I am flying into Istanbul on Sun, Oct. 22 around 2.30 p.m. with my travel companion (TC). Neither of us has been to Turkey. We are going to the tennis tournament and sightseeing. The games begin at 5 p.m. on Tuesday-Friday. So we have the mornings and early afternoons for sightseeing on those days. My TC has to fly home on Friday, I will stay for the games on Saturday, from about noon, so probably no sightseeing that day. Is that enough time to see most of what Istanbul has to offer? I can stay on longer, no rush to get home.
Last spring we spent 5 nights in Istanbul and never left the Old Town with all the sights. The best thing we did was to take a tour with Istanbul Eats, of the Old Town. We learned how hospitable the Turks are and that we could eat and shop where the locals eat, live, and shop. Amazing. Take their tour the first day and you will feel confident about prowling around all the back streets. We also did a ferry ride to the Asian side and later took the ferry up to Kadikoy near the Black Sea. We stayed at the Erboy Hotel, perfect location for the sights and waling to the waterfront for ferry rides.
Lovely. The Erboy was recommended to us on TA. I'm glad to hear you liked it too. Not so sure about the eating tour - we are strict vegetarians.
It's enough time to see the "highlights" (Aya Sofia, Blue Mosque, Sulimanye Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Underground Cistern, etc). There's always more to see, of course, but you won't feel cheated in the time you have. I don't know if you will have access to Rick Steves Istanbul. I found it very useful, but I disagreed with his authors (he didn't write it himself) about a few things. The Taksim Square and Istiklal Street area are not worth going out of the way for, particularly on a short trip. And the long Bosphorus cruise was very disappointing. We MUCH preferred our trip to Kadikoy, which is easily and cheaply accomplished on a commuter boat. Our recommended hotel (the Sarnic) was also a dud, but the neighborhood (Sultanahmet) is great. My friend recently stayed at the Serkeci Konak and liked it a lot.
Sadly no access to RS books here. I have the DK Eyewitness Top 10 for Istanbul. My TC is looking it over this weekend.
Hi Chani - There is so much to do in Istanbul I wold consider staying an extra day or two. You will have enough time though to see the major sights ....definitely stay in the Sultanahmet area where most major sights are. There are so many secondary sights to see after the main attractions...or even if you just walk around.
Since you're staying there so long consider VRBO.com. People renting out private apartments. My family of 4 rented #148423. My review is dated 4/12/2012. Definitely better than a hotel room.
Since you live in Tel Aviv, I assume you are Jewish. You might want to visit the Jewish Museum. It's small, but quite interesting. It's located near the Galata Tower. It's a little hard to find, I think deliberately so; because of the 1986 massacre at a nearby synagogue.
I definitely second the recommendation for the Jewish Museum. But the one we saw (maybe there's more than one?) was not so close to the Galata Tower, which is up a hill. It was right near the Karikoy tram stop, just across the Galata Bridge from the old section, and still in the flat part. Edit: how can I be sure of this? I was traveling with my mother, who has great difficulty with hills. After one disaster, we had to avoid the Galata Tower area, and use the funiculars to get up and down from Taksim/Istiklal Street to the tram.
Chani.. Well, if you are in no rush to get home I would definitely add a few days. I was there for 5 days and we hit the major stuff, as well as took a cruise to Asia... my grandson liked it and we had the delicious yogurt. There was also a great park right on the main tram line that we enjoyed quite a bit. We would often stop on the walk from our hotel to the main tourist spots. I loved Istanbul and if you end up with extra time I think there were a few days trips, although we did not do any.
Harold is correct that the Jewish Museum is closer to the Galata Bridge than to the Galata Tower. Also, I meant to make another hotel suggestion to you. We stayed at the Osmanhan, in the Sultanahmet area. It's very clean, serves a nice breakfast, is well-located, and has a most friendly, helpful staff. On top of all that, the price was very reasonable.
Stay longer...Istanbul is so big with so many attractions (not just the Old City). Check out the Asian side, the Pera/ Galata quarters across the Galata Bridge, Ortakoy and towns north on the Bosphorus (e.g Bebek), and Princes Islands (there's 2 hour ferry from Istanbul and they are just lovely). Stick with mezze and you'll be fine as a vegetarian.