What NOT to miss in Istanbul? Got tips?

Aug 6th, 2009, 06:59 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I was there for almost a week last month. LOVED it.
If you'd like a copy of my trip file, email me at
ESL1051 at yahoo dot com.
Now that I've been there, I think Dolmabahce Palace is a second-string site. I thought the grounds much more memorable than the building, and the Harem not at all worth the time, a bunch of mostly empty rooms, a few ornate reception rooms but nothing special I thought. The best thing in Dolmabahce was the last stop, the Throne room. To me the place was a Versailles wanna-be. It's nice, but not when time is short. With only two days, spend half a day at Topkapi, including the Harem, and it will be time gorgeously spent.

In line with comments above, I also was a bit disappointed with the Chora/Kariye museum. Mosaics old and interesting, but again, there are more beautiful ones to see.
I will STRONGLY recommend a stop at Rustem Pasa mosque, which is near the Spice Market in the Eminonu area. Easy to stop there if you take a Bosphorus Cruise. It's up a flight of stone stairs, easy to walk right by, but it has the MOST gorgeous blue tiles, much more memorable to me than the interior of the famous Blue Mosque (except the latter is so much larger and is certainly worth a visit.)

Speaking of a Bosphorus Cruise, with your time so short, you don't have to make a six-hour commitment. I did one that was 90 minutes RT. It doesn't go up to the Black Sea, but to the 2nd bridge. Relaxing, lots of nice photos, boat ride, done. For best photos, sit upstairs, on the port side.
elaine is offline  
Aug 6th, 2009, 09:31 PM
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In line with comments above, I also was a bit disappointed with the Chora/Kariye museum. Mosaics old and interesting, but again, there are more beautiful ones to see.

Oh, really? Where??

Cries_Van_Notebook is offline  
Aug 6th, 2009, 10:54 PM
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In past visits I saw most of the sites mentioned ...but I could add two. Whatever you decide to do, please don't get into a crazy-making race to see and do everything.

The two I would suggest on top of everything else suggested in the informative posts above are:

... an afternoon tea at the Pierre Loti cafe, high above the Golden Horn...take a taxi and get there no later than 4:45, in time for the ancient and magnificent call-to-prayer emanating from a dozen or more mosques and mini-mosques...slightly out of sync, but nevertheless very dramatic. Memorable? Very much so, indeed.

Another rarely mentioned unique Istanbul experience is the afternoon "gathering" and concerts at the Miitary Museum...just a km. beyond Taksim Square near the Hlton Hotel. Get there at 1:00pm and visit the fascinating exhibits of centuries of Turkish/Ottoman warfare...but the short concerts and dances, precision marching in very colorful headresses and costumes, etc...presented by the "Mehter", the historical medieval Ottoman Military Bands..at 3:00 and again at 4:00 pm..just plain fun. IIRC they are scheduled from Wednesday through Sunday. We have thoroughly enjoyed this. Great photo ops.

Yes, you're allowed to have fun in Istanbul...and you will...sure wish you had a little more time, because the Bosphorus cruise is a slam-dunk winner!

LongLegs, some of these events can be seen in some of these selected Turkey pics...sift through until you see the Istanbul snaps, if you wish, although a good chunk of Turkey is also represented herein.


Stu Tower
tower is offline  
Aug 7th, 2009, 04:03 AM
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imo, more beautiful, much better-preserved, and easier-to- view mosaics than the ones in the Chora, are in the Mosaic Museum, and Ayasofya, to name two places. I wouldn't tell anyone not to go to the Chora, I'm very glad I went, unless like the OP they only have two days in Istanbul.
elaine is offline  
Aug 7th, 2009, 11:21 PM
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You guys are rally talking Turkey! I have gobbled up all that info and (sorry about the puns, it's late)... and will now go to the various sites you mentioned.

Thank you and if you think of anything else... such as advice on dealing with the Shop Keepers.

Bargaining? What to buy there that's worth it?? BEWARE of what???
LongLegs is offline  
Aug 8th, 2009, 04:04 AM
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I was there 3 weeks ago and the Harem was closed for renovations at the Topkapi Palace . Nonetheless it was wonderful and viewing the jewels and silk robes alone make visiting it a must .
JohnFitz is offline  
Aug 8th, 2009, 04:35 AM
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You can take a ferry to Dolhambce Palace for a "taster" cruise. The Palace is incredible particularly the glass work. Yes the Archaelogical/Tile Museum is extraordinary. The Chora church is of interest moreso I think because it is Byzantian, yet another facet of this fantastic city.

Learn to use the local currency i.e turkish lira. When you start bargaining make it clear that your are talking lira not USD. And as for carpets. Well here's my oft repeated advice - Do you know how to grade diamonds? Same thing with carpets/rugs. BEWARE - it's the biggest scam in Istanbul!
worldinabag is offline  
Aug 9th, 2009, 10:36 AM
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Hi longlegs, here are some tips and answers from a newcomer to fodor (after I resigned from DE Turkey position, elsewhere):

- With only 2 days, you will obviously be staying in Sultanahmet. If you are there before Sept 21. you will be hitting the end of the holy fasting period, and Sultanahmet is a conservative area despite the flocks of tourists. there will me many more turkish conservatives as tourists there, who will be visiting the Blue Mosque, and fasting. Hence, you are expected to be more covered (arms to elbows, legs to knees) and wear a scarf entering any mosque, and not eat or drink out in the open.

Evenings, the Sultanahmet area will be like a fair for local conservative moslems, initially interesting but gets stale after half hour of wandering among the stalls.

dressing and eating drinking restrictionss are not necessary in and around Taksim Square, Nisantasi, Ortakoy, Kurucesme, Bebek areas.

21st of Sept, or the first day after the fast, moast shops will be closed and again the streets full of locals. if you hit that day, do not take the Bosphorus ferry and do the museums, especially Hagia Sophia and the archeological museum will not be crowded. (that is if that is their open day)

- Hello is 'merhaba'
- Thank you is difficult to pronounce, so you can say 'sa-all' (Sagol)
or the French, 'Merci'
- There is no bargaining in shops at Nisantasi, the malls, etc. At the Bazaars and around Sultanahmet area, a definite 'No!!' should suffice. You will not be hassled anywhere alse.

- Best bargain is Silver. Check price of silver per gram on internet before you get there. Most silver jewelry or utensils should not cost more than 50-70% of the gram value. The seller will be weighing it and should tell you how much it weighs and what he is asking per gram. Buy the silver from stores that sell only silver and check the imprint for '900' or '925'. ( first or secon street on your right as you enter the covered bazaar from the Nuruosmaniye gate). Evil eye glass beads also make good presents and are very reasonably priced as charm bracelets.

you can, splurge and eat a good Turkish meal at Borsa restaurant near istanbul Hilton, or the best lamb chops of your life before or after your flight from Ataturk airport (IST) at Beyti at nearby Florya.
otherchelebi is online now  
Aug 9th, 2009, 10:40 AM
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In terms of the Silver price, I meant 'not more than 50-70% ABOVE the gram value. sorry for the mistake.
otherchelebi is online now  
Aug 9th, 2009, 11:35 AM
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better mosaics? well the nicest I've ever seen were in Ravenna - I wasn't just limiting myself to Istanbul / Turkey. And of course St. Mark's, the "pictures" in St. Peter's that are actually mosaic are other examples that impressed me more. I liked the Chora church but it was not a WOW experience - sounds like I should have gone to the mosaic museum instead.

Bummer that the harem is closed at Topaki Palace - I thought that was the best part, by far, of the site. I might have enjoyed other parts more but as another poster said, it was super crowded - I got the feeling it was alot of children on school field trips there to see the relics of the faith. The kitchen was closed for renovation when were there in May - maybe they have opened it back up.
suec1 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2009, 01:23 PM
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As of last month, "the kitchen is closed."
I did miss being able to see the ceramics collection.
elaine is offline  
Aug 16th, 2009, 02:59 PM
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bookmarking, thanks
crzn1 is offline  
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