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Istanbul first-timer (maybe) hoping for basic

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Istanbul first-timer (maybe) hoping for basic

Old Jan 7th, 2020, 01:21 PM
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Istanbul first-timer (maybe) hoping for basic

We have a sudden opportunity to squeeze in 2 nights in Istanbul at the end of a trip to a different country and, never having been to Turkey, I am intrigued....but have no time for trip research before needing to make a decision and I'm hoping the good people here can help with some basic Istanbul advice and knowledge. I noticed a poster named otherchelebi seems to be an expert so I hope you see this, too!

We would fly in from a nearby country in the early evening, spend two nights in Istanbul and then fly out the final day; this will be in late April. Since time will be so short I'd like to make it easy on us and probably hire a driver/guide to take us to the main places we want to see: The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Grand Bazaar. If possible, we'd like to take a boat ride on the Bosporus and maybe even take a short visit to the Asian side, partly just to say we've stood in Asia. Sort of a "greatest hits" tour of Istanbul. I know this is not how most Fodorites like to travel, and I get that many will think we should slow down, take local transportation, wander around, get the know the place instead of darting around madly like "tourists" or cruise ship passengers on an 8-hour port of call, and if I had more time I would rather do that, too, BUT for this particular trip I'm looking for help planning something with a driver/guide, skip-the-line access to the places I mentioned, while the guide teaches us about the places we're seeing, leads us knowledgeably around the Grand Bazaar, talks to us about history, etc.

I'd like to stay in a nice hotel centrally located and with good views, and get reservations at good restaurants for dinners both nights we'll be there.

Can anyone help with advice for me, and/or recommend the guide, hotel and restaurants I'm seeking?
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 01:22 PM
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Blue Mosque under renovations -- still open for tourists?

Can tourists still visit inside the Blue Mosque while it's undergoing renovations? Are there areas people cannot visit due to the renovations?
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 02:31 PM
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We found the Rick Steves' Istanbul guidebook very good.
This is the breakfast view from the hotel where we stayed the first time:


One museum which is perhaps less visited but is very worthwhile is the archeological museum:

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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 06:21 PM
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While waiting for the real experts, I offer a few opinions.
Stay in the Sultanahmet area. There are over a 1.000 hotels of every variety there. No advice on any thing in particular because we saw many that looked fine and many have wonderful roof top terraces with great views. I do not remember where we stayed, but views were beautiful and the location is perfect for seeing Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque. You do not need a car or driver. It would be useless. Hagia Sophia is right between the Palace and the mosque. The entrance to the palace grounds is about a block away and the Mosque a block or two the other way. Our hotel was about two blocks. Truly, they are nearly on top of each other.

Lines for tickets were long. See if you can order tickets ahead. I think there were guides right at the entrance of the palace and Hagia Sophia.

Food everywhere was delicious, especially vegetables. My favorite dish was Sultan’s Lamb.

Cats and dogs are everywhere. Rather than gather them up and put them in shelters, people are hired to clean up and feed and look after them where they are. They may have tags indicating they have shots, etc. Cat colonies are also cared for that way, and restaurants have worked out feeding schedules, so you will see traffic being stopped for whole groups of cats to cross the street from one restaurant to another. They asked me not to feed them, so they do not bother customers for food.
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 05:05 PM
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I found the Rough Guide invaluable. I found the RS guidebook a waste of money.

I agree with Sassafrass that staying in Sultanahmet would make most sense for you. I stayed at the Hotel Sapphire, which still gets very positive reviews. And I agree that you don't need a car or driver -- there's plenty within walking distance (or readily reached by public transportation) for the very limited time you have.
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Old Jan 9th, 2020, 10:34 AM
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Agree with sasafras and kja.. Stay in Sultanahmet or Sirkeci. Only five star hotel in that area is the Four seasons, which is exceptional.

Actually, for the same price, you can stay at Four seasons Bosphorus and walk a few hundred feet to Bosphorus cruise boats and frequent ferries crossing over to Asia and back, giving you options for dinner at some excellent restaurants..

The bazaars and most interesting places close early in Sultanahmet. But you can walk to some non-touristy nice spots at Besiktas and maybe even Ortakoy.

Some of our favorite restaurants are near Ortakoy. . 29 at Ulus park has a good bakery, Turkish grill and French cuisine also.
Banyan at Ortakoy has interesting fusion menu, and Feriye had decent traditional Turkish. All three.have terrific views, as well as the good fish restaurant Park Fora, a bit further.up the Bosphorus.

A very Turkish restaurant is across the hotel at Kuzguncuk, serves traditional meze and fish, "Ismet Baba" (takes cash only)
The best Southeastern Assyrian food is at Ciya Sofrasi, which also has a kebap restaurant next door., at Kadikoy.

Do get an istanbul pass for trains, metro and ferries.

Another and less expensive option is the "W Hotel" at Besiktas, at a lively non touristic area and as close
to the ferry landing. Just walking around the corner from the W there are some fun cafes and acros from them a busy Turkish middle class shopping street with some excent fast food and simpler restaurants.

Ortakoy and Besiktas also have simpler and better priced restaurants.

April is a lovely time in Istanbul even if you do not manage to avoid precipitation.

Mind you, no matter how much empathy I have,with incoming tourists, the above suggestions are based on my preferences and tastes..


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Old Jan 9th, 2020, 10:50 AM
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Is a pass worth it for only one day?
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Old Jan 9th, 2020, 12:49 PM
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Yes, if you get to use it more than three times. Also, it is not always easy to get single passes at every stop .

You may also come back to istanbul.
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Old Jan 10th, 2020, 05:07 PM
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The Four Seasons Sultanahmet is lovely and in a great location to visit the old city. Reserve via your Virtuoso travel agent and you should get free breakfast which is quite good.
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Old Jan 10th, 2020, 05:35 PM
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I did not stay there, but went inside, and can verify, it is gorgeous. If it is out of budget, as it certainly is mine, there are many other lovely, small hotels that also serve breakfast and have great views for 1/3 to 1/2 the price.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 11:45 PM
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Definitely for a short visit stay in Sultanahmet. Try and find somwewhere to stay which has a top floor restaurant terrace with views towards the water.

A Bosphorus boat trip will take up most of a day. It can get chilly onboard too, so be prepared.

If you want a short ferry ride to the Asian side then choose Eminonh to Kadikoy and back.....absolutely superb. You can easily get to Eminonu from Sultanahmet by foot or tram.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 07:53 AM
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IMHO, there's too much to see "in town" to spend your time on the Bosporus boat or on the Asian side (we did both, but we had 6 days).
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 09:07 AM
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Originally Posted by sf7307 View Post
IMHO, there's too much to see "in town" to spend your time on the Bosporus boat or on the Asian side (we did both, but we had 6 days).
Quite right, though nipping to Kadikoy from Eminonu by public ferry shouldn't eat up more than a couple of hours, and is a fabulous short journey on the water, with so many great sights right in front of your eyes.

The Bosphorus Cruise is a 6 or 7 hour trip, is likely to be packed, which will dilute the enjoyment.

Taksim is also an easy option from Sultanahmet by tram to the terminus, then short underground train ride up the hill.

Personally I wouldn't spend a lot of time queuing to get into the major sights in Sultanahmet. I'd head to the Grand Bazaar early before the tour groups descend on it.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 06:17 PM
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I'd also skip the Bosphorus with so little time. If one wants to be in the water, a short ride along the Golden Horn might be of interest.

And to each his/her own -- I'd make sure to get to either the Topkapi Palace or the Hagia Sophia at opening time, and if I had to skip the Grand Bazaar, no problem! I found the Spice Bazaar much more interesting than the Grand Bazaar.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 09:15 PM
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Personally, I enjoyed the Catacombs, and the trolley ride under Bosphorus. That trolley takes you to the Galata Tower area. Galata Tower has a observation deck, and views are amazing!
Heads up, the airport has moved to a new location outside the city center, so expect to spend about 80 minutes driving from the airport to the historical city center.
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Old Feb 10th, 2020, 08:12 PM
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Oh Gosh - so much to see in so little time. I'd pick one or two sites in the Sultanhamet area (e.g. Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque or Spice market) and spend time walking around the old and the new Istanbul and take it all in. Otherwise, you'll spend your precious time waiting in lines. The traffic is always gridlocked, so I don't recommend a driver, but you can take a light rail from one side of the bridge to the other. Walk around Kadikoy, buy lunch off the boats there, walk up to the Galata tower area; and the Cukur Cuma neighborhood where Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence is located. From there you can walk up the (steep) road, passing cafes, shops up to Istiklal street - the pedestrian promenade that can take you to Taksim square to the east (or Galata tower to the west). You'll definitely want to return for a longer stay!
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Old Mar 20th, 2020, 02:54 AM
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It is allowed to enter and it is free, but because of restoration, it just makes you feel you are not in a mosque, in a construction area.
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Old Mar 27th, 2020, 03:29 PM
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We stayed in two different locations in Istanbul, the Sultanahmet and Taksim Square areas. We much preferred the Taskim Square areas and hotels. Taksim seemed more “real”, less tourist focused. We liked the restaurants much better than those in Sultanahmet. Fodor’s poster Otherchelebi gave us several wonderful restaurant recommendations.
We took a Bosphorus Cruise that wasn’t any where near as long as the one mentioned above, a wonderful experience.
Istanbul is such a magnificent city to visit.
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Old Apr 26th, 2020, 07:31 AM
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If it is only 2 nights, then cover the old city area on the first day and the second day would be Bosphorus Cruise, Chora Church, Spice Market and leisure time to rest.

Happy traveling,

Ismail
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