Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Istanbul-First time to visit and explore!

Istanbul-First time to visit and explore!

Apr 25th, 2005, 12:53 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 366
Istanbul-First time to visit and explore!


Got a few questions:

1) was wondering what most people do when visiting Istanbul for the first time to get their bearings? Do you take a short guilded tour or is everything very easy to get to? And do you recommend the guides at the museums and mosques?

Also, I notice from online websites and the guidebooks that there are soooooooooooo many mosques and museums to visit. Are there any that you would avoid or don't recommend? I foresee myself very easily getting mosque'd, church'ed, and museum'ed out. I also don't mind seeing one ruin but not much more after that.

2) I really love exploring streets and areas where the locals live (e.g. their homes, local shops, local markets, grocery stores, food eateries, etc) and basically people watching and taking a 'mosey'. What and where are some places I could do this in Istanbul? I.e. what are these neighbourhoods, areas, or streets called?

3) Any nice tea houses that can be recommended in 'local' areas that have nice music, interesting people watching?

4) What are some 'quintessentially' Turkey-type things that the locals like to do?

5) Lastly, any good local food fare that can be recommended? I imagine the best food is away from the touristy areas? Is that correct?

Loads of thanks!

gtrekker2003 is offline  
Apr 25th, 2005, 06:36 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 366
gtrekker2003 is offline  
Apr 25th, 2005, 07:03 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,129
Since I am planning a rather spontaneous jaunt to Istanbul next month I'll tag along here and welcome any suggestions.
Seamus is offline  
Apr 27th, 2005, 11:15 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,604
I'm also thinking of Istanbul. What is a good time of year to travel. Weather would be a consideration. I prefer to travel off season, but I am getting tired of bad weather. What is the shoulder season?
opaldog is offline  
Apr 27th, 2005, 12:29 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 12,492
we were in istanbul on our own several years ago and loved it. this was pre 9/22, and we felt very safe. it was out first experience in an arab country. we were very impressed. beautiful.

we took the public ferry on the bosphoro tour. it takes up a good part of the day. be sure to get off at the kempinski palace hotel on way back. the boat makes stop there. and i understand it is fabulous. but my husband was too tired and didn't want to so we missed it.

the tourist office gave us all the info about the boats.

you must be prepared for the salesmen that will stick to you and follow you around til you accompany them to see their rug shop or whatever.

if someone knows a good way of avoiding these people i certainly would like to know for our next trip.

one guy followed us to mosque and was waiting for us on exit side 30 minutes later.

(and they all have a cousin from wherever you are from. believe me.)

we tried all sorts of food, but the last night i got deathly ill, so take your medicines. i was unprepared.
my husband and i ate the same things but he was fine. food was varied and interesting. some places open very late at night.

if you are travelling with a woman.. stop to use bathrooms if you see a nice restaurant or hotel. we had a lot of trouble in the markets and when they took us to the public one.. around the corner of a shop, it was a stall with a hole in the ground.
this is no problem usually but in winter with long coats and trousers and belts.. wow.. now you know why the women wear long flowing skirts and no panties.

we went up the hill to the western more elaborate hotel area but enjoyed the lower part of the city more. you will enjoy wandering around the streets and seeing many fine looking small hotels in interesting victorian looking houses that have been converted. one that comes to mind was called ZOE.

they say also you must do a turkish bath.
we didn't end up doing that for some reason i canīt recall.

as far as shopping goes, we didnīt buy much. there are a lot fo fake brand things being sold all over.
if you like that sort of thing. and people were bargaining.

we did not have a tour guide. although i admit it is a good idea in many places. one of the palaces came with a guided tour . but other than that we were on our own and had no problem. and this was before internet research days for us.

hope you get some definite solution ideas from posters here.

lincasanova is offline  
Apr 29th, 2005, 08:21 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 366
thanks lincasanova for your response and ideas!

gtrekker2003 is offline  
Apr 29th, 2005, 08:30 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 316
Do take the ferry across the Bosphorus instead of the expensive boat trips. Ane watch out for the annoying rug salesmen. My husband and I were having a marital dispute, very low key, when a rug salesman interupted us. I finally was very assertive and said he was interupting our fight and to go away. I loved it, so did my husband. Our dispute ended with laughter.
Marycang is offline  
Apr 29th, 2005, 09:26 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,949
Great story Marycang! I would've loved to see the rug salesman's face!

gtrekker, I'm cutting and pasting from a post I wrote a couple of years ago. My husband and I were in Istanbul during the summer of 2001 and scheduled to return on September 11. Like lincasanova, we felt safe and comfortable. By the way, Turkey is a Muslim country, but it's not an Arab country.

Hope you find this helpful.
We loved Turkey; our trip was wonderful and the Turkish people are some of the warmest and most welcoming people we've met anywhere. We were on the Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to NYC when the attacks in NYC and Washington occurred; the country's graciousness and hospitality can only be exemplified by the airline, who put us up at the Polat Renaissance Hotel for 4 nights until we were able to return to the US.

Our Planned trip
*Istanbul: 4 nights at the beginning, 2 nights at the end:
Our hotel was the Mavi Ev (Blue House), which we loved. The location was great; our first room had a wonderful view of the Blue Mosque, which was just a short walk from the hotel.
We visited many of the major sights as well as some lesser-known ones in Istanbul, most of which are in Sultanahmet and are walking distance from each other.
Primary Sights: Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofya, Hippodrome, Yerebatan Saray (Underground Cistern), Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, Suleymaniye (mosque), Chora Church, Archeology Museum, Galata Tower &Taksim,
2ndary sights/activities: Bosphorus cruise, Dolmabahce Palace, Pierre Loti Cafe, Rustem Pasa Cami & Sokollu Mehmet Pasa, Mosaic Museum, taking the ferry to the Asian side and walking around a neighborhood, taking a hamam, shopping at the Arasta Bazaar, seeing the Gates of the City and the old walls.

We enjoyed it all; some of the surprises, though, are the smaller mosques (beautiful and intimate); the Mosaic Museum (a small gem); taking the ferry up the Bosphorus and getting to the overlook of the Bosphorus and the Black Sea; the magic of seeing the Aya Sofya, with all its layers of history.

Prepare for the onslaught of the carpet dealers. They are everywhere and overwhelming; it's not dangerous at all, but exhausting to deal with. We found it easier to develop a sense of humor and a banter, and over time, it didn't bother us as much.

Favorite Istanbul restaurant: Daruzziyafe, opposite the Suleymaniye entrance. Excellent food, beautiful atmosphere.
Disappointment: Sarnic, overpriced bland food in a dramatic setting of an underground cistern. Mavi Ev's food was good, not great, but the setting on the rooftop is lovely.

Favorite food discoveries: lahmacun, a flat, thin bread with ground meat on it. Try it in the modest cafe/restaurant outside the entrance to the Sirkeci Train Station.
Lokum (turkish delight); zillions of flavors, and most are good. Of course, drink LOTS of cay (tea) and elma cayi (apple tea). I also liked visne (sour cherry juice) very much. As others have said, the rice and the yogurt are wonderfully flavorful; and kebabs of all kinds, and eggplant dishes (imam bayaldi!), and the cheeses....well, you'll all find your favorite flavors, but these are a few of ours.

Favorite overall guidebook: Lonely Planet. Information and suggestions was accurate (and I'm not on a student budget!).
As a second, I think Fodor's is good. I had Frommer's with me, which I found less useful when on the road.
progol is online now  
Apr 30th, 2005, 06:09 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 12,492
i am saving your suggestions. hope i have the opportunity to use them this decade!!!

p.s. That was "9/11" in my post, obviously!

and, am i incorrect in describing turkish nationals as arabs? muslims can be of any nationality..

i always thought, (perhaps incorrectly), that from many countries in that part of world, the peoples are referred to as arabs. (have I been using the wrong terminology?)

lincasanova is offline  
Apr 30th, 2005, 06:48 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,154
I guess I didn't consider the Turks to be Arabs. Arabs are more of a North African-Arabian Peninsula people. There are certainly aspects of Turkey and Turkish culture that seem to be influenced by the proximity of Arab culture in that part of the world and Islam is the overwhelming religion (but it is a secular state). I guess I wouldn't put either Turkey or the Turkish people into the category of being Arabs, in a formal sense. Anyone else have a take on that?
Flyboy is offline  
Apr 30th, 2005, 07:28 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 274
Turks are not Arabs, but they and most Arabs share the same religion only.

Hope you also know that people of Iran are Persian, not Arabs!

Arabs are people who speak the Arabic language, but "Arab" is not an ethnicity.

People of Sudan and Somalia for example speak Arabic, but they are African!

Having green eyes is very common in Lebanon and Syria, which is not necessarily the stereotypical Arab look.
Alot of Lebanese and Syrians actually look European, but they are still Arabs!

Hope this helps!
mnss is offline  
Apr 30th, 2005, 09:53 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 366

Thanks very much for sharing your report. That was helpful!

gtrekker2003 is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 05:20 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 1,314
I loved Istanbul but there was one thing I really disliked and that was super-aggressiveness of the carpet salesmen. They have several deceptive tactics to gain your trust, all of them despicable.

First, they know where the tourists hang out, so that's where they camp. They come up to you on the street out of the blue and start talking to you in great English as if you are their long lost brother. They offer to show you around a few sights.

One guy gave us a tour of the Blue Mosque. Then he invited back to his house for tea. Being our first time to Istanbul we naively went along. Then he pulled back a tapestry wall and revealed a huge variety of carpets he was selling. Then came the hard sell.

Frankly, this pissed us off. It was the only time in all my travels that I was actually offended by some aspect of another culture. It is disingenuous to pretent to be someone's friend just to sell him something. And I say culture here rather than individuals because this guy was not alone in what he was doing. We had several experiences like this in the larger cities, although after this first experience we became at spotting them and brushing them off.
Edward2005 is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 11:16 AM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 274
They were not necessarily nice to you just to sell you things; I've met Truks all over Europe, and after we talk for just a couple of minutes, they would invite me to stay with them for a couple of weeks in their home in Turkey!

They are just nice people I guess!
and just in case you thought this happenes to me 'cause I might be a pretty girl who gets hit on all the time, I am a guy!

And this also happenes to several people I know!
mnss is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
Aug 29th, 2013 03:59 PM
Oct 11th, 2012 10:58 AM
Jun 8th, 2010 04:47 AM
Apr 11th, 2006 08:54 AM
Jun 16th, 2005 11:48 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:56 AM.