is the cruise terminal far from Topaki Palace, Blue Mosque, St. Sophia? How can I get there without buying a shore excursion with the ship?
Gluey - You can actually rent a car and driver for a very reasonable price in Istanbul and have him take you to all of the spots you want to see - please include The Grand Bazaar and Spice market. The drivers will be by the port when you disembark - negotiate before getting in and agree to finalize payment when arriving back at the ship. They will have no problem with that.
I've spent a lot of time in Istanbul with two of my friends that live there and it really is the way to go. The ship's tour is way too expensive.
Have Fun in an Amazing City, Greg
I agree with Greg. Also, you can do some searches online and book it ahead. I did this for Istanbul and Kusadasi. We saved a ton of money, had a personal tour rather than a big bus, and got to go where the locals go for lunch. If you want more info on who I used, PM me.
Thx guys for the helpful info. Mike whom did you use for this trip?
Here is the company that I used:
Tijen was our guide- she and her husband run the company and are excellent at what they do. Even though her website only has a few pre-done tours, you can work with her to make it what you want. For instance, we designed our own tour in Kusadasi because some of the people in our group had already been there, so we wanted to see a few different sights, like the market and the Isa Bey Mosque.
History is Tijen's specialty, which I was enthralled with, however my father in law was not as interested in, so asked her to lighten it up a bit, which she did.
Side note- Topkapi,Blue Mosque, and St. Sophia are all very close together, so that is easy to do. Also consider seeing St. Saviour in Chora (a gorgeous Byzantine church with stunning fresco's), Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, and the spectacular Süleymaniye Mosque complex. If you have a choice, you do have to pay extra to see the Harem in the Topkapi, however I thought that it was worth the extra fee.
Its not walkable distance but there is very affordable and quick tram that runs down the side of the Bosphorus and straight into the Sultanahmet area where all the locations you mentioned are located. You can take it to the Spice Market and to the Grand Bazaar. If you google Istanbul Rail Transit you should see a line called the Historic Line. It will hit all the sites and for just pennies of what you would need to buy from the cruise.
Gluey, are you on a large ship or a small one? Ours was lucky enough to snag a spot on the same side and very close to the Sultanhemet/ Topkapi area. We took a private tour with Ekol, which was a little pricy because only my husband and I went, tho still much less than the ship. You might check cruise critic's roll call for your ship and see if anyone has already organized a private tour you could join.
The tram works very well for connecting the cruise ports to the points of interest you mentioned, if you want to do it yourself (which is very easy).
You should get a copy of Rick Steves Mediterranean Cruise Ports, which has all the details you will need for visiting Istanbul (and your other ports) on your own.
You should also look at Cruise Critic. Their Other Mediterranean Ports Forum covers Istanbul; you'll see lots of trip reports from people who saw Istanbul on their own with no difficulty. Their Eastern Mediterranean Ports Reviews includes Istanbul (scroll down for the complete port list). And their Roll Calls will allow you to join others, if you want to book a private tour and split the cost with them.
Harold and Melissa -- Don't wait for gluey to answer. The post is from 2009..... :-(
I think you making this wayyyy too hard. From the cruise ship dock take the Tram (nice, new, modern, fast) across the bridge where you will find 90% of all the tourist sites, in this order: Spice Market, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar (and from there a short walk to the Suleymaniye Mosque). If you have any troubles walking, take a cab to the spice market or Topkapi Palace and proceed from there. We are in our 60's and see all this as doable.