There really is no other city like Istanbul. Having been ruled and fought over by the Romans, Ottomans and Byzantines, there are few places in Istanbul that are not steeped in history, or that don’t come with a story!
A FEW OF THE MAIN ATTRACTIONS, MUSEUMS AND MUST SEES
Topkapi Palace. For over three centuries this wonderfully decorated palace played home to the Ottoman Empire. Certainly worth a visit but, given the high price of entry, make a day of it!
Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii). One of the signature images for Turkey with its six tall minarets, the Blue Mosque is a must see on any visit to Istanbul.
Church of St Saviour. Located in Chora, the church homes some of the most celebrated examples of mosaics and frescos from the Byzantine era.
The Grand Bazaar. No trip to Istanbul would be complete without a visit and haggle at the Grand Bazaar. Over 4000 stalls and shops offering all manner of trinkets and treasures, a shopper’s paradise!
Egyptian Spice Bazaar. Spend an hour wandering around the many delis and shops selling fine spices, nuts, dried fruit and Turkish delight, don’t get put off by the pushy street sellers outside!
Bosphorus Ferry. Explore one of the largest waterways in the world by taking one of the ferry boats across the Bosphorus Straight. Ferries are a popular tourist activity and a cheap and enjoyable way to see more of the city.
The Galata Bridge. Spend an afternoon drinking, eating and boat watching under the Galata Bridge. The bridge links the two sides of European Istanbul and has a good selection of cafes, bars and restaurants on the lower level.
Galata Tower. A great vantage point offering fabulous 360* views across the city.
Walk the City Walls. The largest Byzantine structure still standing in the city, the amazing walls home Istanbul Old City and stretch from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn, a colossal 6.5km.
Istanbul Modern Museum and Art Gallery. In a converted warehouse offering fabulous views of the Bosphorus is the trendy Istanbul Modern. A museum, contemporary art gallery exhibiting local and international artists, and a well reviewed restaurant awaits you.
The Whirling Dervishes. Twice a month the hypnotic whirling dervish dancers perform at the Galata Mevlevihansi but it’s worth booking in advance.
Princes Islands. Located off the shore of Istanbul, in the Marmara Sea, are the Princes Islands that can easily be reached by tourist or ferry boat. Playing home to the local elite, they have a fascinating past and are worth a gander.
Sunken Palace. The set for the Bond film, From Russia with Love, this eerie cavern, also known as the Underground Cistern, is fascinating.
PLACES TO EAT, BARS AND RESTAURANTS
To make a list of all the good places to eat in Istanbul would be a never ending project! Many tourists tend to stick to the pricey offerings around the Sultan Ahmet district and tourist areas, but there are some very tasty options to be discovered almost everywhere! See below some popular and well reviewed choices:
Kariye Hotels restaurant Asitane. Located next to St. Saviour in Chora, Asitane offers an interesting, if pricey, fusion menu based on dishes once served to Sultans of the Ottoman court. The restaurant itself is simple; the focus is on the cuisine. It comes well reviewed by foodies.
Feriye Restaurant. In a stunning 19th century building overlooking the Bosphorus in Ortakoy is Feriye. Offering similar fancy Ottoman dishes with a modern twist, it is also well known for its fabulous seafood dishes.
Tria Elegance Restaurant, Sultan Ahmet. Fabulous international and Turkish cuisine in a pleasant setting at reasonable prices.
Pasazade Ottoman Restaurant, Erboy Hotel. In a corner location under Erboy Hotel is this popular restaurant serving treaditional Ottoman dishes. Nice courtyard during the summer months.
Dukkan Steakhouse. Having its own butchers shop nearby, the Dukken Steakhouse is popular with all those seeking homemade sausages, meatball dishes and an excellent hearty dinner. To be found in Armutlu.
Aloran Cafe & Bar, Nr. Topkapi Palace. Tasty Turkish dishes are served at the popular Aloran restaurant. Good prices!
Boncuk Restaurant. One very popular haunt near the fish market in Beyoglu is Boncuk. Serving classic mezze dishes and well cooked local food with the all important raki, this is a well priced restaurant and a locals choice.
Degustasyon Lokantasi. For those looking for a fair priced traditional feast head for Degustasyon in the Beyoglu Fish Market.