My wife and I and another couple are going to be in Istanbul for two days in early August prior to a cruise. We are still looking for hotels and we want something nice but not $500/night. What areas of the city should we focus our search? Our focus will be on sight seeing but we want to enjoy some of the night life as well. We will be traveling during Ramadan. How will that impact our trip? Should the women dress a little more conservatively than they might at home when going out at night? Any other tips on sightseeing strategies would be appreciated.
I would recommend you get a copy of RS Istanbul Guide Book. We spent 9 days total in Istanbul in 2010 and found it indispensable. We stayed at the Hotel Sultan Hill which gave us a discount for showing our RS guide book. Great place, location, staff, and breakfast.
You don't have to dress conservatively. Believe me, there is a lot of exposed skin, lots. I've got pictures.
With two days, look for hotels in Sultanahmet. That is where the marquee tourist sites are located. I've stayed at the Blue Hotel and Empress Zoe in that area and would recommend both. They both have web sites with information: http://www.emzoe.com/ http://www.bluehouse.com.tr/english/default.asp I'm sure you'll get more recommendations from other posts. Here are my recommendations for a very intense two days, assuming you have not been to Istanbul before. Day 1 - Aya Sophia (2 hrs), Blue Mosque (1 hr) and Archaeology Museum (4 hrs)
Day 2 - Topkopi Palace (5 to 6 hrs) and Grand Bazaar (2 hrs). Also save a few minutes in early morning or evening to walk through the Hippodrome and look at the sites. For night life head over to Istiklal Street and Taksim Square. Istanbul is an international city and you will probably not be affected much by Ramadan. However, I have never been in that city during Ramadan. The only places where conservative dress is required are in mosques. Women will need a head cover and everyone will need to remove shoes. The blue mosque will provide a headcover you can borrow, smaller mosques may not. Have fun!
Just got back from RS 'Istanbul in 7 Days" touramazing!!! My first time in Istanbulgreat guide, wonderful city. I (and other RS tour members) stayed at the Hotel Sumengen, in the Sultanahmet district. I recommend it highlynot even close to $500 a night, and super clean, comfortable with delectable and sumptuous breakfasts, and most importantly, good hotel staff.
Good location (but is this your first time in Istanbul? If so,I wish you had more than 2 days. . .but, that said, "Happy travels!")