Overnight in Istanbul

Feb 2nd, 2010, 04:22 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 14
Overnight in Istanbul

I am currently looking at a flight to Morocco for my husband and myself. (Morocco is his home country) The flight has a 23 hour layover in Istanbul on the way there and a 15 hour layover on the way home. I am hoping we can embrace this layover as a chance to see Istanbul. We would arrive in Istanbul about 4pm and leave the next day around 3pm. I am looking for hotel suggestions and 1 -2 must see sights. I am considering something like a tour in the morning before our flight. Any advice is great as I have only visited the western coast of Turkey!
DC_Mom is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2010, 05:46 AM
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,601
Dear DC_Mom,
please tell us your budget for lodging and what your interests are. i.e. art, architecture, roman, byzantine, ottoman, jewish, christian, moslem, common culture, famous people, upscale restaurants, inplaces, boat cruises on the Bosphorus, beautiful views, touristy shopping, regular shopping, bars, authentic music, jazz, hip-hop, techno, pop, and on and on.

Since you have very limited time, you are the only one who can say what you will enjoy.

Check these forums, Trip Advisor forums and buy a guide book or google Istanbul sites to find out what strikes your fancy.

If you narrow down your choice and still want some ideas come again but also give us the month you will be taking this trip.
otherchelebi is online now  
Feb 2nd, 2010, 06:33 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 155

We were in Istanbul for 24 hours in November. Although on a cruise ship (so we didn't need a hotel), here is the report of how we spent our time. If you stay at a hotel in Sultanahmetand (or one near the Tram Line that takes you there) and are interested in major tourist spots located there (Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia, Topkapi, Grand Bazaar to name the main ones), you can do quite a lot in such a short time. I hope this helps.

Istanbul Trip Report - Friday, November 13

The sail-in to Istanbul was beautiful. It’s still sunny out and our cabin on the port side afforded us a great view of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace before we spotted the Galata Tower and the Galata Bridge. I took lots of photographs from our balcony. On the way down to the exit, while waiting for clearance we watched the docking operation from the open deck on 5, and enjoyed the performance of a local band decked out in Turkish costumes.

We were told that after we docked at 1:00 it would be a while before we could leave the ship, but we were actually off the ship and in the port building by 1:10 – amazingly fast. We picked up landing cards to carry with us and return tomorrow on our way back onto the ship since we have neither passports (collected when we boarded) nor visas. We walked out to the main street and saw the tram line, which I had researched and which we followed for a few blocks, exiting from the port area to the right. We crossed at the traffic light (otherwise you risk life and limb!), and immediately went to an ATM at a bank across the street. No problems there… we each got 50 TL (should have gotten more as it turned out, but more on that later). I should add that at this point our group numbered 10… we have picked up friends who also want to DIY. We bought jetons at the newspaper stand located next to the tracks, and re-crossed to the center island. As indicated by many others, we inserted the jetons into the slot and caught the next tram headed into town (towards the Galata Bridge). We boarded the tram at the Findiklit stop (closer to the port entrance than the Tophane stop although it means walking away from the direction in which you wish to travel (which also improves your chance of getting a seat)., The train got crowded at the Galata Bridge stop, continued on to the Sultanahmet stop, where we got off, and we were at the area of the two mosques in less than ten minutes.

Our group opted to tour the Blue Mosque (which is free), first. This required taking off our shoes and carrying them with us into the carpeted mosque. After pausing to admire the beautiful tiles and windows and taking the requisite photographs, we left the mosque and put our shoes back on. We crossed the area in front of the mosque and walked over to the ticket booths for Hagia Sophia. It now costs 20TL for this mosque-turned museum. We paid and went in, following the same process employed at the Blue Mosque. Then the group split up with four remaining to tour the Upper Gallery, while those of us planning to take the sunset Bosphorus cruise needed to hurry over to the docks in order to catch the 4 p.m. cruise from Eminonu. (Note: I had difficulty ascertaining the schedule before leaving home since the only one on the website said it was the “summer schedule.”) When we got off the tram, we called the number listed in the Rick Steves guidebook (which is indispensable for Istanbul), and got a fellow who said, 4:00, but be there 15 minutes before (at least I think that’s what he said given all the noise on his end and a faulty connection.)

The walk back along the tram line was quite interesting as we passed eateries and little souvenir shops with very inexpensive prices. Along the way one hungry member of our party picked up a few of the local simit – sesame encrusted bread rings which both resemble and taste like a pretzel (we each had a taste).

We passed the Sireki Train station (Gar) which was the Eastern terminus of the famed Orient Express, and headed for the Galata bridge, looking for the Turyol boats, but not sure exactly where they would be. Coming from the Sultanahmet district, it turned out that we needed to use the underpass for the bridge to the side with the frying fish boats to get to Turyol, which was right after the fish sellers. You can’t miss the fish boats since they are brightly decorated and lit up and look like traditional Turkish boats. We bought our 9 TL tickets for the 90 minute cruise, and boarded. There were lots of empty seats so we were able to move from side to side on the Upper (open) Deck to get the best vantage points and take many photographs. A food and beverage vendor kept passing by us with tea and juice on a tray and later with bags of snacks, but we skipped the refreshments and concentrated on the view.

The 90 minute Turyol cruise was just about perfect. First we cruised across the Golden Horn and across the Bosphorus to pick up some people from the Asian side and then we cruised up the Asian side and returned down the European side. Along the way were gorgeous homes, some modern and others quite old in the ancient wooden style. I think we were most impressed by three homes part-way up the hill that had their own personal inclines (elevators) and spectacular landscaping. This neighborhood (I don’t know the name) reminded us of Marin County and Sausalito. After we crossed o the other side of the water, we passed a huge fortress with a long wall. Reading Rick Steves, we learned this was the Rumeli Fortress, used during the Otttoman siege of Constantinople. The cruise, which took us up the Bosphorus to the second bridge and back, lasted exactly 90 minutes and we were deposited back at Eminonu, a little chilled although we were bundled up (it was windy on the water and cooler as the sun set), but very happy.

Next on the agenda was dinner at Hamdi’s. I had made an 8 o’clock reservation, but at 6 p.m. we were right in front of the restaurant and feeling hungry. We went up to the third floor and asked if we could be seated early. They checked the reservation book, found my name (I had made it on their website so it was good to see it listed there), and gave us a table for six next to the window. The top floor is all glass enclosed so there are great views in several directions. It wasn’t busy at 6, but by the time we left all three rooms (dining rooms also on the first and second floors) had filled with diners.

We ordered some cold mezes or appetizers from the tray including Olives, Hummus, Eggplant Salad, and Grilled Vegetables. This was served with delicious warm bread that arrived puffed up like an Indian puri. Next we had hot mezes - a Lamb Kofte (meatball) and a small Lahmacum (which is a type of Turkish thin crust pizza) served individually to each of us. The specialty of this restaurant is Kebabs, most of which contain large quantities of lamb. For the non-lamb eater in our group there was a Chicken Kebab, but the rest of us sampled several of the Lamb and Veal Kebabs on the menu and thought they were tasty. We tried to order the Iskender Kabob (since this is only available on Friday and that’s when we were there), but the waiter said it had finished at lunch time… disappointing! Unlike others who have eaten at Hamdi and complained about the service, we had Hakim as our waiter, and he was terrific, so we had perfect service and no issues in this area. For the convenience of dining at a spot on the harbor right next to the Galata Bridge and the Spice Market with a great view, we were pleased with our choice. The price was also reasonable. For the six of us with the food indicated (we shared our kebab entrees and only ordered three of them) and a bottle of wine, five Efes beers, two diet cokes and three cocktails (Bailey’s), the total bill was 246 TL about $30 a person with service included. The food was tasty, but there is definitely better Turkish food in Istanbul In fact, I have eaten better Turkish food in NYC. Next time I’ll try to visit Istanbul with some foodies. After dinner four of us opted for the tram and two walked back to the ship.

Saturday, November 14

We were off the ship about 9, took the tram to the Cemberlitas stop, walked over a few blocks to the Grand Bazaar, and I was in shopping heaven by 9:30. First, though, I needed to stop at another ATM and arm myself with 100 TL so I would have some cash with which to bargain. (You are never in a position of strength if you try to negotiate with a credit card!) I shopped by myself and was a little concerned that I might come in for extra hassles as a woman alone in the Bazaar, but I am happy to report that I had no problem whatsoever. A few vendors tried to encourage me to shop, but most just waited patiently to answer any questions I had and were very polite. I bought four shawls (two for gifts), a pair of silver earrings, and four couch pillow covers, and was very happy with all of my purchases and the negotiated prices I paid.

From the time I entered, I kept walking downhill and enjoyed the many shops I passed in the GB. I exited from Gate 18 and continued downhill, passing all sorts of stores on the way to the Spice Bazaar. On this Saturday morning many local shoppers were also out shopping and the streets were crowded. In addition to the stores and stalls in front of the stores, some merchants set their wares out on blankets in the middle of the street. (Note: If you ask people to tell you where Gate 18 is located, you will likely encounter shrugs and “I don’t know.” If you ask for the direction of the Spice Bazaar, everyone knows which way to point. That exit turns out to be Gate 18!)
I stopped to take photographs when I got to the entrance to the Spice Bazaar – piles and piles of spices, nuts, dates, Turkish delight and other candies and who knows what else. I wandered through and had an interesting conversation with an Israeli shopkeeper named Isaac, whose family came to Istanbul from Israel. They have three shops in the market and he said they do a lot of tour business. Since it was Saturday, he told me some family members were over at the Synagogue on the other side of the Galata Bridge. Although I didn’t buy anything, I enjoyed the visit to the Spice Bazaar and recommend it. Next I wandered over to the tram (Eminonu stop) and accessed it through the underground passage that goes under the heavily trafficked ferry dock area and the bridge. There are lots of merchants in the underpass selling cheap shoes, trinkets, watches, souvenirs and toys. The stairway to the tram is marked with the direction in which the tram travels and there is a jeton-seller at the bottom of the stairs in case you need one (we were well stocked and I’ve still got tokens to use on my next trip to Istanbul)
wiselindag is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2010, 06:41 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
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Thank you for your replies so far. We don't want to spend a fortune on a hotel room for one night - 50-75 euros would be our range. I would like to be somewhere near several tourist sights so that we can see as much as we can in the short time we are there. I am a foodie - and would love a great restaurant recommendation! wiselindag - thank you for sharing your trip report I will def. pick up Rick Steve's book on Istanbul. I guess I have a lot of research to do still!!!
DC_Mom is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2010, 06:49 AM
Join Date: Jul 2005
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When are you going? I think 50-75 euros is low for a double in a location convenient to the sights unless you'll be there off season.
Luisah is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2010, 12:18 PM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 199
Well you definitely want to stay in Sultanahmet so you are close to everything. I can recommend Dersaadet Oteli--great location, very cute and charming, fantastic staff. Might be just a bit over your budget but not by much if you are traveling in the off-season. With just 24 hours I'd say you want to hit the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya, Topkapi Palace, and the Spice Bazaar (IMO much more interesting than the Grand Bazaar). Maybe squeeze in a Turkish bath as well (many are open all night). You'll be busy what will have a fabulous time! The great thing about Sultanahmet is that so many sites are just steps from eachother, so it makes it easy to maximize your time. More info and pics in our Istanbul post at http://patrinadoestheglobe.blogspot.com/
katrinab is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2010, 08:59 AM
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I would also recommend the Dersaadet, it's in a great location for sightseeing, but rates for a double room (with breakfast) range from 80 to 125 euros. There is a 10% discount for cash, so if you're going in the lowest season it would be 72 euros.
Luisah is offline  
Feb 4th, 2010, 02:00 AM
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 434
I agree that 50 - 75 Euros is low, but I just checked the Faros Hotel where we stayed and in the off season, it's in that range. I'd highly recommend it; 23 rooms on Divan Yolu, (a main street), on the tram line, a couple minutes' walk to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Topkapi, and a short tram ride to the Galata Bridge. http://www.faroshotelistanbul.com/. The Galata Bridge spans the Bosphorus at the very busy and colorful port.

The Spice and Grand Bazaars were about a 10-minute walk; you should go to one or both (we loved both, but especially the Grand Bazaar). I like your idea of taking a tour to maximize your time.

Istanbul is a wonderful city; you'll love it and want to go back for more. Enjoy your time!

ellen75005 is offline  
Feb 6th, 2010, 12:58 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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I also reccomend the Dersaadet-It is in such a wonderful location to walk anywere. The roof top terrace with the view of the Blue Mosque at night will take your breath away. We were there for 5 nights in 06 and I would go back . It is small but the seveice is large. Chris
BeniciaChris is offline  
May 17th, 2010, 12:19 AM
Join Date: May 2010
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Check this out for "top things to do" and "best sights in Istanbul" ; http://www.best-of-istanbul.com/istanbul.html
mkoruyan is offline  
May 17th, 2010, 01:56 AM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 117
My only advice to you is......don't get stuck in a carpet shop! You'll end up with no time to see or do anything else. It's a gorgeous place. The Blue Mosque is a definate 'must see'. Friendly people & delicious food. There's some great places in Sultanahmet to eat.
One other point worth mentioning is that the international airport is a fair distance from the main tourist spots in Istanbul. It's worth working out how you'll get into the city before arriving. It usually involves a bus trip and a ferry ride unless you're prepared to pay a lot of money for a taxi.
Ronael is offline  
Jul 5th, 2010, 02:34 AM
Join Date: Jun 2010
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You have very little time to discover Istanbul.. I hope you can come back to see more.

You can find what to do in one day here:


Look for the "Top 10" and "Things to do" pages..
zozlem is offline  
Jul 5th, 2010, 04:45 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 2,550

I also recommend staying in Sultanahmet. It is an excellent location for sightseeing on a tight time frame. Maybe the Hotel Alp Guesthouse is to your liking - http://www.alpguesthouse.com.
worldinabag is offline  
Jul 5th, 2010, 06:36 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 2,674
I can highly recommend the Hotel Niles. We greatly enjoyed our stay, especially the service and the wonderful roof terrace. It was convenient to walk to all the sights and very reasonably price (approx 70 E for a double rom).

lizziea06 is offline  

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