Top 15 Things to Do in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

by Erlend Geerts

in Istanbul Tours & Itineraries, Practical Information, Sightseeing

Here are my top 15 things to do in Istanbul, in no particular order. I chose these not because they are popular, but because I think they are worth seeing or experiencing. Therefore, for instance, I didn’t include the world famous Blue Mosque, but suggest something different. I also draw attention to many hidden gems, often overlooked while preparing for your visit. Enjoy!

Bosphorus Cruise

Bosphorus Cruise in Istanbul, TurkeyA trip to Istanbul is not complete without a Bosphorus cruise. Not only provides it a nice overview of the city, both the European and Asian shores of the famous waterway have a lot to offer – century old palaces and mansions galore.

There are several cruises you can take: a short one (to the second suspension bridge and back), a long one (all the way to the Black Sea and back), and a sunset tour in summertime.

The latter used to be my favorite, but became victim of its success. These days I prefer to take the full Bosphorus day tour, or the shorter version if you are pressed for time.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, TurkeyThis splendid church-turned-mosque-turned-museum is among the world’s greatest architectural achievements. After years of restoration works, the Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) is finally scaffolding free, enabling you to absorb its splendor as it was meant to be.

Standing in the middle of the staggering spacious nave under the 43 meter wide dome 65 meters above your head defies belief – and physics for that matter. Climb up the spiral ramp to get to the gallery and gaze at the splendid Byzantine mosaics, including Christ flanked by Emperor Constantine IX and his wife Empress Zoe.

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, TurkeyTopkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayı) is rightfully a sight you can’t afford to miss while in Istanbul. This complex of kiosks and pavilions contained by four lush green courtyards is where generations of sultans had their principal residence for almost half a century.

Top attractions at Topkapi Palace are the Harem, an adorned ‘cage’ of the sultan’s women, the treasury storing the crown jewels and containing the famous Topkapi dagger, and the weapon’s room boosting their fine craftsmanship even when it came to making swords and bows.

Also, don’t forget to walk all the way till the end for breathtaking views of the Sea of Marmara, Bosphorus and Golden Horn.

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, TurkeyIstanbul is not only fascinating above ground, but also underground with the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan). This exquisite piece of Byzantine engineering is a spectacular underground cistern, once bringing drinking water with aqueducts from current Bulgaria to Istanbul.

With its dimmed light and classical music to the background sound of dripping water, some find it romantic while others experience it as slightly spooky.

Tread the walkways and watch the fish swim between the 336 columns that support the ceiling. Walk all the way to the end to see the Medusa head, placed upside down as the base of one of the columns.

Archaeology Museum

Archaeology Museum in IsatnbulPeople often skip the Archaeology Museum (Arkeoloji Müzesi), and that’s a pity. This is a real hidden Istanbul gem, displaying one of the world’s richest collections of classical antiquities.

Top attractions here are the marvelous sarcophagus of Alexander the Great depicting important phases of his life, the blue tiled Karaman Mihrab, the beautiful Tiled Pavilion, and the Treaty of Kadesh – the world’s earliest surviving peace treaty. Not an option with kids? Wait until the see the model Trojan Horse in the children’s section.

You can reach the Archaeology Museum by going left down the hill in Topkapi Palace’s first courtyard, or via Gülhane Park.

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul, TurkeyThe Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is much more exciting than the name reveals. Housed in the former palace of Ibrahim Pasa — the most talented Grand Vizier of Süleyman — and overlooking the Hippodrome, the collection has over 40.000 items on display.

Each room concentrates on a different period or area of the Islamic world, also reflecting daily Turkish life from the 8th till the 19th century. Top features are the world renowned collection of gigantic carpets hanging from the ceiling, a recreation of a Turkic nomadic tent, and the peaceful Turkish coffee house where they brew Turkish coffee over an open fire.

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, TurkeyBargain hunting at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Over 500 years old, but still one of the largest covered bazaars in the world. Its 60 streets contain no less than 5000 shops, 60 restaurants, 18 fountains, 12 mosques, and even a school.

This is not a tourist trap as some claim. Locals shop here every day, but odds are they’re better at bargaining than you are. The bazaar is very famous for its carpets, leather, ceramics, souvenirs and jewelry.

It’s hard not to get lost in this chaos, so try to remember where you entered before wandering around.

Süleymaniye Mosque

Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, TurkeyInstead of the iconic Blue Mosque, I prefer the less famous Süleymaniye Mosque. I think it’s the nicest and most impressive Istanbul mosque, and not invaded by thousands of tourists every day.

The Süleymaniye Mosque was designed by the famous architect Sinan for Süleyman the Magnificent, and is a great tribute to both. It’s actually much more than a place of worship. It’s a complex of buildings containing a hospital, a kitchen, a school, etc.

Don’t forget to visit the tombs of Süleyman and Roxalana behind the graveyard, the tomb of Sinan outside the complex, and eat kuru fasulye (haricot beans) in one of the many restaurants in the Alley of Addicts.

Chora Church / Kariye Museum

Chora Church in Istanbul, TurkeyThe Chora Church, Church of St Savior, or Kariye Museum is a bit off the beaten track, but well worth a visit. Located in Chora/Edirnekapi next to the old city walls, it is one of the most amazing religious building Istanbul has to offer.

The walls and ceilings of this church are adorned with stunning Byzantine mosaics and fabulous frescoes. Some are considered as the most significant in the Christian world.

And while you’re there, enjoy the remains of the fifth century city walls and the wooden Ottoman houses.

Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, TurkeyDolmabahçe Palace is just fascinating. A few facts to demonstrate my point here. The palace is huge — 600 meters in length — containing no less than 285 rooms and 43 salons. It was built in 1856 by Sultan Abdüi Mecit, basically to prove that the declining Ottoman Empire was doing just fine, whereas the construction resulted in exactly the opposite.

Nevertheless, no expenses were spared, proof of which the excessive use of gold leaf, crystal and marble. Obvious key features are the Baccarat crystal staircase, the main bathroom, and the ceremonial hall with its 4.5 ton chandelier. Just seeing the latter is impressive!

After the foundation of the Turkish Republic, Atatürk adopted the palace as its home, and died there November 10, 1938 at 09:05. As a tribute, all clocks in the palace show that time.

Galata Tower

Galata Tower in Istanbul, TurkeyThe Galata Tower is one of the best spots in town to get a 360 panoramic view of Istanbul. On a bright day you can even spot the Princes’ Islands from this 60 meter high tower. There is also a restaurant/cafe at the ninth floor, but feel free to skip that entirely.

Instead, walk around in the cozy streets of Galata surrounding the tower and have a drink or some food on one of the many terraces. Not only will you enjoy it much more, you’ll also get a much better deal.

Bebek and Ortaköy

Ortaköy in Istanbul, TurkeyBebek and — to a lesser extend — Ortaköy are two village by the Bosphorus worth visiting, yet lesser known among tourists.

Bebek is a lively, green, and wealthy neighborhood by the Bosphorus. It’s well known and frequently visited by locals during the weekends. It’s a local all-time favorite to have a (late) breakfast with a stunning view followed by a nice stroll on the boardwalk, topped with a drink in one of the many cafes. Other come later, and enjoy the buzzing nightlife.

If you took a Bosphorus tour, it’s hard to miss Ortaköy. Its cozy mosque by the shore just before the first bridge stands out. Another thing that draws a lot of attention is the Sunday crafts market, as well as the many car-free cobbled stoned streets filled with restaurants and cafes.

Visit Local Markets

Market in Kadıköy, Istanbul.Turkey’s kitchen is among the richest of all, blending flavors of different continents and cultures.

All these dishes are made with fresh produce, stuff you too can buy first hand by visiting local markets in Istanbul. These town markets (pazar) can look overwhelming at first, but be assured that you’ll receive a warm welcome by stallholders. Communication may be difficult, but the experience is priceless.

Istanbul’s Nightlife

Reina in Istanbul, TurkeyIstanbul’s nightlife can compete with the rest of the world. Whether you want to enjoy a (local) live performance while sipping on your favorite drink, attend concerts of current and past world stars, or dance the night away in open-air venues by the Bosphorus or while enjoying a rooftop 360 view, Istanbul has it all.

Getting Scrubbed in a Hamam

Kilic Ali Pasa Turkish Bath/Hamam in Istanbul, TurkeyThere is nothing better to rejuvenate your body than getting scrubbed in a hamam. Just picture this after a long day of walking: wearing nothing but a cotton cloth, first relax in a steamy room laying on hot marble, listening to the echoes of running water. Then a brisk soapy body scrub, followed by a sultan’s massage until your skin is smooth and soft.

There are several hamams available in the city. Among the oldest are the (recently renovated) Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam and Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam. The first is right on Sultanahmet Square, the latter is in Tophane-Karaköy, not far from Istanbul Modern and Witt Istanbul Hotel.

Photo Source [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

What's Next

{ 98 comments… read them below or add one }

Nishant Jha February 2, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Thanks once again! I just picked up my preferred option for our Hamam experience!

Kilic Ali Pasa Hamam is the one!

Cheers,
Nishant

Reply

Erlend Geerts February 3, 2014 at 9:52 pm

Hi Nishant,

I think that’s an excellent choice.

Erlend

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Shalini March 19, 2014 at 12:52 am

Thanks a lot for this great website! Very useful info presented in nice articles. Eventhough it is not updated anymore, thanks for keeping it online :-)

Reply

Erlend Geerts March 19, 2014 at 7:25 am

Hi Shalini,

Thanks for the compliments.

The site still gets updated, but we moved to less frequent, but longer and more difficult topics. Of course comments are still moderated and answered on a daily basis.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Georg Boecker March 19, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Hello Erlend,
very nice website indeed! But, regarding 15 things to do in istanbul: why not include less known gems like Sokullu Mehmet Pasa Camii, Kücük Ayasofya or Semsi Ali Pasa Camii, and leave out the Hagia Sophia, which is visited by everyone anyway?
Thanks a lot and greetings – hope to stay with you one day
Georg Boecker

Reply

Erlend Geerts March 20, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Hi Georg,

You have a point of course, and who says that there won’t be a follow-up one day. On the flip side, if I had left out the Hagia Sophia, then I would get similar responses wondering how I could skip such a majestic world piece :-)

Hope to welcome you soon,
Erlend

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John March 26, 2014 at 7:10 pm

I am traveling with 3 others to Istanbul and staying at a decent hotel in the European -Old section, near the blue mosque.
the hotel offered to have a driver or taxi service pick my group up for 39 lire.
Someone else has contacted a private vip taxi service, with the gate check in and bag flow assistance for 4 x’s that = about 140 lira.

The four of us are well traveled guys..
Thoughts?

Reply

Erlend Geerts March 26, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Hi John, please check this and this post for details. Please also do go through the comments.

Erlend

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Liz March 26, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Erlend,
I have wanted to visit Istanbul for years and am finally going to get the chance.
I’m from a very small town in Missouri US and as yet have cruised Alaska and visited Mexico, Jamaica and the Bahamas… yes, I really like the beach (Alaska was a family mandate). I love this site! I can almost feel the city calling to me when I read it. I’ve read several in preperation, we’re hoping for October this year. 15 things is my favorite because it brings out the “what about” factor. PS, your patience and diplomacy with your answers is Fabulous! Kudos!

Reply

Erlend Geerts March 26, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Thanks a lot Liz for sharing your thoughts. I means a lot to me.

I hope you will have a nice stay, you’re certainly well prepared if your read all 100 posts :-)

Take good care and have a nice trip,
Erlend

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Betty April 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Hello Erlend!
After founding this great site and reading almost ALL comments on every recommendation I feel very well prepared for my upcoming visit to Istanbul. Thanks a lot for a fantastic Job!
I am travelling next week with my teenage daughter, and one of the things I’d like to enjoy, besides all the history and Sightseeing is a Hamam.

I booked already a massage in the Hürrem Sultan Hamam, but I am wondering, can I still go without having to take one of their packages? They are a bit pricey! Do I also have to pay an entrance fee? And, do you know if theres a limit on the time that can be spent there?
Again, thank you for your time, dedication and for sharing all your knowledge and love for Istanbul with the world!
Betty

Reply

Erlend Geerts April 7, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Hi Betty,

I’m afraid you won’t be able to go in without choosing one of their packages. If it’s not too crowded, after the massage is finished, normally you can hang around as long as you want.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Ahmad April 14, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Thanks to the internet ….. NOW I AM ABLE TO KNOW WHAT TO DO IN ISTANBUL CAUSE IM TRAVELLING SOON ;)

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Ahmed Mohammed May 7, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Hi There,

I have read this Post and other Post’s of your’s and all of your Posts are very Helpful.
I would be travelling to Istanbul in couple of Weeks and all your Posts helped me Plan the Itenary.
Thank you again.

Regards
Ahmed Mohammed

Reply

Deepti May 12, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Hi,

This is a very useful & informative website. We are travelling to Istanbul and will be staying at Sirkeci and I believe most of the above mentioned places are close by, do you suggest we go through a tour guide or we can do on our own. Tours offered to us are crazily priced.

Also if we have half a day after we land in the afternoon, can we go to Bosphorus cruise for a short circle and then go for cable car and Pierri Loti Cafe.

Regards,
DEEPTI

Reply

Erlend Geerts May 12, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Hi Deepti,

Yes sure, you can do all these by yourself. And yes, you can enjoy a tea at Pierre Loti after doing the Bosphorus cruise.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Anand Murthy December 25, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Hello Erlend

I am Anand from Bangalore and planning a trip to Istanbul with my family. Probably in May. Can you please guide us. Do we have to go through a organised tour operator or can we plan it on our own? How did you do it and how is the place? Duration 7-9days max. can we stay in istanbul and cover the nearby places or do we have to stay in a couple of places?
Pl spare some time to let us have the details.
regards
Anand

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Erlend Geerts December 27, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Hi Anand,

Seven days is more than enough to see most of what Istanbul has to offer, without rushing through it. I’m not a tour guide, but I suggest to take your time to read up about Istanbul and plan it yourself. Buy a nice guide book, and use this site for complementary (local) information not found in most guide books. Do please most of the articles here, I’m sure each post hold some useful information.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Trevor May 29, 2014 at 4:54 am

My fiancee and I are going to Istanbul for our honeymoon before adventuring through Europe for a bit.

The bosphorous cruise with the sunset sounds romantic. Does anyone have any experience with this? I’ve read that the lines are very long to get on these boats and the trip is not what it used to be.

We are traveling this July.

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Liz Waggener July 27, 2014 at 7:09 am

We will be in Istanbul October 3-6th – I have read this is during a religious holiday and many things are closed. We very much want to see the Grand Bazaar – will it also be closed during this time?

Reply

Erlend Geerts July 27, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Hi Liz,

This post on religious holidays and this one on the feast of the sacrifice should provide the info you’re looking for.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Maz August 18, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Hi Erlend,

I am visiting Istanbul in a week and am interested in buying mens suits while there. Do you know which shops I should check out? I am looking for a good mix of quality and price. I have heard of Sarar and own a few suits by them. I don’t care about brand name that much as long as it is a nice suit.

Thanks,
Maz

Reply

Erlend Geerts August 19, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Hi Maz,
I’m sure you’ll find a nice selection of both famous and local brands in Istanbul’s top shopping centers. Alternatively, you could browse around in Nişantaşı, but prices will be higher.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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glenn August 20, 2014 at 8:54 am

hello… weird question but does anyone know if the scaffolding is still up inside the Aya Sofia dome?

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Erlend Geerts August 23, 2014 at 1:28 am

Hi Glenn,

Last time I was there, there was none.

Cheers,
Erlend

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Chiara September 4, 2014 at 10:42 am

I am trying to decide whether to book the Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam or the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam. Is it correct that the latter has different operating hours for men and women? That would mean that my husband and I would have to go in different times of the day which is kind of inconvenient. Does the Ayasofya Hamam work the same way? From the site it isn’t clear.

Thanks for your help.
Chiara

Reply

Erlend Geerts September 5, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Hi Chiara,

You’re right that the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam has different service hours for men and for women. So they basically made the choice for you. Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam doesn’t have this, but keep in mind that although you can enjoy the hamam at the same time, you will be in different rooms.

Kind regards,
Erlen

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Kathy September 7, 2014 at 2:05 am

Hi there

What a fabulous and very informative web site/magazine. My husband and I are visiting Istanbul for the first time in 4 days on 10 September and will have 3 full days before returning back to the UK on Sunday 14 September. I have found all the articles featured here so valuable. I have pinned your site on my mobile phone and laptop so that I can refer to your advice/articles whilst in Istanbul and have also printed off your advice on how to get from the Airport to our hotel and all about taxi scams.

Thank you so much for all this invaluable information.

Kind regards

Kathy

Reply

Erlend Geerts September 8, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Hi Kathy,

It’s my pleasure.

Enjoy your holiday,
Erlend

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Junaid September 20, 2014 at 11:01 am

Hi there. Just wanted to know that is it possible to walk the suspension bridge( the one in the bhosphorus cruise photo) or is it strictly reserves for vehicles only. Thanks in advance.

Reply

Erlend Geerts September 21, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Hi Junaid,

No one is allowed to walk on or over the bridge, simply to prevent suicide jumps. There are police checkpoints on either side.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Sondes October 12, 2014 at 2:43 am

Hi Erlend,

I would like first to thank you for the information you are sharing with us. The website is so helpful and easy to use.
I will be visiting Istanbul at the begining of November for a week .
Could you please suggest a romantic and nice restaurant for a dinner (trying to surprise by partner for his birthday).
I thought about the bosphorus dinner cruise but I am not sure if they operate in November as it may be cold.

Kind regards
Sondes

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 13, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Hi Sondes,

I would stay clear of the Bosphorus cruise dinner at that time of the year for sure. Have a look at Mikla (you’ll find links in the Locals Share category). Have a look at it, it’s a very famous restaurant with great views. Alternatively, you could go with 360 at BuzAda, the fabricated island on the Bosphorus. Views are obviously great, and you need to get there with there own boat shuttle, maybe a nice extra touch. Go in time though, because after 22:00 it may turn into a nightclub. The same goes for all the other places mentioned on the nightclub post.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Iftekhar October 21, 2014 at 4:59 am

Hello

I’m a 23-year-old student visiting Istanbul for the first time from Friday January 9th till Saturday January 10th on my transit to New York. I’ll be arriving at the Ataturk Airport on the morning of 9th and leaving on the morning of 10th. I’m completely clueless as to where I should stay, where I should go for siteseeing, for the food, etc. (I’m not really into museums, etc but would definitely like to see some famous landmarks). Your website seems to have some good information but if you could possibly give me some information about which safe budget hotel to stay in so that I’m within walking distance to most of the attractions, and which places I should definitely visit, I’d really appreciate it.

Thanks and regards,
Iftekhar

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 21, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Hi Iftekar,

We never give hotel recommendations, but since you have an early flight, you might stay close to the airport. We have plenty of pages on what to see, eat, and do. Pick what you think you must have seen, since you can’t do it all in one day.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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alqabaly mohammed October 26, 2014 at 10:35 am

HI
I am a 19 years old student who was thinking to spend my vocation in germany for this summer but after reading this article , I intend to visit Turkey firs .Thank you very much for openning my eyes on such beauty .

Many thanks,
M.Qabaly

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ponting October 27, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Hi,
Wow, what a wonderful site.
We are visiting in 1st week of November for 4 days. Are there any good sites for kids ( 4 years). We stay near Sultanahmet.
Thank you

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 27, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Hi,

Have checked out this page for activities in Istanbul with kids?

Kind regards,
Erlend

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ponting October 28, 2014 at 11:11 am

Thank you very much. I will check the link.

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Paul Jake November 11, 2014 at 8:20 am

Is Istanbul a gay friendly place?
Do they have gay scenes or Hamam for gay clients?

Please advise.

THanks

Reply

Erlend Geerts November 11, 2014 at 6:31 pm

Hi Paul,

Istanbul has a large and active gay community. Unfortunately, I can’t give you many details. I’m sure there are blogs geared towards the gay community.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Echa Khusnul November 21, 2014 at 5:34 am

Hi Erlend

i just got back from istanbul, i stayed at asian side, at kadikoy. and all i can say is… im in love with istanbul, such a great city. but i think you have to expose the asian side also, because there is so many good place too. your blog is really helpfull and makes me wanna go to istanbul again. hopefully i can go to istanbul again next year.

regards
Echa

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Erlend Geerts November 22, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Hi Echa,

Glad to hear that you fell in love with Istanbul. I have two pages on the Asian side of Istanbul, but maybe you overlooked those.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Yougesh November 30, 2014 at 8:11 am

Visiting Istanbul for 4 nights stopover, will have luggage, 4-5 suitcases.
Is there a place at the airport where I can store it and pickup the day I leave?

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Erlend Geerts November 30, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Not that I’m aware of.

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Revo December 4, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Hi Erlend!

Thanks for the great job you are doing! Even more admireable after reading some of the qustions underneath your articles and your steadily patient answers!;-)

I don’t have any questions, I’m well set for a weekend in Istanbul after reading your blog!!

Thank you!!

Reply

Erlend Geerts December 5, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Hi Revo,

Thanks a lot for the compliments. Glad I could help!

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Mac January 2, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Hi Erland,
Just wanted to comment on such a informated page you have created I was wondering if you could assist me with some advise as I have a full day in Istanbul on sunday 1st May 2015 pre cruise.
We are staying in the best western the presedent which is located n the old town I believe and was wondering if you could advise the best way to get to the port from the hotel using public transport,we wish to do the full day Bosphorus cruise using Şehir Hatları as recommended by yourselves also prices.
Thanks for your help and assistance
Mac

Reply

Erlend Geerts January 3, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Hi Mac,

To reach the cruise ship terminal, just take the tramway in the direction of Kabataş and get off at the Tophane stop.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Stuart January 5, 2015 at 1:03 am

Hi Erland, just spent many hours reading your very informative site and advice. Was in Istanbul some years back and decided to do a 2 day visit on my return back to SA. My wife and I would have liked to do the cruise but it would appear it is closed. Is this correct? We will be staying at the Doubletree Hilton in the old town and would like to experience Turkish cuisine. Could you recommend a restuarant close by.
Thank you and keep up the good work.
Stuart.

Reply

Erlend Geerts January 5, 2015 at 6:53 pm

Hi Stuart,

You may want to give Asmali Cangrim Cigerim on Istiklal Street a try. It’s a budget restaurant, with genuine Turkish cuisine.

There still are cruises on the Bosphorus. If weather conditions permit, Şehir Hatları provides one each day at 14:15 from Eminönü.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Meryem January 26, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Hi, with my husband we are about to visit Istanbul for 5days and we are looking for a restaurant with a local live performance “music” which not very expensive. Can you help us please. Thanks

Reply

Erlend Geerts January 28, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Hi Meryem,

You may want to have dinner in Nevizade, where singers often come from table to table.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Meryem January 29, 2015 at 10:45 pm

Hi Erlend,
We went there and we loved the place so much :) thanks for your advise.

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Natalie February 7, 2015 at 11:34 pm

Hi Erlend,

Thank you for all this information about Istanbul! There is so much of it, but it was a little confusing to me that the topics were written more than a year ago. I had doubts, but comments and your answers on them сonvinced me that I can trust you ;)

So, I have a little strange question about Topkapi Palace. As I understood it’s one of the most popular sightseeing in Istanbul, so there are many tourists all the time. In all travelguides I read there is such advice: “Go to Topkapi Palace first (like at 9 in the morning)”. Is this really true and important? I also read that Hagia Sofia is very popular among the tourists so there are also crowds… But I’m going to buy online tickets (to save myself from queues). I thought that it’s more important to see first Hagia Sofia and Basilica Cistern (since they are close to each other), and then go to Topkapi. This route seems to me more logical also because if you go to Topkapi your tour ends in the north part of the palace which is away from Hagia Sofia and Basilica Cistern… In winter all sightseeings close early so I’m worried about time: is it real to see these three places in one day?

Thanks for the help!

Reply

Erlend Geerts February 8, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Hi Natalie,

In winter lines are much shorter. Also, given the fact that you’ll probably send an hour maximum in Hagia Sophia, 45 min tops in the cistern, and about half a day on the Topkapi grounds, the order you have in mind makes perfect sense. But yes, start your tour at 9 a.m. If you have time left, you can visit the Blue Mosque too.

Erlend

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Anuli February 9, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Hi Erlend,

Thank you so much for articles on Turkey. I plan to visit Istanbul for 4 days in april. I would to visit some historic places and shop (clothes,shoes, bags). I am confused whether to book for a hotel at sultanahmet or aksaray.
Ps. I’m a single lady and I am traveling alone

Reply

Erlend Geerts February 10, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Hi Anuli,

In that case Sultanhamet or Beyoğlu.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Danny Martin February 22, 2015 at 12:14 am

Hi Erlend,

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful page. We were Istanbul last week and had a memorable trip. We are now in Buenos Aires (home). We had a fantastic time in Istanbul!! It was a very fascinating, magical and unforgettable cultural experience for the whole family. The hospitality and friendliness shown to us was much more than we expected. Ozlem was a great guide, she was friendly, attentive to our needs and very informative everywhere we went. Ozlem went out of her way to make sure we experienced all cultural aspects of Istanbul beyond what we had asked for. We are very grateful to you and Ozlem for making this a once in a lifetime experience that we will never forget. Our travel agent was ToursTurkey.com it is a highly recommended tour company for Istanbul and Turkey package tours.

I just wanted to share our experiences with the other fellow travelers.
Happy Travels,
Danny

Reply

syed February 23, 2015 at 1:51 pm

hello Erlend,
you have been an amazing guy giving all the info a tourist needs…
i just want to know if we are allowed to go to the roofs of grand bazaar….i saw a picture …the view is amazing
thanks

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Erlend Geerts February 23, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Hi Syed,

No, unless you are called James Bond, you are not.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Samar February 24, 2015 at 10:19 pm

Great Site , with very helpful information , i was wondering if im travelling with 1 year old toddler , is it easy to move around with a baby stroller ?? we are planning to visit these places , princess island & take Bosphours trip as well , any advice ?

Thanks :)

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Erlend Geerts February 25, 2015 at 9:06 pm

Hi Samar,

Yes and no. Yes in the car free areas such as the Sultanhamet Square, Hippodrome, and its surroundings, as well as Istiklal Caddesi. Regular streets, given the age of the city, are very narrow. Therefore, pedestrian areas are very small and often not smooth driving. If possible, I would recommend a ‘backpack’ like solution for babies to cope with those streets.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Jerry February 26, 2015 at 8:04 am

Hi Erlend,

Firstly, thanks for the effort you have put into this site in the interest of all of us!

Secondly, of all the sites that I have been to the internet, there is not one can came close to your site in terms of providing practical advice.

I will be visiting in June / July 2015, my question is, which place would be most ideal / central for accommodation so as to cover the places that you have listed here?. I have two little kids traveling with me so do not want to commute a lot each day.

Regards,
Jerry.

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Erlend Geerts February 26, 2015 at 8:59 pm

Hi Jerry,

If don’t plan to participate in the nightlife or if you want to keep commuting to a minimum, then you better stay in the Sultanahmet area.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Fatima March 17, 2015 at 8:28 am

Dear Erlend,

Thank you very much for your great website. I’m going to Istanbul next week for 5 days and it’s my first trip to Turkey. I have a question: Is it secure for a solo female traveler to stay in tiny budget hotels or hostels in Sultanahmet or Fatih districts? I mean single rooms in hostels and not shared ones.

Best Regards,

Fatima

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Erlend Geerts March 17, 2015 at 6:50 pm

Hi Fatima,

I wish I could help, but I never stayed in one. I have no experience with it.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Clifton Jimrevees March 17, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Hi Erlend,

Clifton here again. I had posted a doubt at your Bosphorus Cruise section which thankfully you promptly answered.

What I wanted to know is that I have added Chora Church in my list of places to see during my visit in August. But went browsing the net I came across article that it was under renovation and that most of the things to see there were sealed off. Please advice if I should still go there. My Visit plan is August 2015.

Note: Please bear with me, i will be asking you almost all my doubts regarding my visit…

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Erlend Geerts March 17, 2015 at 6:57 pm

Hi Clifton,

According to my information, the restoration hasn’t been completed yet. But you can ask your hotel concierge to give them a call and find out to be 100% sure.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Clifton Jimrevees March 18, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Thanks dear,
Will call up my hotel concierge before i leave.

Regards
clifton

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Clifton Jimrevees March 21, 2015 at 7:43 pm

Dear Erlend,

I was planning to visit the miniaturk with my kids with august.
Can you please give me your reviews about this place.

Regards
Clifton

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Erlend Geerts March 22, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Hi Clinton,

Well, I mostly hear positive feedback from families who went there with kids.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Shelley March 30, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Dear Erlend
We are coming 17th july didn’t realise it was ede, public holiday but I am told everything will be open at 1pm ,&bazaars will open on Monday ,what will be best to see on the Sunday as they say a lot is closed on the Monday ,we go on the Tuesday to travel to Dalaman ,Also I read one of the comments on dodgy taxi drivers ,we have pre pick up withBakiUtku uner airport shuttle taking us to Sabina Gokcen airport ,6adults 60 Euros, ,hoping they are reliable ,
Great advice ,written lots down
Shelley

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Erlend Geerts March 30, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Hi Shelley,

Most sightseeing spots will resume service after noon. So you could plan a Bosphorus tour in the morning?

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Sangeetha April 4, 2015 at 2:55 am

Hi,

Please advise if we are travelling for 7-8 nights, is it good enough to only explore Istanbul or am I gonna miss out on a lot by not visiting other cities like Izmir, Cappadocia. What would you recommend ? Is a week stay enough in Istanbul to see all the major places and also have time to relax and enjoy. Thanks ….

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Erlend Geerts April 5, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Hi Sangeetha,

It all depends on what you want to see, and at what speed. But yes, you could squeeze in a one or two day trip to Cappadocia or Izmir.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Grace April 5, 2015 at 2:06 am

Hi Errand,
Incredibly informative website. Can you please provide me with info for our upcoming trip to Istanbul in September for two weeks. Is 2 weeks too long to stay in Istanbul. What location would you suggest we stay in during our visit. We prefer to rent an apt. Ad we are avid walkers and enjoy taking subways to get to places in our travel. Also can u tell me if it is worthwhile to fly to Greece, or any other country for that matter, for a few days while vacationing in Istanbul. We hear that the flights from Istanbul to Greece are reasonable. Thank you. Grace

Reply

Erlend Geerts April 5, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Hi Grace,

Two weeks is indeed quite long. But instead of going to another country, why not visit some other interesting parts in Turkey, such as Cappadoccia. Contact a travel agent, I’m sure they can help you out. This site only focuses on Istanbul.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Joanna April 7, 2015 at 10:39 pm

Great website! Thanks a lot for sharing your experience :)

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Balaji Balasubramaniam April 10, 2015 at 11:56 pm

Hi Erlend,

I really learnt a lot from your website. Hagia Sophia Museum looks beautiful at night. What other sites/places in Istanbul looks fabulous at night? Any recommendations?

Keep up the great work.

Kind Regards,
Balaji.

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Erlend Geerts April 12, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Hi,

All major monuments are nicely lit.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Balaji Balasubramaniam April 14, 2015 at 2:39 am

Thank you for your reply, Erlend.

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Carmen April 12, 2015 at 10:09 pm

Hi Erlend
I plan to go Istambul in september… I´m from latin américa and I wanna know if I can wear short clothes. Is it good to stay there 7 days?
Thanks!

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Erlend Geerts April 13, 2015 at 6:29 pm

Hi Carmen,

Short clothes are OK, but don’t go too short, as in very sexy. Also, make sure to dress appropriate if you plan to visit a mosque. Seven days is more than enough.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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David O April 14, 2015 at 11:07 am

Hi Erlend

I came across your site when I was looking for information on passes in Istanbul. The information on the Museum Pass was great. Your site is a wealth of good information.

The question I have is this: my friend and I are going to be in Istanbul for 5 days at the end of June. This will be during Ramazan. She is very much into eating and is looking forward to her first taste of Turkish foods. I have been to Istanbul twice before and am wondering what I will find different during this trip throughout the city and also in Sultanahmet area when I always stay.

Thanks

David

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Erlend Geerts April 14, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Hi David,

Have you had a look at this article on Ramadan in Istanbul yet? If you still have questions, let me know. Btw, I love your photographs. Any chance I could use some of them on Istanbul in the future, of course with accreditation to your site?

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Anastasia April 16, 2015 at 6:02 am

Love the wealth of information you provide. I am planning to travel to Istanbul the beginning of July with my husband and five kids ages 14-5. We are flying into Turkey and the going to Greece. I am concerned about the heat and getting around with the kids. I have been told that the heat can be unbearable and make it hard to get around and that my kids may be to young for this kind of city. Thoughts?

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Erlend Geerts April 16, 2015 at 10:07 pm

Hi Anastasia,

The heat should be OK in the beginning of July. Maybe have a look at this page for some fun things for kids?

Kind regards,
Erlend

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sadaf April 17, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Hi,
I must compliment you on the excellent job with this blog.
My husband and I are traveling to Turkey this May with our 6 year old son. We will be there for 8 full days excluding arrival and departure days.
I would appreciate some help on the area I should look for hotels in Istanbul (preferably an apartment)
I wish to travel to some other cities too. Please help Asit is our maiden trip to Turkey.
Many thanks
Sadaf

Reply

Erlend Geerts April 17, 2015 at 6:13 pm

Hi Sadaf,

Here’s a nice overview of two areas to stay in Istanbul. Since you’re looking for an apartment, you may want to check out the area round the Galata Tower as well. My sister stayed there once, and was very happy with the flat and the neighborhood.

There are so many possible city trips you could make. That depends on your preferences. This site focuses on Istanbul only though.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Balaji Balasubramaniam April 18, 2015 at 1:31 am

Dear Erlend,

Do you know Google maps works in Turkey? I’m planning to bring GPS from here with Turkey maps, but want to make sure to prepare for a backup plan.

Thank you,
Balaji.

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Erlend Geerts April 18, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Hi Balaji,

Google maps works just fine here.

Erlend

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Ainnie April 19, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Hi Erlend

You are doing an amazing job! I really appreciate the useful information provided here. I am planing to visit Istanbul next week from 21st – 25th April and got a bit disappointed with the weather forecast – it seems coldish. Can you please suggest what shall I pack to wear?

Thanks
BW
Ainnie

Reply

Erlend Geerts April 19, 2015 at 9:19 pm

Hi Ainnie,

Yes, the weather is a bit below par these days. Bring jumpers and a jacket, but you’ll see that you’ll take them off the moment the sun appears.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Sadaf April 20, 2015 at 11:19 pm

Thanks so much for your response.

Do you recommend staying in Sultanahmet or Cihangir or Beyoglu for my maiden trip? I am not too keen on the night scene as I will have a 6year old child with me. As you recommended Apartments around Galata, will those be far from the main sights? I don’t want to change too many trams, metro, etc.
Thanks in advance.
Cheers

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Erlend Geerts April 21, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Hi Sadaf,

In that case, go for Sultanahmet.

Cheers,
Erlend

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radhika April 22, 2015 at 8:13 pm

Hi we want to go to authentic sufi concert when we are in istanbul. Do you have any recommendations ?

Reply

Erlend Geerts April 23, 2015 at 9:28 am

Have you checked out this article on Whirling Dervishes?

Reply

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