Taking a Break in Istanbul — and Where to Do It

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When I got to Istanbul, I was physically and mentally exhausted.  I had just had a very fun but very tiring week in Jordan, which came immediately after an exhilarating but exhausting week at WTM in London.  Planning those back to back wasn’t the brightest idea in the universe, and I had basically been going nonstop for the past 14 days straight.

I needed a break.

Fortunately, the timing couldn’t have been better.  Two of my travel blogger friends, Jodi of Legal Nomads and Wandering Earl, were in Istanbul and similarly exhausted.  Jodi had just survived a few weeks of driving across Morocco and Earl had just finished a Eurail trip from Switzerland to Bulgaria.

For those first five days, we didn’t do much.  We took walks.  We ate chestnuts, chicken pudding, and a LOT of kebabs, and we hung out and split bottles of red wine at our hostel.  We played with the stray cats that dot the city.  We talked about travel blogging nonstop.  We made goofy videos about Istanbul.

And that was exactly what I needed at that time.

That’s one thing that people don’t talk about enough — the importance of taking a break while traveling.  It can be tempting to power straight through so you can see as many things as possible, but more often than not, you’ll end up losing your mind.  Whether you’re traveling for four days or several months, you need to build in time to relax and unwind.

And the amount of time that I need varies, but I know when I’m ready, I’ll spring up with excitement, ready to move on to my next destination. Five days later it hit, and I was ready to continue my Turkey holidays in Cappadocia.

Agora Guesthouse — A Fantastic Hostel in Istanbul

When you’re taking a break, you need to love the place where you’re staying.  And in Agora Guesthouse, I found a fabulous place to stay in Istanbul.

Agora Guesthouse is a hybrid of a hostel and boutique hotel in Sultanahmet, just south of the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya.  Many people turn their noses up at staying in the touristy neighborhood (I know those people — they all stay at Lub-D Silom in Bangkok), but I think it’s nice to stay in Sultanahmet.  Agora’s surrounding streets are absolutely beautiful, and it’s enchanting hearing the call to prayer from the Blue Mosque and the many surrounding mosques.

The best part of Agora Guesthouse is the cozy common room on the top floor.  It’s a very chill place to hang out and make friends.  This definitely isn’t a party hostel — it’s more of a have a drink or two with friends and watch music videos all night kind of place.  I loved it, and it made a great office for me during the day.

When the weather is nice, the roof terrace must be amazing.  It was a bit too chilly to sit up there in winter, but I did catch a perfect sunset there.

Agora Guesthouse also has the best complimentary breakfast I’ve ever had at a hostel, complete with the Turkish staples (tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, hard-boiled eggs and bread), and cereal, granola, yogurt, fruit, plus coffee and tea.  You do not want to miss breakfast at this hostel!

Beyond that, Agora Guesthouse is one of the cleanest hostels I’ve ever seen.  They clean the bathrooms daily, as all hostels should, and they also do an impressive heavy-duty cleaning each week.

And the staff?  They rocked.  They all knew me by name (though it was usually “Crazy Kate” or “Flying Kate” — yeah, not sure what they meant by the latter) and Jodi, Earl, and I particularly bonded with the quirkily humored owner.

Would I return?  I already have!  From now on, Agora Guesthouse is my go-to place for staying in Istanbul, and one that I recommend to you all.

I received a complimentary stay from Agora Guesthouse.  All opinions, as always, are my own.

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22 thoughts on “Taking a Break in Istanbul — and Where to Do It”

  1. Love your blog Kate! You have such a down-to-earth engaging writing style. Really enjoy the exotic locations you write about. I keep wishing you’d do in depth writings on the historic England, Ireland, Scotland areas. You have such a beautiful life. Your parents must be so proud. PS: LOVE the videos! I can see you with your own travel channel show.

      1. Thanks Kate. I did that and they appear to range start at 55 and 70 euros per night depending upon the season. Is there a reason you didn’t want to answer my question? Price is one of the criteria I use to select where I stay. Is it not important to you?

        1. I thought it would be easier to just give you the site than ask you when you wanted to go, what type of room you wanted, then look it up on their site, come back to my site, and reply to your comment. 🙂 Faster for everyone!

  2. great article about building in travel breaks. and so true about needing to love the place where you stay. when i first started travelling, i didn’t slow down for weeks at a time. now i build in breaks by stopping in the low-key cities between the more adventurous ones.

    anyway, loving the latest the stuff on turkey and istanbul!

  3. That’s a great point.. taking a break while travelling is very important.. this could be for a couple of days, or maybe just an afternoon nap.. it helps rejuvenate and enjoy travel more, and possibly also avoid tourist crowds.

  4. Jealous that you got to hang out with the two of them there! Also I’m embarrassed to say that I have no idea Istanbul had a Europe side and an Asia side.
    But now I know! 🙂 Can’t wait to visit someday and of course I loved the videos ! yay for videos! 🙂

  5. I’m not a big ‘city’ person but loved Istanbul, what a great place to unwind and re-charge for further travels. Sounds liek you had a great time doing almost nothing 😉

  6. Love this article Kate! It’s so nice to see the architecture in the daylight in your video. I was in Istanbul for just one night on a layover form Egypt to NYC but would have really loved to have had more time to explore the city and take the ferry to the Asia side. Great post!

  7. Jonathan Simmons

    Thanks for a great blog, Kate! I’d second the notion that everyone needs a break sometime, even people on vacation. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to avoid Sultanahmet/Cankurtaran…these places are touristy for a reason, being chock full of sights plus inexpensive hostels with roof terraces…perfect for chilling out for a day (or five). For the scoop on what to see in Sultanahmet by none other than Lonely Planet’s Pat Yale, click here: http://bit.ly/zW2Bzo

  8. Kate, I love your article on Istanbul! I had a similar experience when I took a week to just relax and enjoy tavuk guysu (the chicken pudding) and positive people! I wrote a piece on visiting Istanbul for my blog, but more for the person who wants to see everything in the city . Great rooftop hangout spot! cheers!

  9. FactotumPhotography

    Nice article! Rooftop of Buyuk Valide Han, for me best place to take a break in Istanbul. I stayed there few hours enjoying incredible city panorama. Second place, Camlica hill, on the Asian side, really relaxing place.

    One day in Istanbul through the eye of my camera:


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