We are going on a RS Best of Turkey Tour in November and will be in Istanbul for 1 1/2 days before and 1 1/2 days after the tour. Of the sights not covered by the tour I know I want to see the Basilica Cistern and the Suleymaniye Mosque and probably browse through the Grand Bazaar again. I am interested in opinions of the Archaeological Museum and the Dolmabahce Palace. I would also like to know if you have visited the Galata Dervish Monastery or other Sema ceremony. I welcome any recommendations. Thanks.
Definitely do the archeological museum in Istanbul to see Hittite treasures, a section of the chain that was strung across the Bosporus to keep out invaders, the world's oldest peace treaty and lots more. We also went to arch museums in Ankara, Antalya, Aphrodisias and Pammukale on the tour but Istanbul was our favorite. The Hittite treasures were especially meaningful in light of the recent destruction of the treasures in Iraq. We enjoyed the dervish performance in Istanbul. You will probably have a chance to do this on the tour in Cappadocia. You cannot take pictures of the ceremony in Istanbul but can in Cappadocia. If your husband is with you, I would suggest he get a shave in Kusadasi which is a special experience. I would also suggest going to a Turkish bath. I think you will have an opportunity on the tour. We went for a swim in the pool at Pammukale which was awesome but this may not be an option in November. Also the hot air balloorn ride was a highlight of our tour. Have a great time!
I really enjoyed Dolmabahce Palace. Make sure you tour the private "family" side as well as it was equally interesting. It was easy to reach with public transportation. I also went to the Basilica Cistern and highly recommend it. There's not really a ton to do down there but I just found it to be so beautifully lit down there...I took tons of pictures. I also toured Suleymaniye Mosque. I think I did it in conjunction with a Chora Church tour and they were nice contrasts to each other. For that tour, I used a day tour company called Efendi Travel.
Loved the Archaeological Museum. The Rustem Pasha mosque is a small gem, around the corner from the Spice Market. Suleymaniye Mosque is another excellent choice.
*** This is a duplicate reply from another thread where you posted the same question ***
I had a long layover in Istanbul and just returned from there last night. I would highly recommend the Archeological Museum - it was my first time there and, unfortunately, the 2 hours I had in the morning did not do it justice but I had to catch my flight. It's comprised of 3 buildings (The Tiled Kiosk, The Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the main Museum) and it really deserves at least 3 hours, but more likely 4-5 if you're an archeology buff, you need time to read and digest the descriptions, or you want to relax a bit at the cafe. The highlights for me were the sarcophaghi, the Iznik tiles, and the Babylonian/ Assyrian treasures. Wonderful museum and very close to the main sites in the Old City, including the Cistern. Definitely set aside 3-5 hours or so for it, depending on your interest in the subject matter.
On a different note, I would also highly recommend Dolmabahce Palace (gorgeous views and really stunning, over-the-top interior) as well but you should consider that it is fully-guided, timed-entry and you need to get there early so as not to stand in a long line (this may not be valid in November though). You'll need to take the tram there (it's easy) to the Tophane stop and walk a bit...it's along the Bosphorus to the north. So altogether, it will take you a half day at least with transport, tour, standing in line, and having some snacks in the cafe.
One other really fun thing to do (and super relaxing) is just to take a local ferry to the Asia side and poke around. I went to Kadikoy and had a great time checking out food markets and eating some wonderful local food. Not many tourists there at all compared to Sultanahmet. The ride on the Bosphorus is 4 Lira and priceless! Definitely the top highlight of Istanbul - you can ride local ferries in either direction (Bosphorus or Golden Horn) - they don't need to be the tourist oriented ones, just the simple ferries that locals take to get back and forth. PM me for any questions - I've been to Istanbul multiple times on my own.
Overall your ideas look pretty good. Here are my thoughts on them:
- The Basilica Cistern does not take long to see and is interesting.
- The Sulemaniye Mosque is well worth a visit. If you see this, you'll be somewhat close to the Grand Bazaar (the other site of Istanbul University) if you want to re-visit it.
- The Archaeological Museum is a top must-see site in my mind. This is right next to the Turkish and Islamic Arts museum which is also worth a visit.
Dolmabahce Palace is a more European palace compared to the Topkopi, but is interesting.
Sema Ceremony. I looked at the itinerary for the tour you're taking. You have a Sema/Dervish ceremony already scheduled on Day 6 of your tour when you are in Cappadocia. I am assuming this is at the Sarihan caravanserai near Avanos which is a really nifty venue. I think I'd pass on a repeat in Istanbul. The ceremony itself is interesting, but slow.
Here are a few other ideas:
- As noted earlier, the Rustem Pasa Mosque (near the spice bazaar) is an nifty little mosque that does not take long to visit.
- The Galata Tower will give you a nice view of the city.
- The Pera Museum has a nice art collection.