I have traveled widely abroad and have done two trips with Rick Steves (Italy 14 days, England & Wales). I am considering spending a week in Istanbul in July (alone - Rick has no Istanbul trips in July). For those of you who have visited Istanbul, please tell me if you would recommend the trip and how long you recommend I spend there. Also, any other pointers would be helpful! Thanks. LB
For me a week in Istanbul would be a bit longer than necessary, but if you enjoy scouring every little nook and cranny of a huge city then Istanbul would be a good one to explore. It's an amazing place with lots to see and do. It will be extremely hot and sweltering there in July so you might want to add a few days at a seaside resort area to cool yourself off.
Hi, My wife and I just spent 14 nights in Istanbul. 4 nights in the Sultanahmet area. This is the section of the city between the Golden Horn (Halic) and the Sea of Marmara. You might call it the old towne of Istanbul. We had been to Istanbul before and had spent 5 nights in this area so we only allocated 4 this time. You might want to allocate the majority of your time here. Try staying at two locations in Sultanahmet, one near the Blue Mosque and one down along the Spice Bazaar or west of there. Just to experience two neighborhoods. Then we skipped across to the Taksim area for six nights. This area is north of the Golden Horn and west of the Bosphorus. You might call this a newer area of Istanbul. Its main tourist attraction is Istaklal Street (Cad.) It did nothing for me. Just fashion shops. Some of the side streets were a bit more interesting. And then we finished our trip by spending 4 nights in Kadikoy which is east of the Bosphorus in ASIA. And even though I believe Kadikoy and Uskadar are the oldest settlements, they are considered the "souless" new section of Istanbul. We had a great time there. Kadikoy is smallish but neat. In any case, see the BIG recommended sights. they are some of the best buildings and mosaics and mosques/churches in the world. And have a fish sandwich on the Taksim side of the Galata Bridge. The fish is better, the lemon juice is from lemons, and the fish market is there. Get a transit card so you can charge it and hop on and off without difficulty. And it is less expensive than individual tickets.
I'd second what Lee has to say. I like Istanbul, but I have a limit for how long I can stay in any one large city. For me 4-5 days in Istanbul is enough. My recommendation would be to go to either Cappodoccia or a seaside resort for a few nights.
Hi Lee - I spent 6 nights there last year. Half the time in Sulanahmet and half staying near Taksim square. Even when we stayed over in Taksim square we always seemed to end up over in the Sultanahmet area. I would spend most my nights there. Didn't go over to the Asian side but others in my group did. I would spend 2 nights on Asian side and the rest in Sultanahmet. I would definitely recommend the trip. I've traveled all over Europe and found Turkey to be one of my favorite trips. Istanbul is a great city...magical. There is so much to do there. The major sights can be seen in 4 days but there are so many other things to see. It would be like visiting, Paris or Rome. I would consider staying at least 6 nights. 8 nights would be better. The cost and time in getting there is considerable so I would make it worth while especially if you don't think you'll ever get there again. People were so respectful and friendly in Istanbul ...you won't have a problem getting around by yourself. Men do try to get you to visit their shops by trying to engage you in conversation but they are less aggressive than other places I've been....they're just trying to make a living. Go to the major sites early before the tour buses arrive to save time in line. Only take the ferry on the strait on a nice day. I pretty much took the tram or walked everywhere. My family took a flight to Izmir and then rented a car to get around. Seeing other much smaller cities/towns was fascinating. Since you're traveling alone I'd probably just stay put in Istanbul. You might consider an organized 2-3 day tour though outside Istanbul.
The best thing we did was take the Istanbul Eats old town tour our first day. We prowled the back streets, eating in many little shops and got our bearings doing that. We then prowled the back streets on our own where the locals eat, shop, and live. It was marvelous and the Turks were so helpful. The different foods were really tasty and their cleanliness exceeds that in the US. We spent 5 nights in Sultanhamet and never did cross over the Galata bridge to the newer, more modern side. We did take the ferry over to the Asian side and the longer ferry up to near the Black Sea. Istanbul is now our all time favorite city eclipsing Paris and Cape Town. We will return there many times.
I spent about 2 weeks there on my own, and I would highly recommend it (there's a lot to do in addition to the Old City, including neighborhoods on the Asian side and along the Bosphorus north of the Galata bridge). Besides the main tourist sites, I really enjoyed all the nooks and crannies and day trips. Even after 2 weeks, I still didn't have time for everything I wanted to do (like a trip to Bursa) and I'm active all day without a lot of break time. I found that I needed to space out the museums so I could get to each one first thing in the AM, so it took a lot of days just to get through those. Everyone will have a different level of tolerance and interest for a large, crammed city - but to me, it was no different than say going to NYC (I could stay there for a month and still not be bored because I do touristy and way-off-the-beaten-path stuff in equal measure)
No RS tours in Istanbul in July due to the oppressive heat. We spent 2 days/nights in Istanbul before taking RS Turkey Tour, 2 days/nights in Istanbul with the tour group, and then we returned to Istanbul for an additional 5 days/nights after the tour was over. Nine days total and we still want to go back to see what we missed and to just enjoy this wonderful city and its people.