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Side trips from Istanbul?

My wife and I are planning to spend eight days in Istanbul in late May. We're wondering what might be an interesting day trip from that city that is accessible via public transportation. Respite from the megalopolis is the idea, yet to a place that is of historical or cultural interest. Willing to overnight, but do not want to take the time to go too far afield. Gallipoli? Princes' Islands? Bursa? Iznik?

Many thanks.

Posted by
1176 posts

I am not saying not to go somewhere else during the eight days in Istanbul, but I will say there are tons of places and things to see and do while you are there and in eight days you can see it all or most of it. I went on the Istanbul RS tour in September and it was a whirlwind of activities. I wish the tour was eight days because we were gone from morning until nite and no rest. Great, but exhausting. I would take a look at the RS week long tour and see what the tour does every day. This will give you a good outline of what there is to do and see. And believe me, we did even more than what the tour describes! Also make sure you do the Turkish Bath, it was amazing! If you want more information on what we did, please send me a private message. You will love Istanbul. But one thing I have read, a lot of people do enjoy the Princes' Islands. I am not sure but other places you want to visit may be too far from Istanbul. And a must ( good weather is important) is the cruise to the Asian side on a nice boat. It was wonderful! I would also take a look at the RS scrapbooks where people post their photos of Istanbul and journal what they saw and did. That will also be a good tool. You talk about a day trip and that would be the cruise to the Asian side and a day trip to visit the Princes Island. You will have a great time!!

Posted by
84 posts

I'm not sure I'd go stay overnight outside Istanbul.
I flew into Izmir from Istanbul and then rented a car to see Ephesus...stayed in Selcuk and Sigacik. That was great....but it took most of a day traveling each way.

Princes' Islands...I've heard good things about it.....will only take a portion of the day.

Do the Bosphorus strait ferry cruise. That will get you out of the it on a nice day though. I did it on a overcast day and it took much of the enjoyment away. The small towns along the way aren't much but it gets you away from Istanbul for a day..and on the water.

Go across the strait to the Asian side of Istanbul.
The favorite city of a friend of mine who has traveled to Turkey 3 times is Bursa...but it's far away.

My thoughts...assuming you're flying back to USA from Istanbul...
If you were to 1 arrive in Istanbul, day 2, 3, 4 stay in 5 travel to another location and stay 6 stay in the 7 travel back to Istanbul and stay in 8 leave for US. Days 5, 6, & 7 are too much traveling for a short stay.

I think I'd stay put in Istanbul....and do day trip on the strait, Princes Island, and to the Asian side.

Posted by
338 posts

One idea to consider is a day trip to Edirne. I have not made the trip yet myself, but I've heard good things. By bus it's probably a couple of hours to the north.

Posted by
295 posts

We spent 5 weeks in Istanbul last summer. We spend 8 weeks each summer in Europe, plopped in one or two places to really see and understand a city. Istanbul is marvelous. What you want to see really depends on your tastes. First, see the main things listed in the RS guide. Then, consider the other mosques, especially Sulemanye when the Koran is being recited (don't miss the cemetery). A visit to the Pierre Loti cafe in Eyup is worth the trip, as is a visit to the mosque there on Saturday. Princes' Island is a great trip, and hike to the restaurant on top. If you like transportation history the Rahmi Koc museum is quite amazing. Walk through Fener, especially on market day (on top of the hill, near the mosque). Absolutely do not miss, do not miss, the Chora church for it's mosaics. A taxi is the best way to get there. A day to the end of the Bosporus is fun, but don't stay at the end unless you have lots of time - an immediate return is better. I'd skip the Asian side in favor of any of the preceding spots.

Posted by
18 posts

Thank you all. Very helpful. I hadn't realized Edirne was within reach and relatively untouristed. Looking forward to our trip and a different perspective on Europe.

Posted by
18 posts

With the zeal of the just-returned from our 8-day trip, let me add a couple of postscripts to this and another question I'd posted this Spring.

  1. Edirne was an excellent side trip from Istanbul. We took a morning bus from the Otogar the 2/ 1/2 hours northwest (used Ulusoy, but there are tons of bus companies; 30 TL each way), then a city bus into town. Stayed overnight at Hotel Rustempasa Kervansaray, a 16th-century han built by Mimar Sinan with 75 rooms, atmospheric, very centrally located and more than adequate. Edirne itself is both ancient and modern, a university town with a youthful buzz but with the footsteps of history -- Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, even a once sizable Jewish population-- evident throughout. Sinan's masterpiece, the Selimiye Mosque, is glorious, with an excellent, bite-sized, newly renovated museum in the adjacent medrese covering Islamic religious education and the production of the fine art typified by this mosque. Several other beautiful mosques and an interesting old town district, all walkable. After Istanbul, it was very refreshing not to have to fight through the tourist hoards to see the mosques and other sites. Delicious kebaps, salad and beer for dinner at Villa restaurant on the southern bank of the Meric River, overlooking a postcard perfect view of the 300-year old bridge, nary another tourist in sight. All in all, more than enough to see and do on a 24-hour break from Istanbul. Thanks to Rob in Dunwoody for the tip.

  2. The nave of the Chora Church is closed for restoration, but the rest of the church and 80% (guessing from the description of what we couldn't see) of the mosaics are still open. That 80% is sensational. We would've kicked ourselves had we skipped Chora and not seen them -- absolutely not to be missed. The sight was perfect in combination with the RS guide walking tour of the Theodosian walls and surrounding neighborhood. We took a bus there from Eminonu, then realized later we could have taken the tram more directly. Trams and buses, by the way, are convenient and simple to use with the reloadable Istanbulkart; though at rush hour you will be rubbing shoulders with fellow travelers, we felt absolutely safe and saved lots of time between some of the more distant sites.

  3. Cannot say enough good things about the RS recommended Sultan Hill hotel. Splendid location in the Sultanahmet district of town, a stone's throw from the Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. The view from their roof top terrace of the Sea of Marmara in one direction and the Blue Mosque in the other was so compelling, we began and ended every day just marveling at it. Fine spot for a raki, gazing up at the gulls circling the minarets of the illuminated Blue Mosque. Extremely friendly and accommodating hotel managers. Generous breakfast in a daylit and delightfully decorated area downstairs. One of our best dinners just 5 minutes walk away, at Eyran Cafe on Peykhane/Ucler Caddesi near southwest end of the Hippodrome (not in RS guide but should be). The hotel booked transportation for us from and to Ataturk Airport on Efendi Travel, a private transport service that allowed us to avoid taxi driver shenanigans, at a fixed price little higher than cab fare and very handy for our 6:10am flight home. The one caveat about this hotel is that, since you're almost literally in the shadow of the Blue Mosque, the call to prayer is inescapable. To us, however, this was simply another attraction -- what could be more lyrical, passionate and haunting? -- and another plus for this location.

  4. Our flight transfer at CDG airport in Paris turned out to be a nonevent. The facility is enormous, with passport control and security truly worthy of the term Byzantine, but our Air France connecting flights were in the same terminal so 1 3/4 hours was more than enough time to make the connections.

Phil in Indy

Posted by
1217 posts

Eight days only scratches the surface. One day you could take the all day ferry ride out to the small touristy fishing village and have a fish sandwich there and hike to the castle.

We loved taking the ferry to Kadakoy to shop at the market there.