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Istanbul - Itinerary recommendations

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Apr 20th, 2014, 05:23 PM
  #1
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Istanbul - Itinerary recommendations

Hello
My wife and I are planning a short (2.5 days) stop on our way from US to India. We are in late 20s, we like traveling and hence decided to explore the city of Istanbul for a couple of days. We would like to have a combination of touristy things as well as would like to explore some local culture. Please plan to stay in Sultanahmet neighborhood. We started planning our itinerary and have few questions. Any help will be appreciated.
- Palace: Coming from India, where we have seen a lot palaces, does it make sense to see a palace in Istanbul? If so, Topkapi or Dolmabahce?
- Is Hamam in Istanbul over rated or is it worth it? If so which one would you recommend Suleymaniye, Cemberlitas, Cagaloglu or anything else?
- Renting scooter - Late evening (around 8:30pm) we would love to go for a short drive around the city as all the historic buildings are well lit. Is there an option of renting a scooter? If not, what are our options?
- Shopping mall - not looking to shop anything, but since they are old do they have old/different architecture and worth a walk? if so, which one would you recommend Istinye Park, Kanyon, Cevahir?
- Grand Bazaar and Spice market - I have read they get really crowded and we will probably have to go there on a Saturday - does it makes sense to do them early morning, 8am?
- Coffee - Looking for a couple of recommendations for authentic coffee cafe in Istanbul
- How long would it typically take to do - Haghia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern?

Thank you
Vivek
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Apr 20th, 2014, 10:10 PM
  #2
kja
 
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I don't think I'll be much help -- I thought Istanbul worth a minimum of 6 full days just to see the highlights.

"Coming from India, where we have seen a lot palaces, does it make sense to see a palace in Istanbul? If so, Topkapi or Dolmabahce?" -- I haven't been to India, and so I can't comment intelligently. I can tell you that I spent about 5 hours at the Topkapi Palace and thought it well worth every single magnificent moment. I joined one of the obligatory tours of the Dolmanbahce Palace, and was glad I did, but also thought it more European than Ottoman. With only 2.5 days in Istanbul, I'm not sure the Dolmanbahce should be a priority. YMMV.

FWIW, I spent about 4 hours at the Hagia Sophia, 2 at the Blue Mosque, and maybe 45 minutes at the Basilica Cistern.

Good luck!
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Apr 21st, 2014, 01:06 AM
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scooter rental : may not be possible. check web. Not really recommended, unless you have incredible sense of direction. Street names are not visible and may change in the middle of the street. traffic is horrendous. no scooter or bike routes. some locations very hilly. Easier to walk-take tram-walk-take ferry-walk.

malls : all malls are new and modern, no exceptional architecture. Istinye park is far away but pleasant. A huge sprawling mall with high end designer boutiques, an expensive mock street market and the best but expensive food court. (They have golf carts to drive people like me in the underground parking to help find their cars.)

coffee : have typical Turkish tea and/or coffee at the most run-down coffee shop you can find, usually only men sitting, staring blankly at nowhere in particular. Otherwise the Turkish chain, Kahve Dunyasi has decent coffee whether it is Turkish, filter, or espresso.

hamam : this is a purely personal taste. Do not forget that you would be doing it separately, thus doubling the time you spend on it.

Grand Bazaar-Spice Bazaar : Saturday is when they are the most crowded. Definitely do them as early as possible. Start at the grand bazaar and walk down to the spice bazaar on Mahmutpasa Street. Prefer to buy anything you would outside the Spice Bazaar on the streets to the left of the Spice bazaar or the alleys between them. Cheaper and as good if not better. This is where Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi shop is located, if you wish to get some fresh roasted and ground.
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Apr 21st, 2014, 01:53 AM
  #4
kja
 
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@ otherchelebi: "coffee : ... usually only men sitting, staring blankly at nowhere in particular"

LOL, other! I saw this scene so frequently that I actually started taking pictures of them. Having taken hundreds of pictures (literally) each day, when I winnowed my collection down to a set that I thought small enough to share without boring my friends, I included only one of these places where men had gathered for their coffee or tea or whatever. As you say, even without seeing my picture, it was prototypic: a bunch of men sitting and staring elsewhere. When my Turkish friends here at home looked through my pictures and came across the one, they burst into laughter: It seems that this particular photograph inadvertently captured a sign above all the tables, each occupied only by men, that apparently read something like, "Family Restaurant -- Women Welcome." How ironic that I had inadvertently selected such an ironic image out of the many I had of such male-only coffee klatches!
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Apr 21st, 2014, 05:26 AM
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Our 12 year-old daughter and I set aside "as much time as needed" for Topkapi, and were glad we did. We visited in mid-June, and had sunshine and warm breezes to keep us happy while we explored the palace for several hours, including some time spent waiting in lines to enter the smaller rooms. Topkapi was a highlight of our visit to Istanbul.

If you can, settle in to watch the sun set and the lights come on at the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The atmosphere is friendly and the setting is unparalleled; we returned a second night just for the experience.

We toured the Grand Bazaar just as it was opening, and were happy we did so. Watching the shop owners prepare their stores and banter with one another was fascinating. By the time we were tired from walking about the bazaar the crowds had started building--our timing was perfect.
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Apr 21st, 2014, 07:41 AM
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Vivek, I'm from India too but Topkapi Palace isn't like any palace I've seen in India, so I'd say go for it! We got there as it opened and spent the whole morning there, then the Basilica Cistern and Aya Sofya and Blue Mosque in the afternoon. We had 4 days in Istanbul and didn't make it to Dolmabache Palace, which we plan to see when we visit Turkey again in June.

We frankly didn't stay too long at the Grand Bazaar, I found the Spice Bazaar and Arasta Bazaar (behind the Blue Mosque) much more interesting.
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