Standing on the link between Europe and Asia, the only city in the world that is built on two continents, Istanbul both modern and ancient, is one of the most amazing cities in the world.
Last year, in november, we had a nice trip for five days to Istanbul. It was a shopping city break including a lovely sightseeing bus tour by night, when me, my mother and her work collegues enjoyed together this trip to Turkey.
We was fortunate to stay at three-star Ephesus Hotel, in the heart of the Laleli area. The room where confortable and spacious, clean and tidy, nice bathroom, in a quiet zone. With an excellent restaurant, offering plenty mixt cuisine and tasty food dishes. The hotel was also within walking distance of the main sights in the Old City of Istanbul.
The city is liberally scattered with glorious remnants of its long and illustrious history, and the sightseeing here will impress even the most weary visitor.
We had two tour guides, one of them living in the city, who explained us the history of those places.
Istanbul, a fascinating metropolis built on two Continents, divided by the Bosphorus Strait. This is one of the greatest cities in the world where you can see a modern western city combined with a traditional eastern city, it’s a melting pot of many civilizations and different people. Istanbul was also announced by the European Union as the 2010 European Capital of Culture. From the foundation of Byzantium in the 7th century BC until today, Istanbul held always an important role in the history of humanity in this part of the world where three Empires were born on the ashes of previous ones.
Since the Republic in 1923, Istanbul continued to grow and today it boosted its population over 14 million people living in this huge metropolis. This makes Istanbul the largest city of Turkey and one of the biggest in the world.
On the first day we have seen the most important ortodox churches : Vlacerne Church, The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and The romanian orthodox St. Paraschevi Church.
After these we had some free time for walk and shopping. In the evening, we went for a panoramic city tour by bus.
Galata Tower, one of the oldest and most beautiful towers in Instanbul was used as fire observatory tower after 1874. In present, an elevator goes up to the top and the building is used as a restaurant.
Next day we spent half a day at the famous Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered market in the world, with over 3000 shops. I was impressed by the crowd inside and also by variety of products in this bazaar. You can find there almost everything from porcelain, jewellery, clothes and shoes, gadgets, cosmetics, sweets and drinks, to carpets and antiques.
We continued our trip with a superb Bosphorus dinner cruise around 2 hours which gave us the opportunity to admire both the European and Asian shores of Istanbul, the Golden Horn Bay, the Reformed Sultan’s palaces, the famous bridges, the fortress of Europe and many more.
The third and last day of our stay in Istanbul we spent visiting the big four (Hagia Sofya, Topkapı Palace, Blue Mosque, and Hippodrome), and the Dolmabahce Palace, left enough time to explore the other sights. Although many tourist attractions are located in, or near, the Old City district of Sultanahmet, there is a dazzling array of other things to do throughout the further reaches of the city.
We ended our city break taking a Turkish dinner (including transport, traditional turkish dinner, drinks and artistic program).
After all, it was a fantastic experience, full of sights visited, but you will never run out of places to see, and whatever your interest will be, you will find something for sure. I saw a lot of amazing places there and I recommend it anyone to visit this great city at least once in a lifetime.
Indeed, it is Istanbul’s variety that fascinates its visitors. The museums, castles, palaces, great mosques, bazaars and the sights of natural beauty seem inexhaustible. As you recline on the shores of the Bosphorus at sunset contemplating the red evening light reflected in the waters of the sea, on the opposite shore you understand, suddenly and profoundly, why so many centuries ago settlers chose to build on this remarkable site. At times such as these, you feel that Istanbul is truly one of the most glorious cities in the world.
- Turkish Airlines flies from main European cities to Istanbul Ataturk Airport, while Pegasus Airlines flypgs.com has low cost offers all over the year to Gokcen Airport.
- Ataturk is 19km west of the city centre. Havatas (havatas.com.tr) operates shuttle buses between Ataturk and central Taksim Square every half hour from 4am to 1am for 10TL (€3).
- Gokcen is 50km to its east. Havatas buses from Gokcen to Kadikoy and Taksim cost 13TL (€4). Efendi Travel (efenditravel.com) offers reliable private transfers in luxury vans for a reasonable €20 from Ataturk and €50 from Gokcen to many parts of town. A taxi should cost 50TL (€12) from Ataturk and 90TL (€25) from Gokcen.
- The opulent Ciragan Palace Kempinski at Ciragan Caddesi kempinski.com, is set in a former sultan’s palace. Double rooms start at €421, room only.
- The Vault Karakoy Hotel at Bankalar Caddesi thehousehotel.com opened March 2014, reviving a former bank. Doubles from €152, B&B.
- Agora Guesthouse and Hostel, Akbiyik Caddesi, agoraguesthouse.com has budget-friendly rooms from €37 B&B.
Take a hike
Start early in the heart of Istanbul’s Old City, Sultanahmet. At the third-century Hippodrome plaza, heated chariot races once unfolded between the soaring obelisks. To its east lies the Sultan Ahmed Mosque – known as the Blue Mosque – a 17th-century structure that’s a study in Ottoman aesthetics (closed during five daily prayer times; free). Opposite, try to beat the queues at the Hagia Sophia (9am-7pm; 30TL/€8), an imposing sixth-century cathedral later converted into an imperial mosque. Then head north-east to the Topkapi Palace Museum (9am-7pm, closed Tuesdays; 15TL/€4), a sprawling complex constructed in the 15th century by Sultan Mehmed II. Meander through the ornately appointed pavilions and galleries teeming with religious relics — Moses’s staff and King David’s sword purportedly among them.
Lunch on the run
The focal point of the limited menu at Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi, opposite the Blue Mosque, is a platter of six generously sized grilled beef meatballs (11TL/€3). Save room for a helping of semolina halva (4.50TL/€2).
Taksim Square lies at the heart of Istanbul’s New City. The elegant boulevards of Nisantasi, the trendy boutiques of Beyoglu, and the waterfront cafés of Ortakoy are a world away from the majestic domes and minarets that stud the landscape of Sultanahmet, rising opposite the Golden Horn inlet.
Dining with the locals
For convivial dining, book a table at Karakoy Lokantasi, at Kemankes Caddesi 37a karakoylokantasi.com in the rapidly evolving dockside Karakoy district. The vibrant tiles set a pretty backdrop for heaped plates of hummus with cured beef, grilled octopus, and coban kavurma (roasted meat with vegetables). Approximately 100TL (€23) for two.
That’s all for the moment… If you have other tips & trips for Istanbul or to tell about your experience in the city, please let me know in a comment below.
Take care! I wish you wonderful trips, rest a lot and have some fun ! 🙂