CITY ON BOSPHORUS
The ancient city of Istanbul, sits on the Bosphorus Strait, that divides two continents, Europe and Asia. Formerly known as Constantinople, Istanbul became one of the most important economical and cultural city in the Eurasia. This is the one of the most populous city in the World, and with its 15-million residents, Istanbul became modern Megapolis.
We stayed in Grand Hotel Gülsoy, right next to Şehzade Mosque, a 10 min walk from the Old Town, and all the main attractions. Vezneciler Metro station is just block away from where you can take M2 line and easily connect to other parts of the city and Ataturk Airport. This hotel offers fantastic complementary breakfast buffet, free Turkish bath (from 8:00 - 17:00), pool and gym.
Due to his historic and geographic importance, Istanbul has lot to offer, from historic sites, Bosphorus boat rides, amazing food and cuisine, and interesting but secluded night life. The Hagia Sophia, the Byzantium crown jewel from 6th century, is a museum since 1935. The entrance is 60TL and be aware of extremely long lines (note: for 90TL you can skip the lines, and it’s worth it). This historic “monolith” sits on Sultanahmet Square, opposite of the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii), a 17th Century Mosque and most popular tourist attraction. Be aware of opening hours for visitors (free entrance), as the Mosque is closed during the praying hours. Just block away from the Hagia Sophia, is the Basilica Cistern (the entrance fee is 20TL), fabulous 5th century water reservoir that once supply the city with fresh water. Few minutes by foot from Sultanahmet is the Topkapi Palace, former Ottoman Empire Sultan’s residence. The Palace entrance fee is 60TL, with additional 35TL to enter the Harem. The Palace is overlooking the Bosphorus Strait, and was hosting the Sultans till 18th century when they move to more exclusive Dolmabahçe Palace.
While in Istanbul, one should take a tourist boat ride on Bosphorus (usually 2-3 hours), or just cross to the Asian side with one of the many local ferries that depart from few city ports. The city offers many boat tours with similar prices and departure times, with many of them lasting the whole day.
The Grand Bazaar is the most interesting way to indulge you shopping needs with cheap and questionable products. As a part of the Old Town, this maze of narrow streets with small shops sends you back in time when Istanbul was important economic center between Europe and Asia. This wast area is popular tourist attraction so be aware of tricky and very persuasive merchants. At the far end of this unique shopping mall, there is the Spice Bazaar where spices from around the world fill the air in this covered market. The prices are generally higher here as this is a classic tourist trap.
The Galata Bridge is just few meters from the Spice Bazaar entrance from where you will cross into Karaköy neighborhood. This unique bridge hosts many restaurant on the lower level overlooking the Golden Horn. Karaköy is a cute area with narrow passageways (sokak) and plenty of cafes, bakeries, small artsy shops and restaurants and bars. There sits The Galata Tower, 5th century former prison, that overlooks the Old Town with a 360 views of the Istanbul.
Istanbul has famous for its secluded night life, with restaurants (with amazing food), bars (with live music) and clubs. Non of these are on the main Streets and Boulevards, so make sure to wander around Taskim Square or Beyoglu. You will stumble on completely different world. Small narrow alleys are packed with restaurants, bars and clubs next to each other, locally known as meyhane (drink house). Tips or bakshish is common in Istanbul, so do not forget to tip.
The place where East meets the West, has lot to offer, and it should be on every travelers bucket list.