I am travelling to Istanbul in March, arriving late on a Friday afternoon and departing the following Wednesday morning. So 5 nights and 4 full days. We are flying from and returning to London, so I'm not worried about jet lag. I am planning our itinerary that will cover all the main tourist sights but am looking for suggestions for a walking tour, culinary tour, hamam, which Bosphorus cruise and anything else that maybe of interest or overlooked for myself and my 16 year old daughter. Hotels seem plentiful in mid March but would welcome any recommendations. I am also looking at going to Ortakoy on the Sunday. Istanbul has been on our must see list for a long time so we are excited that it has worked out. All suggestions welcome!
I spent a week in Istanbul in fall 2016, great city, lots of sites to visit, all in any guide book, including Rick’s book. I absolutely loved the Regie Ottoman hotel, beautiful building, great location near the Spice Market and quite close to all the old city sites. Very friendly and helpful staff, huge, diverse and delicious buffet breakfast. Affordable prices, even for “deluxe” rooms. You might check the recent reviews on Expedia or Booking.com.
I’m not sure what the visa situation is for Americans now, if that mess has been fixed yet, and that might not affect Canadians anyway. Canada seems to be on good terms with everybody. I took an excellent food tour called something like “Two continents, two markets” which was 6 to 7 hours, and started on the European side, then took a ferry to the Asian side. Many stops for many local foods, at places we never would have found on our own. Not cheap, but excellent, and lots of food. My group was just 4 people plus the Guide. Tourism has been down in Istanbul, will probably be down even more in March, I hope the food tours are active then. Enjoy!
I was happy with the public ferry for the Bosphorus ride and did the whole, 6-7-hour roundtrip with meal-break time in Anadolu Kavagi. I do really recommend Rick's Istanbul guidebook, co-authored by our Turkish guides, who live there and operate a tour company.
I would highly recommend a visit to the mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent. It is beyond beautiful. Check to see if the renovations are finished at Topkapi Palace before going there. Go to the top of Galata Tower for an awesome view of Istanbul.
There are awesome Sunday brunches to be had on the Asian side. I second the Bosphorus tour all the way down with the lunch layover. Make sure you buy some yogurt onboard when they hop on to sell it!
Good Info above.
I have been here for 4 days, and unfortunately have to leave tomorrow. I was unlucky enough to be here during this terrible weather front that has hit most of Europe, so I have dealt with cold and nast rain, or even snow, all but 1 day here.
Just wanted to add a few comments. Before you get here, decide what you want to do. If. You want to stay in Sultanahmet, the old section, there are a ridiculous amount of hotels, most of them side by side. This is where the Haggia Sofiya, the Blue Mosque etc are. I was going to stay in a small apartment, found through Airbnb, but that fell through. I found a room in the Blue Tuana Hotel, for about $32/night. The place has definitely seen better days, but the sheets seem clean, and that is really all I care about.
I brought a hard copy of Rick Steves that was given me, and then got the Kindle version, as it was easier to lug around and less obvious. Great info there, but it does need some updating. Prices are for the most part about 10-15 lira more expensive than what is in the guide book, and current exchange is about 3 lira / $1. Haggia Sofiya I think was 40 lira to get into, and the Topkapi is 25? If I recall. You can get a 5 day pass that includes most of the sites, for 150 lira, or $30. It is definitely worth it if you plan on seeing them all.
Notes: Haggia Sofiya has a huge scaffolding up the middle, but is still beautiful.
Blue Mosque inside is closed as of this week, for 2-3 months of renovations. You can get see where to perform ablutions, and get into the courtyard. THere is a place for men and women to pray, but noone is allowed inside the building for now. I think it just happened in the last few days. People all seem confused, and nobody besides the building security even seems to know about it.
Topkapi: make sure you go all the way up the path into it. I got confused and stopped off at the gate where I saw a ticket counter, and that was for the Architectural Museum.. Also interesting, but 20 lira and I was on a timeline, as it was already after 3PM and Topkapi closes at 5 PM out of season. I just enjoyed the museum and saved Topkapi for another day. It is close by after all.
One thing of note: wear comfortable shoes. Sultanahmet is built on 7 hills, with lots of cobblestoned streets. Ladies, Heels will be the death of you. I don't care how used to walking you are, there is still a lot here, so be ready and willing. Also, be careful, as the stones are all well-worn and can often be wet this time of year, and therefore very slippery. I have seen many people go down, and come close to it a time or too myself when I was too busy looking up rather than down.....
Food: WHen I travel, I like to eat local.
Street food: grilled corn, nuts etc are around 7 lira ($2) for 100grams. You can buy a kebap for around 10 lira ($3.30) in many places.
Turkish delight and Pastries in the shops, 20-60 lira/kilo ($6.75-20), depending on quality and choice
Everyone says the water is bad. You can buy a 1.5 liter bottle of water in the markets for 2-3 lira ($.75-1).
Restaurant Food: There are a ridiculous amount of restaurants in the Sultanahmet area. They all aggressively recruit diners, especially as it is a slow period right now.
Prices: drinks such as beer, soda etc vary from 7-15 lira. Soup and cold apps such as Hommus or other dip around 10-11 LIra. Hot apps go for around 15-20 lira. Main courses around 28-45 lira. My usual was to get a spread of some sort like hommus for lunch, along with tea, costing $3-4. Dinner was a bowl of soup + a main, with tea or other, for about 50 lira ($16-17). Not bad, really. Food is tasty and filling.
Hope this helps.
Forgot to add in the other part of Hotel section. Only covered historic Sultanahmet. Great place to see with lots of cheap tourist-centered hotels right now. However, if you want to go out after dinner, you will want a cab to take you across to the anatolian side, over the Galata bridge. That is the modern section, where things happen. You will want to see this section anyways, but that is where the action takes place after sundown. So decide if you want to stay in historic, quiet section and go out to party or stay in sleek, ,modern section where party is close by, and take cab or other transportation by day to the historic section.
Awesome report price.galenb!! Thanks for the info. Helps with the trip I’m planning as well.