Your First Time in Istanbul



Description:

Population of Istanbul, with over 12 million people, exceeds that of a country, Belgium; and the city with an area of approximately 5.712 km², spreads over two major continents: Europe and Asia (thus receiving the acronym Eurasia).

Lucky you, the most iconic monuments, the historic city and major points of interest are gathered around in the European part of the city. Sultanahmet is the so-called historic center and a good base for most first-time visits, cultural excursions and sight-seeing. The historic nature of Sultanahmet also makes it a natural tourist hub.

Taksim, Beyoglu and Galata are interconnected regions with streets running parallel and across to one another. In fact, the pedestrian Istiklal street extends from the Taksim Square down to the towns of Galata, the Tunel area and Karakoy -the port. These places are bohemian and artsy places with designer stores, craft shops and trendy cafes, bars and pubs. Must-see and do stuff for leisure.

The following list is divided into 4 sections to help visitors find most relevant information under a relevant category. The list will pin-point for your benefit the major point of interests (monuments and entertainment wise), as well as referencing some locally recommended venues for an off-the-beaten course.

Author: aisha


Day 1 - Istanbul


THINGS TO DO

On a first time visit to Istanbul, especially if it is for leisure, you should really spare time to go to the historic center: Sultanahmet. Sultanahmet is not just where most of the Ottoman and Byzantine heritage remains; but also where a synthesis of multiple cultural and religious influences of centuries is embedded.

Hippodrome, the ancient horse-racing track from the Byzantine Empire, is now the Sultanahmet Square with only a few fragments of the original race-track. It is also a very good starting point for general sight-seeing activities, because many other major attractions are within walking distance from here. Monuments such as the Serpent Column, Egyptian Obelisk and the Walled Obelisk are also to be found in this main square.

Time left over from the sightseeing activities should be devoted to relaxing the Ottoman style in a hamam (Turkish bath) and exploring the city's social spheres.

There are two historically significant hamams in Istanbul. One is the Galatasaray Hamam, which is just off the Istiklal Street -and, thus easy to reach. The other hamam is called the Cemberlitas Hamam; and it pronounces history more profoundly. As it is located in the historic center of the city, a treatment here could easily be incorporated to you schedule. Tip: Do not go to lunch first and then to the hamam; steam and hotness inside the hamam on a full stomach may be dangerous.

Istanbul is a major metropolitan city of both day and night entertainment, so exploring its social spheres will be time consuming as well. It will also be a lot of fun! Start with the pedestrian Istiklal Street is a must-visit area that leads the way from the Taksim Square into the bohemian and trendy districts of the city (Galata and Beyoglu).

So much is always said and written about the famous sea-canal: Bosphorus. A first-time visit to Istanbul cannot be completed without at least a walk by its coast, or better yet by boat through the canal.


1

Hippodrome

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Location:

Sultanahmet Meydani (Square)
At Meydani (Horse Plaza), Sultanahmet
Istanbul, Turkey


2

Hagia Sophia

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expert pick

Location:

Sultanahmet Square
Istanbul, Turkey


3

Topkapi Palace

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expert pick

Location:

Sultanahmet Meydanı
34122 Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 522 4422
fax: +90 212 528 5991


4

Kapali Çarsi (Covered Market)

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expert pick

Location:

22 Kalpakçılar Caddesi
34975 Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 519 1248


5

Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi)

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Location:

Yerebatan Caddesi 13
(Near St. Sophia)
34110 Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 522 1259


6

Süleymaniye Camii (Süleymaniye Mosque)

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Location:

Süleymaniye Mosque, next to Istanbul University's north gate, Suleymaniye, Fatih
34110 Istanbul, Turkey


7

Spice Bazaar (Mısır çarşısı)

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expert pick

Location:

Behind the New Mosque in Eminönü
Istanbul, Turkey


8

İstiklal Caddesi

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expert pick

Location:

İstiklal Caddesi
Istiklal Cad., Beyoglu
34437 Istanbul, Turkey


10

Cemberlitas Hamami

expert pick

Location:

Vezirhan Caddesi 8
Cemberlitas
34440 Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 522 7974
fax: 90 212 511 2535


11

Istanbul Archaeological Museum

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expert pick

Location:

Osman Hamdi Bey Yokusu Gülhane
34425 Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 520 7740


12

Istanbul Ferry

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Location:

Various locations
Istanbul, Turkey


Day 2 - Istanbul


RESTAURANTS

Turkish cuisine is a blend of Ottoman, Aegean and Middle Eastern influences. As such it is almost impossible to pin-point one restaurant, where the first time visitor may appreciate all delicacies of this overwhelming cuisine.

While kebab is considered to be the trademark food offer of Turkey, fish and "meze" (small dishes) are as and even more important parts of the local cuisine.

In all cases, the major aspect of Turkish cuisine is the way in which it is eaten: slowly, gradually and with cheerful company. Whether the diners are at a kebab restaurant, fish restaurant or at a tavern, dinners last long hours, accompanied by raki (Turkish ouzo) or wine and conversation.


1

Konyali Lokantasi -Sirkeci

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expert pick

Location:

Mimar Kemalettin Cad. 5. Vakif Han, Sirkeci
Sirkeci
34400 Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 513 9610


2

Gurme Boncuk

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Location:

Asmalı Mescit Sok. No:29
Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 245 31 69 / 90 212 245 31 69 70


3

Rumeli Iskele

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expert pick

Location:

Yahya Kemal Caddesi 1 Rumelihisari
Rumeli Hisari
Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 263 2997


4

Tarihi Selim Usta Sultanahmet Köftecisi

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expert pick

Location:

12 Divan Yolu
34110 Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 513 1438


5

360 Istanbul

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expert pick

Location:

Misir Apt. K:8 N:32/309
Istiklal Caddesi
80600 Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 251 1042 / 90 212 251 1043
fax: 90 212 251 1048


Day 3 - Istanbul


NIGHTLIFE

I've said already how Istanbul entertains its residents and visitors 'non-stop' day & night. It is unlike any city that even on Sundays it does not sleep.

Going out, getting drunk and clubbing are activities that are not solely limited to weekends. There are many places that have special parties on a certain day every week. Week-day parties tend to naturally wrap up earlier; but on weekends festing goes on until the Sun comes come back up in the sky. Take a walk on any Saturday or Sunday by the Bebek or Arnavutkoy Coast very early in the morning (between 5 and 6 AM) and you will see fishermen fishing, fit people jogging and clubbers breakfasting...

Below are only a few places that are attractive to a first-time visitor. They are not all just clubs. Some are Turkish taverns where it is only appropriate to drink raki :) and others are night-out concert venues, where you rock with your favorite star with a can of beer or a glass of mojito.


1

Çiçek Pasajı

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Location:

İstiklal Caddesi
34433 Istanbul, Turkey


2

Reina

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Location:

Muallim Naci Caddesi 44
Ortaköy
Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 30 212 259 5919 / 90 30 212 259 5921
fax: 90 30 212 260 1083


3

Anjelique

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expert pick

Location:

Muallim Naci Caddesi Salhane sokak no. 5
Ortaköy
Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 327 2844
fax: 90 212 327 2845


4

Nu Club

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Location:

Tepebaşı Mesrutiyet Caddesi 147-149
Petit-Champs Passage
Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 245 6070


5

Babylon

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Location:

Seyhbender Sokak 3 Tunel-Asmalimescit
Tünel, Asmalimescit
80040 Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 292 7368
fax: 90 212 243 4527


Day 4 - Istanbul, Nişantaşı


LOCAL RECOMMENDATIONS: OFF THE BEATEN PATH AND LOCAL THINGS TO DO

The following short list are further tips for the visitor, who wishes to go beyond the first-time visit fascinating frustration. The things on this list are not severely "local". Think of them as things and places that locals would do or go to, when they want to see a new exhibition, spend a relaxed Sunday afternoon or hang out with friends.

Istanbul Modern is a modern arts museum, which is frequented by both locals and tourists alike. The locals follow the new exhibitions here and return more frequently.

Abdi Ipekci Caddesi is one of the local hang out places with posh cafes and upscale stores.

Visiting Princes' Islands is a favorable summer activity, which takes up an entire day. Locals prefer to go to the island either for an entire weekend; or simply day-trip for breakfast and/or lunch or simply brunch.

Climbing the Galata Tower is naturally not what the locals do. However, the neighborhood around the Tower has lately become very trendy among the elitist bohemians (if such a group could exist) for taking photos, strolling thorough designer stores, hand-picking second-hand clothes and drinking beer.

Last but not the least is the Sakip Sabanci Museum, which hosts not only very interesting exhibitions, but also pleasant summer concerts in its garden -not to be missed by those interested in jazz.


1

Istanbul Modern

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expert pick

Location:

Meclis-i Mebusan Cad. Liman Sahasý Antrepo No: 4
Karaköy
Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 334 7300
fax: 90 212 243 4319


2

Abdi İpekçi Caddesi

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Location:

Abdi İpekçi Caddesi
Kağıthane
Nişantaşı, Turkey


4

Adalar (Princes' Islands)

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Location:

Adalar
Istanbul, Turkey


5

Galata Tower

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Location:

Galata
Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: 90 212 245 11 60


6

Sakip Sabanci Museum

user rating

Location:

Sakip Sabanci Cad. 22
Emirgan
34467 Istanbul, Turkey

Contact:

tel: +90 212 277 2200
fax: +90 212 229 4914


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