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What to do in Istanbul

Shopping , Day Tours , Oriental Turkish Night , Bosphorus cruise with diner at night , Whirling Dervishes Ceremony ,
Night Life Istanbul ,

Every tourist who chooses to come to Istanbul knows about colorful & authentic Grand and Spice Bazaars. These places sell mostly souvenirs, jewellery, leather and carpet for tourists. If you are looking about modern day shopping ie. clothes, shoes, etc you have lots of other choices in this huge city. First of all Europes most largest shopping mall has been opened last year called Cevahir in Mecidiyekoy district. You can directly reach it by underground from Taksim or take simply a taxi. It has hundreds of men&women clothes shops with decent prices as well as a fast food court, a supermarket, a DIY shop and furniture shops. Akmerkez in Etiler, Kanyon and Metrocity are the other great shopping centres. Akmerkez and Kanyon has a good collection of designer shops like Harvey Nichols (Kanyon) or GANT (Akmerkez). Kanyon has an awesome architecture. You actually shop at the outside. It has many nice outdoor cafes that you can sit and relax. Galleria which is the oldest shopping centre of Istanbul is good for people who stays at the old part close to the airport. Profilo is the modest  and smallest them all in Mecidiyekoy area. All them has either cash machines or bank branches inside so dont worry about the money! However unlike the Bazaars you cant haggle with the sellers in these places yet you can be sure that you would never be ripped off.

If you like outdoor shopping Nisantasi area is just for you! From designer shops to the modest range ones it offers good choices. The area also very lively with its cafes, restaurants, bars theathers, concert halls, beautiful 19th century apartments.  Even if you dont like shopping why not stroll around to see the lively atmosphere, laughing locals at the cafes and beautiful flowers from the vendors?

 While Nisantasi area is the landmark for the European side of Istanbul, Bagdat Street is the landmark of Asian side. If you stay in European side it might be further away for you but if you like sea travel ling take a ferry from Eminonu to Kadykoy and then small buses called dolmus to the street. The street is much wider and longer than Nisantasi and very popular with youngsters! Like Nisantasi a wide selection of shops and entertainment will be waiting for you here too!.Enjoy!

Historic Sites, Museums

There are so many, but here are the biggies we visited and how we ranked them.   Any travel book has info on them so we need not comment on what to specifically see or expect:

Must Sees
1. Topkapi Palace is a world class treasure – not only for some of the architecture or artefacts, but to glimpse the life than Sultans led (and the Harem women). Plan 3-4 hours.   Audio guides available for purchase in Multilanguage for 10 Lira and worth every penny.   Arrive early – we were there by 9am but the Harem is not open until 10am and just before then hordes of people (in the hundreds) arrived by bus in tour groups.

2. Blue Mosque is a spectacular building, plan 40 minutes

3. Haghia Sophia is another magnificent building, plan 90 minutes

4. Basilica Cistern is a great place to visit in the heat of day, plan 60-75 minutes

Should Sees
5. Galata Tower , fabulous views great place to snap pictures, worth the admission price

6. Galata Bridge, better to walk under on both sides in both directions, great place to sit in the evening, have a beer and look at the Topkapi Palace, the Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque

7. Kariye Müzesi – Chora church. Church/museum with beautiful mosaics and frescos. Its near the land wall so go admire it too.   

Could Sees

8. Archaeological Museum is interesting but not a must see. Plan 75 minutes

9. New Eminonu Mosque (only because we prayed here, participating in the washing of our hands, feet, face and prayers) we are not Muslim just respectful of the host country.   Plan 30 minutes after the call for prayer.   We put our sandals in the plastic bags and carried them with us – and of course wore pants not shorts.   A highlight for us was watching a young man in front of us instruct his 8 or 9 year old son how to conduct himself by demonstrating how to stand, bend, kneel, etc. and we learned as well.

Cultural, Day Trips, Other
Must Do

1. Bosphorus Trip on the Ferry.   This was so relaxing with great vistas.   We enjoyed a meal, had haircuts, a shave J and a few beers at Anadolu Kavagi.   Ferry trip costs almost nothing and is a great break from the City proper (although the skyline of Istanbul is ever present).

2. Taksim Square and Istiklal Caddesi and streets off it are full of life – bars and restaurants and people everywhere.   We spent most evenings in and around this area.

3. Cagaloglu Hamam    A bit of a rip off for what you get, the masseuse hounded us for money afterwards, but it was worth the exp. of being there.   Great architecture and worth the price just to see it.   We did not go to a second “traditional;” non-tourist Haman (as planned) as one of us came down with some food poisoning (we think after eating Turkish ravioli with yogurt as near as we can figure).

Should Do
4.  Whirling Dervishes at the Mevlevi Monastery were very enjoyable, but a tad long.   Nice gift shop inside which you visit first to buy items at it was closed on the way out after the 2 nd show and many people were disappointed.

Could Do
5. Bus Tour of Istanbul from the Sultanahmet (audio guide provided in English).   We got to see a few places we would not have otherwise – and if time permits this is always a great introduction to any city.

6. Princes Islands and horse carriage ride (this was OK but the Island needs a real cleanup in particular the back 90 as it is littered with garbage everywhere – plan 45-60 minutes for the carriage ride) and plan to be disappointed if they do not clean it up.   Plan a half day for the excursion trip at a minimum.

7. Tram and Train trips – cheap way to see the best and worst areas of the City – we always do this where ever we go.   Use the Abkil pass – it works well, saves time and frustration buying jetons (tokens), is easy to use and saves a few bucks.

Shopping
While the Grand Bazaar is a must see place for a visit, it is not necessarily the best place to buy anything other than souvenirs.   We could see that the Grand Bazaar must have abounded in exotic goods from all corners of the world at one time.   Today however, it is full of trinkets, junk, knock offs – albeit there are carpets galore and of course hundreds of small jewellery places.   Its “buyer beware” here.   This is not the place to come to on your first day or two upon arrival and should be left to visit when you have some strength and energy to deal with the sheer size of the place and to withstand the constant banter and calls trying to get you to buy things.   We priced out some jewellery items in the Grand Bazaar and compared the prices to larger stand alone jewellery stores located elsewhere in Istanbul – and opted to purchase from these stores rather than the Grand Bazaar based on price, reputation and some local advice.   Notwithstanding, we observed many women in Muslin dress negotiating prices on rings and bracelets in the Grand Bazaar, indicative that they are capable of evaluating the authenticity jewellery and craftsmanship at a price they like.  

The Spice Bazaar and street surrounding it is much more interesting, and worthy of some time to explore.   I recall Lemon Lady saying she likes to shop for shawls on one of the streets – and we must have found that street – with store after store of shawls and such and we had to fight our way through all the women buying!.   Taksim offers some shopping, but the real shopping is in malls, back streets of Istanbul and those around the Grand Bazaar.   We did buy some very nice art, some prints, pottery, jewellery, and souvenirs – and certainly ended up with extra luggage which we had planned.

Turkey Tours with Chora Travel

 


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