. We had reservations at other highly-recommended restaurants our first two nights, so we tried this based on a suggestion from our hotel. It was by far the BEST meal we had in Goreme, even better than some of our meals in Istanbul. We dined in a gorgeous outdoor courtyard, which had views of the surrounding mountains. Really good mixed meze platter and great local wines. Many of the main courses are roasted in a big wood-burning oven (we actually watched the chef load logs in as he cooked). The ambience is is excellent - really trendy vibe but also a super local feel (and very romantic if you are with a significant other). We were only a table of 2 but the place definitely has space for groups too. Will definitely go back!
 

View on Map

 

Dinner at Leb-i Derya

Eat
Şahkulu Mahallesi, Leb-i Derya
Best meal in Istanbul, best view in Istanbul. Easily the best meal we had in Istanbul. The restaurant is a bit hard to find if you don't know where it is...use the map/address on Tripadvisor! If you follow google maps, you will get lost (the location in google maps is wrong)! The fact that the restaurant is a bit hidden down a side street made it that much cooler and gave it a very local vibe. The restaurant itself if on the top floor of the building and has an AMAZING view of the Bosphorous. The food was outstanding and the restaurant had a very trendy, romantic ambience. Would definitely go back here for dinner and/or drinks (had a very nice bar as well). This is a must-go place if you are in Istanbul
 

View on Map

 

Dinner at Mikla

Eat
Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Mikla
Michelin star quality food with an amazing view. Food was exceptional and the view of the city/river is hard to beat. Very fine dining-type vibe, really trendy. The menu is prix-fix. Portions were small but food was outstanding. Probably the most expensive meal we had in Istanbul, but not the best. Still highly recommended
 

View on Map

 

Lunch at Ciya Sofrasi

Eat
Caferağa Mahallesi, Çiya Sofrası
Delicious local cuisine, reasonable prices. We went here on recommendation from a friend who lived in Istanbul. Awesome local cuisine, super casual, inexpensive. Many people we've talked to didn't even go to the Asian side while in Istanbul. If you don't explore Kadikoy and eat at this place, you are missing out!
 

View on Map

 

Dinner at Durumzade

Eat
Hüseyinağa Mahallesi, Dürümzade
The cheapest meal we had in Istanbul, but one of the tastiest! This is a small, cheap, local hole-in-the wall with amazing food! It was cheapest dinner we had in Istanbul, but one of our favorites. The place is tiny and has the vibe of a late-night, drunk-food place - a single counter, small menu on the wall, and a couple plastic tables and chairs. But if you want extremely authentic cuisine and don't mind sitting at a tiny table out on the street, this place is the best! Definitely have them make you a mixed meat plate - it was awesome!!
 

View on Map

 

Lunch at Karakoy Lokantasi

Eat
Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mahallesi, Karaköy Lokantası
Gorgeous restaurant, great food. This place came highly recommended from a friend who is a native of Istanbul who said it was the best seafood in town, so we had high expectations. The restaurant did not let us down. The place is beautiful, lined all around with turqouise tile, and the food was delicious. We came for lunch, which was great, but I've been told the menu is even better and more extensive at dinner. Come to this trendy spot to eat fish, drink raki, and walk along the Bosphorous after your meal
 

View on Map

 

Soho House Istanbul

Eat Sleep Drink
Istanbul, Evliya Çelebi Mahallesi
The first thing we did after checking into our hotel in Istanbul was head to Soho House for a drink on their gorgeous rooftop (oh, and for me to propose on said rooftop!). The view of the Bosphorus from the roof is unmatched, both at night and during the daytime. In addition to drinks, we had dinner at both restaurants in Soho House (the first, Cecconis, is open to the public). We also lounged at the amazing rooftop infinity pool on multiple mornings (luckily we were travelling with a Soho House member!). When we go back to Istanbul, we will 100% stay here - everything about it is highly recommended.
 

View on Map

 

Wandering around Taksim Square

Explore
Taksim Square, Gümüşsuyu Mahallesi
Famous square in Istanbul, you can't miss it! Lots of flower vendors and food stands. We had some excellent baklava nearby!
 

View on Map

 

Kadikoy - The Brooklyn of Istanbul

Explore
Kadıköy/Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is super unique in that the city is in both Europe and Asia (split by the Bosphorus River). A lot of people who visit stay on the European side and never visit the Asian side - which is such a mistake!! Yes, most of the major sights are on the Europe side, but we spend an afternoon exploring Kadikoy on the Asian side and it was awesome. Best way to describe it is the Brooklyn of Istanbul - artsy shops, markets, cute little cafes, and just a generally chiller vibe than the larger parts of the city. Also, crossing the Bosphorus on the ferry to get here has great views!
 

View on Map

 

Beyoglu is where it's at!

Eat Sleep Drink Explore Shop
Beyoğlu, Istanbul
There's a debate among travelers to Istanbul whether to stay in Beyoğlu (newer, hip neighborhood) or Sultanahmet (old city). The major historical sights are in Sultanahmet, but you should DEFINITELY stay in Beyoglu. We did and it was the right choice. Much more chill than the old city and its where all the best bars and restaurants are. Take a cab to the old city in the daytime to hit the big sights, but come back to Beyoglu for everything else!
 

View on Map

 

Magical Hot Air Balloon over Cappadocia

Explore
Turkiye Balloons Cappadocia, Göreme Belediyesi
This is what everyone comes to Cappadocia for and there's a reason! One of the coolest things I've ever done. We booked with Turkiye Balloons, but due to winds our flights were cancelled two days in a row (the local government regulates balloon flights so everyone was grounded...either all balloons fly or no balloons fly, which is comforting!). Luckily our third and final day, conditions were perfect and we were able to fly. If you go to Turkey, this is absolutely the one thing you should not miss.
 

View on Map

 

Dolmabahce Palace

Explore
Dolmabahçe Sarayı, Vişnezade Mahallesi
The "new palace." The tour inside was so cool!
 

View on Map

 

Topkapi Palace

Explore
Cankurtaran Mahallesi, Topkapi Palace Museum
The "old palace." Personally my favorite historical sight in Istanbul, definitely should not be missed.
 

View on Map

 

Blue Mosque

Explore
Istanbul, Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi
The most iconic mosque in Istanbul, can't be missed!
 

View on Map

 

Hagia Sophia

Explore
Istanbul, Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi
After the Blue Mosque, probably Istanbul's most well-known sight. This really shows Istanbul's amazing combo of Christian and Muslim history (remember the Istanbul Not Constantinople song??). Hagia Sophia was a church that later became a mosque, so the architecture inside and out are unlike any other building.
 

View on Map

 

Grand Bazaar

Shop
Istanbul, Beyazıt Mahallesi
You could get lost in this indoor bazaar for an entire day and love it. Thousands of shops selling anything you can think of.
 

View on Map

 

Beach day on the Prince's Islands!

Explore
Büyükada, Prince Islands/Istanbul
The Princes Islands are a set of islands off the coast of Istanbul. You can take a ferry that stops at all of them, but we got off at Buyukada (the biggest of the islands). There are no cars (only horses and bikes) so it's an amazing retreat from the city for a day. We walked along the quiet roads looking at huge gorgeous houses and eventually found a tiny hidden beach club to lounge with some cold beers. One of the best days of our trip! If you don't want to walk, there are little boats near where you exit the ferry that will take you to different beaches free of charge!
 

View on Map