Topkapi Palace Museum
The Topkapi Palace was the primary residency of the sultans. It is a complex with heaps of buildings a huge garden area overlooking the Bosporus. I was impressed when I entered the first room and couldn’t believe that the rooms were getting more impressive the more you see. There are classy decorated domes and mosaics, simply splendid! The entrance fee is 25 TL for the palace complex. If you want to visit the Harem as well which is the area were the sultan’s family and their servants lived undisturbed, you have to pay another 15 TL. Both is included in the Museum Pass.
End this day at Istanbul at a place where fresh aroma of all the exotic spices will entice you to go deeper into the heart of this bustling market. It is no surprise that this is one of the largest bazaars in the city. This place is a pure celebration of local life. This 17th-century Bazaar is open seven days a week. The synchronized aroma from coffee to fresh fish blends in a way you cannot imagine. This is the best place to pick up dried fruits and nuts, spices, olives, Turkish delight, honeycomb and many more items.
The Basilica cistern is situated right next to the Hagia Sophia and opposite the police station. This cistern was used for the provision of water for the Great Palace in earlier Constantinopel. Right above the cistern was a basilica that’s why it’s called like this. The water within the cistern was brought from Belgrade back then and provided the emperor’s family and household. Sights in istanbul The cistern consists of twelve rows of 28 columns and can store up to 80,000 cubic metres of water. In the back of the cistern you can find two heads of medusa. The entrance fee is 15 TL.
Start the day with Dolmabahce Palace as it opens at 09:00. The tourist entrance to the palace is near the palace’s ornate clock tower designed with exceptional masonry. Move further to see the Palace, which is no short of a masterpiece. It is on the European coastline of the Bosphorus strait. The Palace has a great meaning for Turkish people since the supreme leader Ataturk, the' father of the Turks' and first President of the Republic, had used the Palace as a residence and passed away in this palace on the 10th of November 1938 at 9:05 AM. All the clocks in the palace are stopped at this time. The palace has been designed with a plethora of delicate artwork yet somehow has a histrionic quality to it. You shouldn't miss this Palace if you are in Istanbul. Travel tip- The Palace is closed on Mondays and Thursdays. It is open between 09:00 to 17:00. (Ticket office closes at 16:00)
Istanbul - Day 1 We reached the airport at around 5 in the evening. Honestly, our experience at the airport was not very good as we had to wait in taxingly long queues at the Visa check department. We also had to get our Euros exchanged to Turkish Liras because we couldn’t find any Exchange shops in Delhi which kept TLs. So till the time we got out of the airport at Istanbul, it was dark and the only thing we had was our host’s address. After some inquiry, we took the shuttle bus from Airport to Taksim (the most happening area of Istanbul). From there we walked some metres to the Taksim square. My shoulders had already started hurting with the 12 kilos of backpack I was carrying. Our host had told us to take a direct bus from Taksim square. We didn’t want to rent a cab as were cutting down on costs everywhere. However, on our failure to find that bus, we finally found a nice cab driver who ensured that we reached the home of our host safely. Finally, we were home! Our host Ada, a single woman in her early 30s, was waiting for us on the street and welcomed us warmly into her home. And guess who welcomed us inside her house. Her pet cat rubbed itself on us fondly as we entered our room. The room was neat, peaceful and cozy. Ada provided us some details about getting around the city and then left us to rest. That night we were too tired to go anywhere even though we wanted to go out for dinner. My sister Somya was in love with the interiors of the house and expressed her wish to have a house exactly like that. That night, partially due to the soft bed and partially due to our tiredness, we had the most comfortable sleep in a long time. Day 2 – Istanbul The next day we cooked our ready-to-eat breakfast and headed out. We discovered that we were living in a very lively and rather popular area called Besiktas (read Beshiktash). We walked downhill to the bus stand. Istanbul, and in fact most of Turkey, is hilly. We took a bus to the nearest tram station and then boarded a tram to Sultan Ahmet, where most of the tourist spots are located. We visited the beautiful Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia mosque. Both the mosques were facing each other and the site was splendid. We were lucky enough to catch a local musical band playing in front of Hagia Sophia. We were already hungry so we decided to have lunch. Across the road was a street full of expensive restaurants and bakeries. The street was bustling with tourists and the waiters of the restaurants were calling out to them, some even trying to flirt with girls not accompanied by men. And one thing I learned through these men and many others like them during those 15 days – people of Turkey cannot speak anything but Turkish (not even English) but they love Bollywood. And I either look Indian or Turkish. Anyways, we grabbed the famous Turkish Doner Kebabs, and trust me when I say, I have never tasted or enjoyed chicken and meat so much in my life like on my complete trip to Turkey. The Doner Kebab role was delicious and cheap. Infact, some tourists came to us asking where we got them when we were sitting near the mosques enjoying our heavy meal. After fooling around a little, we went to see the much-renowned Basilica Cistern located at walking distance. Basilica Cistern is an underground water storage system built to provide water to the residents of Istanbul in the 6th century. The entry ticket to the Cistern cost us around 600 INR. It was dingy and dark and I found it really fascinating. Somya didn’t like it much though. There even was an inverted head of Medusa lying in one of the ponds. The head has a long history behind it. We came out of the place in around 20 minutes after clicking some dark pictures. After that, we took the tram to the popular Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. It was much like the Sarojini Nagar Market of Delhi or Fashion Street Market of Mumbai, the only difference being that it was covered and much prettier. We reserved the shopping for the last day and went back to Besiktas after around 2-3 hours of inspecting the market. There we had dinner at a nice restaurant, which had good ambience but served pathetic Pasta. When I ordered that Pasta, the waitress said to me, “our customers don’t like it because it is very spicy. So I wouldn’t recommend it.” To which I gave a very stereotypical reply, “I am an Indian. I can handle spicy.” However, she came back with Pasta which was nowhere near spicy. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our dinner and went back home tired and happy. Not to forget, we also bought a Vodafone SIM card, which cost us around 1500 INR (the SIM alone). Day 3 – Istanbul Our next day started a little late as we were busy uploading our pictures on Facebook. We left at around 12 noon and went to take a cruise in the Bosphorous River. For those of you who don’t know, Istanbul lies both in Asia and Europe and Bosphorous River connects the two continents. The government cruise cost each of us around 350 INR for two hours. Before getting onto the cruise, which was to start at 2 pm, we roamed around a river-side lane which was full of restaurants serving seafood. The waiters of those restaurants were extremely playful and one even asked me to click his picture and save it for memory. Following that, Somya and I took some more pictures of the surroundings and then headed towards the cruise. We took seats on the top floor of the cruise so that we could have a better view of the city. The cruise took us through beautiful monuments and we cruised alongside stunning localities and we were in complete awe of the city that lie on the sides of the River. It was a little chilly that day so it got uncomfortable after a while and also bored but that cruise is the perfect place for someone who wants to sit and relax. Ice cream vendors and Turkish Chai and Coffee vendors came hawking every few minutes. And we saw so many Jelly Fish in the river. After finally coming back to the shore, we had lunch near the Galata Towers and then went to see the towers which looked like Rapunzel’s castle to me. We waited in a long queue to get inside and after spending 600 INR each we were standing in a lift opening straight into a restaurant made inside the tower. The tower was initially a light house and tourists stood in the gallery taking pictures and stepping over each other in an attempt to pass or stand there and take more pictures. The scene was all in all funny. But as the sun set and the sky became orange and then dark blue and finally black covered in white twinkling stars and the city lit up with twinkling lights, I was mesmerized. What a beauty it was! I stood there adoring the city for sometime before finally being troubled by people trying to click pictures and then went back inside. It was dark when we reached home and we were too tired to eat out so we cooked maggi for dinner that night. We went to bed quite sad about having to leave Istanbul the next day. We had grown fond of Istanbul’s culture, liveliness, friendly people and pretty faces.
Eminönü is the best place to know about the Byzantium Empire as ancient Byzantium was built on the areas roughly covered by Eminonu. With low population, it is one of the main tourist attractions of Istanbul. It is still a bustling city with the busiest ferry crossings for the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea. During the day you will welcomed by many merchants, hordes of shoppers and tourists. The night in the same place is quite the contrast as it with graced with peace and quiet, a little too quiet perhaps.
It’s a huge bridge that has restaurants bellow on both ends. When you get to the middle of the bridge the sights to both sides are breathtaking, especially at sunset. And bellow you in the sea, a million tour boats that cruise the Bosphorus. What also gives this bridge it’s character is the large number of fishermen from all ages lined across the railings shouting and chatting.
Basilica Cistern (underground cistern)
A cistern is more like a tank for holding or storing water. The Basilica Cistern was built in the 6th century and has provided water for the Istanbul residents since then. It is located underground very close to the Hagia Sophia. More than anything, what amazes everyone including yours truly is the technology which was thought of way back in the 6th century when this was built.
Blue Mosque was built by Sultan Ahmet I during 1609-1616. It is the only mosque in Turkey with six minarets. Due to its magnificent hand-dyed blue, green and white tiles it has been named the "Blue Mosque" by Europeans. The central dome is 43 m in height and is 33.4 m in diameter. There are 260 windows around the mosque.
Sapphire Bosphorus Club
A boat cruise down the Bosphorus Cruise to the Rumeli Fortress is a great way to see Istanbul unfolding in front of you., The Bosphorus Bridge which connects Europe and Asia and Beylerbeyi Palace on the Asiatica. También can be seen during the cruise. Imperial Gardens, Yildiz Palace, Ciragan Palace and Dolmabahce Palace also lie by the Bosphorus and thus are also covered.
The ancient Hippodrome, scene of chariot races and the center of Byzantine civic life. Of the ornaments which once existed, only three remain: the Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine Column and the Column of Theodosius Constantino. Obelisco is originally an Egyptian piece of art erected in 1547 BC and originally was 60m in height. The German Fountain is also within the hippodrome area; constructed in Germany during the second visit of the German Emperor Wilhelm II to Istanbul, it was imported and officially opened on January 1, 1901. The interiors of the three domes are decorated with gold mosaics.
Istanbul Bosphorus Cruise
If you don't have a history of sea sickness, after lunch get on the cruise Eminönü at 14.30. Popularly known as the Istanbul Strait, Bosphorus forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. It is recommended that you opt for Şehir Hatları which is Istanbul’s official ferry company. It offers the best Bosphorus tours and unlike some private ferries, won't exploit you. The Short Circle Bosphorus tour is tailor cut for anyone pressed for time. The ferry arrives at Ortaköy around 14:50 and then continue with a two hour non-stop amazing tour. The tour covers Kuleli- Military school in Istanbul, Ortaköy mosques and some medieval fortifications. This tour is to sit back, relax and appreciate the beauty that Istanbul is synonymous with. Travel tip- The price per person is 12 TL. This tour is available every day in summer time (April 1st until October 31st).
After a journey of about 45 minutes in the Sea of Marmara of the coast of Istanbul, we will arrive at the Prince's Islands. We will stop at Buyukada, the summer resort with sandy beaches and a landscape of pines, with cafes and fish restaurants. One can see the Ottomans' splendid Victorian villas and summer gardens with colorful flowers, and explore the island on a horse-drawn carriage (Fayton). These islands are closed to traffic. Lunch will be in a charming waterfront restaurant. In the evening return to Istanbul by ferry and along the way you will also see the Topkapi Palace, the Tower of Leander and historic Uskudar district next to the Bosphorus from the ferry.
Bosphorus Cruise | Day Cruises | Istanbul Sightseeing
Visit Bosphoruscruise.com or Turkey travel planner to find out more about the best cruise options or to book a cruise.
The Tünel is a short underground railway line in Istanbul. The first of two funiculars is the Tunel, which started its surface in 1875 and is the oldest railway in Europe. You will be travelling in what was the second underground rail line, after the London Underground, built in 1875!
Devrent Agiz ve Dis Sagligi Poliklinigi
Devrent Valley or the Imagination Valley is a valley of nature's own rock sculptures. Small fairy chimneys abound in this valley, with rock formations contorted into various shapes and sizes. Some of these seem familiar as they seem to resemble animals or hands, others are stranger, but everybody has different takes on what one particular rock formation looks like. This arid, rock filled lunar landscape is a place to let your imagination run wild as you try and find familiar faces and shapes in these fairy chimneys.
Sultanahmet Camii (Blaue Moschee)
Just across the green Sultanahmet Park is the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish). This historical mosque is known as the Blue Mosque because of blue tiles lining the interior walls. It was built during the rule of Ahmed I between 1609 and 1616. It is an example of classical Turkish architecture and it is the only mosque that was originally built with six minarets. There is a strict dress code for all visitors. Skin tight trousers, skirts and shorts above the knee will need to be covered and women must wear a head covering. Scarves and long skirts are provided free of charge. Plastic bags are provided at the entrance (free of charge) for you to carry your shoes in while you enter the Mosque. When you are inside the mosque, remain quiet and don’t use flash photography. Being a place of worship visitors should avoid staring or taking picture of those who are praying. (Opening times are May-Oct between 09:00 and 21:00, Nov-Apr between 09:00 and 21:00. The active mosque is closed to non-worshippers for 90 minutes during the five daily prayers and for the midday prayer on Friday. Entry is free.) Traveller Tip: Female head coverings: Place the fabric cover on top of your head with equal portions hanging on both sides. Take one side and wrap it around your neck, tossing it behind your back with covering your shoulders. Don’t cover your face, the covering is meant to hide your hair only. The best view of the Blue Mosque is approaching it from the Sultanahmet, or Hippodrome, to the west.
Taksim Club IQ
After more than 10 years since I first visited this city I am finally back yo Istanbul one of Turkey's most beautiful cities... Or is it?I was shocked with how filthy the city was literally you have to walk for 10 mins to find a bin to drop your garbage .The food was filthy a lot yet delicious ???? food booths are not covered at all and sell to everyone If you speak anything but turkish your life would be hell! No one speaks english and even if they do they don't understand themselves
TurYol - Bosphorus Cruise
There are many cruise tours available for the travellers. It is best to avoid private tours. Official ferry companies are far more reliable. There are plenty of historical sights to explore in Istanbul but that is not an excuse for ignoring this cruise. Try it, you won't regret it.
Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Mosque
My next door Mosque which was built in 1562. This is the view from the terrace of the building I stayed in. The view from the bedroom window is magnificent. About the mosque: “Constructed on a steep slope in Sultanahmet, Sokollu Mosque is another fine remnant from master Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. The Mosque was dedicated to Esma Sultan, the daughter of Selim II and wife of Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, of whom the official name was granted to.”
Eminönü Boğaz Şehir Hatları İskelesi
After lunch, start the cruise from Eminönü at 14.30pm. Popularly known as the Istanbul Strait, Bosphorus forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. I’d suggest you opt for Şehir Hatları which is Istanbul’s official ferry company. It offers the best Bosphorus tours. The Short Circle Bosphorus tour was tailor-made for those pressed for time. The ferry arrives at Ortaköy around 14:50 and then continue with a two hour non-stop amazing tour. You can see the Ortakoy mosque, Kuleli- A military school, medieval fortifications and imperial palaces of Dolmabahce Palace and Ciragan Palace, located on the European shore while summer palace Beylerbeyl on Asia. This tour is to sit back, relax and appreciate the beauty that Istanbul is synonymous with.
Beylerbeyi Palace was commissioned by Sultan Abdulaziz (1830-1876) and built between 1861 and 1865 as a summer residence and a place to entertain visiting heads of state. The palace, built on a pier by the sea is a two-story structure built on a high brick basement. The palace, the Harem (north) and Mabeyn-i Humayun (the southern part) consisted of offices, three innings, six large living rooms, 24 rooms and 1 bathroom. It is closed on Mondays and Thursdays.
Bosphorus Cruise Day Trips
Of course being in a city on two continents, a trip in between the continent shouldn’t be missed. You can do a two hours Bosporus Cruise for 10 TL plus 7.5 TL for a guide. If you are very much into history, please get the guide but if not it is not necessary in my opinion cause we were overstrained with finding out what the guide is talking about (which building) and actually it’s more important to enjoy the cruise and enjoy the areas you’re passing.
A Turkish bath, or hamam, can be a daunting experience. There are many historical baths located around Istanbul, but one of the oldest and most elegant is Çemberlitaş Hamam, Çemberlitaş. Alternatively, you can also check out Çemberlitaş hamam located on Yerebatan Street close to the Grand Bazaar or Beylerbeyi hamam close located right next to Beylerbeyi mosque. One of the fanciest hamams in Istanbul is the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam, Tophane. There are several different services that you can pay for at a Turkish bath. Select the Traditional Style if you want the real experience. An attendant will wash, exfoliate and massage you for about 15 minutes. You are usually provided with sandals and a cloth to be tied around your waist for modesty. Women and men are admitted separately. Men will usually be completely naked under their wrap, while some women might want to keep on their underwear (often not their bra). You will get drenched, you will be scrubbed bare and you will be expected to tip the attendant 10 – 20% of the total amount.
The Forteleza a monument built in the narrowest section of the Bosphorus covers 30,000 square meters. In preparation for the conquest of Istanbul, the castle was built in about four months in a relatively short period. In some historical documents, it is said that 1,000 masons and workers were employed for construction.
The Istanbul Spice Market was once the largest spice trading venue of the medieval world. Originally the Egyptian Bazaar, it has been used for the last 350 years as a market place for spices, medicinal herbs, incenses and oils. Some stores now emulate Grand Bazaar souvenir kiosks stocking scarfs and homewares. But you can still pick up full bodied spices from most stores. Check out the spices at the authentic Arifoğlu (#31). Other delicacies that you can pick up here are dried fruits and nuts from Malatya Pazari (#40 and #44), Turkish Delight, cheese and Turkish coffee. Özer (#82) is a Boudoir style shop offers hand-woven silk scarves and restored antique female clothes. (Opening times are Monday to Saturday between 08:00 and 18:00 and Sundays between 09:00 and 18:00)
Day 11, 12 & 13 – Istanbul We reached Istanbul around 10 am and took a minibus to go to our BNB house that we had booked just two days ago. This time we booked a Bed and Breakfast near Taksim square so as to enjoy the nightlife of Istanbul. From the bus stand we took a metro to the area and were received by our host’s friend. We were disgusted at reaching our house. It was pathetic and dingy. There were alcohol bottles all over the place and it was like a small prison cell. We felt stuck and didn’t know what to do. Our host was not present there and we sort of got into an argument with him over messaging. He said we could leave his house and that he would refund our money by cash. We were relieved and looked for the best place we could find immediately. Luckily, we found a place which said it was situated near Taksim and contacted the host. The host informed us that the room was available but he would only be able to receive us after 7 in the evening. We booked and went to Taksim to first get rid of our baggage. We found a baggage locker and deposited our stuff there for the day. Then we wandered on the streets of Istanbul, enjoying the pleasant weather. We even visited one of the many sex shops on the street out of curiosity. We were scandalized after going in and ran out blushing at once. Next, we took a tram to the Spice Market and tasted some heavenly Turkish delights from different shops. We felt the day was well-spent after having those Turkish delights. Our host picked us up from Taksim in a cab and we went to his house. Our host, Mehmet, was as young as we were and his house was located in a posh area of Istanbul. Though, it was nowhere close to Taksim. Anyhow, the house was pretty but unkempt. We laughed it off as we know how careless guys can be. Next day we took a cruise to the prince’s islands and got down at the last island. It was a beautiful little island, with nice, small restaurants, cafes and shops, and pretty little houses. Motor vehicles were not allowed there so, Tongas and bicycles were the only mode of transport. We rented a bicycle and moved around the island. In the evening, we went club hopping with Mehmet to Taksim square after drinking a couple of beers at the house. After dancing for hours at stretch, we finally asked our host to take us back home at 3 in the morning. He was surprised to know we wanted to leave so early. We were surprised he called it early. We were further surprised when we came out of the club at 3 and saw that amount of crowd on the street and vendors and hawkers sitting on the roadside. Some shops and restaurants were also open. Mehmet told us the city only goes to sleep after 6 in the morning. Belonging to Delhi, we weren’t used to that kind of lifestyle so we came back and dozed off immediately. We were quite upset the next morning as it was our only full day in Turkey left. We were amazed as to how quickly time had passed. We had kept our last day primarily for shopping but the main markets of Grand Bazaar and Spice Market were closed that day due to Eid. So, we boarded the tram and evaluated which were the markets that were open and went shopping wherever we could find an open shop. That was the only day we saw some Indians in Turkey due to the Gandhi Jayanti holidays back home. We also saw some Indian restaurants. We shopped for some really amazing stuff. If you ever go to Turkey, do not forget to buy the Turkish flavoured teas and tea cups. We also bought some souvenirs, scented soaps, and other exquisite stuff. So, our day finally came to an end and with a heavy heart, we were all set to leave for Dubai the following day.
Next we took fairy for 3 Lira to get to Kadukoy. Beware as some private ferries are also there... We landed up taking private ticket and then got to know that they are different so their coin to enter is a souvenir for us now J. Ferry was an amazing experience with seagulls on our head and cold crazy wind. Even though it’s cold, you must sit out to experience the beauty. At Kadukoy bus 19 goes to Kayisdegi. As we had a hard time getting bus to Kayisdagi so we took taxi... Generally the taxi for that distance would cost around 25-30 lira but our taxi took 43 lira so you will have to be careful as language is a barrier and hence bargaining can’t work.
Behind the Hagia Sophia Museum are the Museum of Archeology (Arkeoloji Müzesi), and Topkapı Palace (Topkapı Sarayı). The Museum of Archeology (Arkeoloji Müzesi) contains a large collection of archaeological artefacts including Sumarian tablets, pieces of the wall of Babylon and Roman marble statues. The Treaty of Kadesh from the 13th century BC is also housed here, as well as what was once believed to be the very well preserved sarcophagus of Alexander the Great. (Opening times are Tuesday to Sunday between 09:00 and 17:00. Entry is 10 TL.)
Taksim Square - 23 Residence
Taksim Square is the heart of modern Istanbul. It is a major tourist area and known for its restaurants, shopping and hotels. It is also the main transfer point for the municipal bus system, the terminus of the M2 subway line of the Istanbul Metro, the nostalgic tram line (NT) on İstiklal Avenue to Tünel and the Fenicular (cable car) to Kabataş. Many protests and demonstrations have been held in Taksim Square over the years. The Taksim Square massacre of 1977 left 36 left-wing demonstrators dead, while two Leeds United fans were stabbed to death here during football riots in 2000. Following these terribly violent incidents, many group protests were banned. New Year’s Eve, Republic Day celebrations, the annual Istanbul Pride and mass-screenings of important football matches are excluded from the ban. Starting in Taksim Square, İstiklal Avenue is an elegant pedestrian high street home to numerous boutiques, stores, galleries, cinemas, patisseries, cafes, pubs and night clubs. Beyond this 1.4km street is a maze of the same, surrounded by late Ottoman era buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries. İstiklal Avenue, with its surrounding avenues and alleyways, is sometimes referred to as the Paris of the East, is the modern day center of fine arts and leisure in Istanbul.
The Istanbul Archaeological museums consist of three buildings with three museums – Archaeological Museum, Ancient Orient Museum, Tiled Kiosk Museum. The former two were built in 1891. The tiled kiosk however dates back to 1473. Few of the things to spot here are- Treaty of Kadesh – It is the oldest peace treaty dating to 13th century BC a copy of which hangs at the UN headquarters. The treaty was agreed upon between Egyptian and the Hittite dynasty after the battle of Kadesh known to be the biggest wars of Lions of Ishtar Gate – The Istanbul Archaeology Museum houses lions, bulls and dragons from the Ishtar gate of Babylon dedicated to Goddess of Ishtar. It was the 9th gate in the ancient city of Babylon constructed in about 575 BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II. Through the gate ran the Processional Way which was 180 m long and on each side were placed 60 lions each made of glazed bricks. Some of these lions are now in the museum of Istanbul. But most of them are in Berlin where the Ishtar gate has been reconstructed in the Pergamon museum. 3. Oldest Love Poem – 8th Century BC inscription on a tablet from the ancient Babylonian times. The king was required to marry a priestess every year for the fertility of soil and women. The poem is said to have been written by a bride for the king. Shuu Sinn.