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Help Plan My Long Weekend in Istanbul

by on December 7, 2011 · 65 comments

in General TPG Business, Trip Reports

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This is an installment in my Istanbul: End of Year Mileage Run with Dad series. Posts include; Cheap Istanbul Flights: From $576 Total Roundtrip on Delta from JFKHelp Plan My Long Weekend in IstanbulFlight Review: Alitalia JFK-Rome in CoachHotel Review: Westin Excelsior RomeHotel Review: Park Hyatt Istanbul Spa RoomIstanbul Eats and Excursions.

My Dad emailed me about a month ago asking if I knew of a way to get 7,000 Delta Medallion Qualifying Miles cheaply? I immediately emailed him back that he could get the Amex Delta Reserve Card and he’d get 10,000 MQMs with his first purchase – which will post towards 2011 status as long as he spends it in 2011.The card costs $450 a year, but gives SkyClub access, higher upgrade priority and a free companion ticket (including first class) every year. The benefits can greatly outweigh the annual fee, especially in the first year since Delta is selling 10,000 MQMs for a whopping $895!

However, that same evening I caught wind of ~$550 fares on Delta/Alitalia/KLM to Istanbul. I’ve never been and I know my Dad hasn’t either so I thought this would be a great chance to rack up elite miles and use some of the hotel points I’ve amassed this year through various promotions.

In the end, I was able to build in 3 nights in Istanbul and 1 night in both Rome and Amsterdam. I’ve been to the last two and have friends/tons of recommendations, but I have been so busy I haven’t done much research on Istanbul. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone disliking Istanbul, so I’m sure we are going to have a great time.

So as always – I’d like to hear from the legions of sage TPG readers - what should we do for four days in Istanbul?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/tobias Tobias Freiwald

    Definitely go to a Hamam. There are a couple of good and touristy ones, though I personally preferred the local stuff: http://www.buyukhamam.net/index3.asp

  • http://twitter.com/skyvan Andrew Fielding

    I was in Istanbul last year in March. I highly recommend spending a day on a daytrip to Ephesus. The PH charges an insane amount for the day trip but I found a great tour guide that was able to do it for two people at a good rate. Also make sure to check out the palaces, though Dolmabahçe Palace is a bit overrated and you’re not allowed to take photos inside. The best palace is Topkapi palace, but IIRC it is closed on odd days.

    I also really enjoyed the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art and Cappadocia, but you won’t have time for a Cappadocia trip as that is usually a two day affair.

    I highly recommend getting a guide for at least one day to take you to some smaller mosques and show you through some parts of the city where you might otherwise get completely lost.

    Not sure if you’re staying at the PH or the GH. Neither are really near much but the PH has amazing rooms and you can safely walk around the area at night. You’ll need to get a cab to the old part of the city but watch out for the cab to rip you off on the fare…they’ll manipulate the meters on you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=513060343 Alex Bradley

    Book a table on the top floor of Hamdi restaurant for lunch, great Turkish food/wine and view: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g293974-d808629-Reviews-Hamdi_Restaurant-Istanbul.html

    Fancy dinner at Vogue; get a table looking towards the Bosphorus: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g293974-d1054422-Reviews-Vogue-Istanbul.html

    More traditional/less fancy/touristy hammam: http://www.galatasarayhamami.com/en/hamam/

    I would recommend getting a guide for one of the days to take you around some of the famous sites; as you’ll learn a lot more and get to skip the queue in a lot of places, (I can recommend one if you’d like, he cost me a little over $200 with tip).

    The list of must see places for me would be:
    Roman Hippodrome
    Blue Mosque.
    St. Sophia
    The Underground Cistern
    Grand Covered Bazaar
    Spice bazaar

  • http://twitter.com/skyvan Andrew Fielding

    Forgot to mention Spice Bazaar.

  • Pulley

    Andrew we are going to Istanbul next year. What does PH & GH stand for? Thanks, Mike

  • LRP

    Good list of places, here are a few more outside of the old city and across the golden horn and one in old city…

    Galata tower (view of the entire city, especially at sunset)
    Historic Neve Shalom Synagogue (must call in advance to get cleared)
    Dolmabahçe Palace

    Topkapi Palace (old city, has tulip statutes as the Turkish gave the Dutch)

    And take an afternoon cruise down the Bosporus

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507398586 Tim Fargus

    I second all of Alex’s suggestions, as they’re all quite good. You can also see Sulemaniye mosque while you’re at it, along with the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, as they’re right in the same area.

    The only thing I’d add, if you have enough room in the schedule, would be a boat trip to the Princes’ Islands. You’ve got to take a ferry over, but they’re quite nice if you’ve got the time.

  • http://twitter.com/RobPageIII Rob Page III

    To enjoy the atmosphere try an evening stroll down Istiklal Avenue. For a different experience, you can check out the fishermen on Galata Bridge at sunrise. My wife and I also enjoyed sunset from the Asian side with the Maiden’s Tower in the foreground and the mosques across the strait with the sun setting behind them. This is very popular and there are a lot of restaurants – there is even one in the tower (lighthouse).

    These are some of my photos from Istanbul and Turkey that were featured on the front page of WordPress: http://thepagespage.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/turkey-turkish-delight/

    Finally, if you can pull it off, go to the Blue Mosque before breakfast, but after morning prayers have ended. My wife and I were the only ones inside other than a single worker.

  • Anne Woodyard

    We had a terrific long weekend last November on our mileage run to Istanbul. The first thing that comes to mind is taking the ferry to Asian Istanbul… have lunch in Asia, dinner in Europe ;)
    You can get some good ideas to fill a long weekend from our blog: http://musicandmarkets.blogspot.com/2010/11/awed-by-istanbul.html
    I’m sure you’ll love Istanbul, as we did!

  • Anonymous

    I was in Istanbul in October. I did a cruise on the Bosphorus, but to be fair it got really dull after the first hour and then I had to go back the same way. It’ll take up much of your day. Obviously, visiting Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque will be high on your list. The Grand Bazaar was a bit disappointing to me, but probably something you should see. I did go to a hammam, and one of the tourist ones at that. The place was pretty impressive.

    Took a ferry to Asia one night to Kadikoy and had dinner at this place: http://www.ciya.com.tr/index_en.php which was pretty good. It’s in a great area full of restaurants and things.

    I didn’t spend much time in Taksim, but I was with some who did and had a great time especially at night. If you’re interested in getting out of Istanbul to see something else I went to Pamukkale, which was a unique kind of place though maybe not worth the trek on its own. I also went to Ephesus to see the ruins there. I have heard fabulous things about Cappadocia, but I didn’t have time to make it.

  • Nbody1

    I highly recommend getting a shave in one of the barber shops there. It’s a great experience that’s hard to find anywhere else.

  • http://twitter.com/sapearl Samantha Pearlman

    Ciya Sofrasi- hands down the best restaurant in Istanbul, and reasonably priced as well. http://istanbuleats.com/2010/12/best-bites-of-2010-one-word-ciya/
    http://ciya.com.tr/index_en.php

  • np_chi

    We visited Istanbul last year and had a great meal at Mikla (http://miklarestaurant.com/) which has an amazing view of the city. Also would recommend the nightlife in Beyoglu at least one night–it is a sight to behold: be sure to check out all the bars and restaurants on Nevizade Sokak.

  • dbstewart

    Istanbul can vary greatly depending on when you are there and I can tell you that this time of the year is the worst time to be there in terms of weather and activities. I was there last year at the end of December and early January and Istanbul was far from what I read about it. The weather was similar to what we’re having in New York now, cold, rainy, grey skies, and foggy, putting a huge damper on a cruise on the Bosphorus or on any of the views from the various lookout points.

    The streets were virtually empty, except for tourist groups as the locals seem to go into hiding at this time of year. The vibrant nightlife and street culture that you read about was virtually non-existent and we were left struggling to find entertaining places to go despite the fact that several locals pointed us to the most happening or young and hip restaurants and bars.

    Alex’s list has all the big places to go and I would definitely recommend doing them. My personal favorite were the cisterns. You can do the whole list in a day or day and a half. Although I suppose if you want to go over everything in the mosques or the museums in detail you could be there for hours.

    Istanbul has some great hotels, larger luxury hotels and boutiques alike, and some supposedly have some of the best afternoon teas (some overlooking the bosphorus) and places for cocktails and people watching.

    Overall, I enjoyed my time in Istanbul at this time of year, but it is not a place I would go back to again unless its in the summer and a place that I only recommend people traveling to during the warmer months because I personally felt like I missed out on the best of what the city had to offer (better time on the Bosphorus and more vibrant street culture).

    Oh and be sure to pack a few warm coats. It was deceptively cold while we were there. The forecast called for mid-50s (F) while we were there, but with the thick fog, constant mist, and light wind, it felt more like 30.

  • Lauren

    Which hotel did you select? We are going next Fall and cannot decide between the park hyatt and the w hotel. Would be interested to get your thoughts on them when you return!

  • Eric

    Alex and others – if you have recommendations on guides you have used, could you please share the information? I am also headed to Istanbul in January and the guide we have now is $500 per day with a car, but that seems expensive to me. Any thoughts on other options would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks to everyone else for sharing the great recommendations. And the Points Guy for getting this going just in time for my trip in a month.

  • Eric

    Alex and others – if you have recommendations on guides you have used, could you please share the information? I am also headed to Istanbul in January and the guide we have now is $500 per day with a car, but that seems expensive to me. Any thoughts on other options would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks to everyone else for sharing the great recommendations. And the Points Guy for getting this going just in time for my trip in a month.

  • Gavinmac

    If a somewhat well dressed guy approaches you on the street in a tourist area and claims to be an Iranian tourist and tries to make friends with you and then invites you accompany him to a restaurant or nightclub of his choice, you should definitely go with him.

  • http://twitter.com/skyvan Andrew Fielding

    Park Hyatt and Grand Hyatt

  • http://twitter.com/skyvan Andrew Fielding

    I used this company, http://www.byzastoursturkey.com and Gurkan set me up with a good guide and a decent car down in Izmir…his rates are extremely reasonable.

  • Carrie

    Istanbul Eats is a great blog/book for food recommendations–and they do amazing half-day food/cultural walking tours. Ask for Angelis!

    We also use Context Travel for great small-group tours (they also arrange private itineraries) , and they now have an office in Istanbul. We did great tours of the Spice Market/Asian markets (with lunch at Ciya), a night walk in the Galata neighborhood, and a guided tour of the Haiga Sofia and the surrounding area. It’s always the best money we spend when we travel!

  • Ozaer N.

    Brian…when you visit the Blue Mosque, no need for a guide and crowds of disrespectul European tourists with their skimpy clothes on (for Gods sake, its a place of worship still!!!)….Enter the grounds shortly before the call to sunset prayers (currently I believe 5PM there)….and you can hear the amazing sounds on the Mosque courtyard…then shortly AFTER the prayer is done, enter the mosque(you will be allowed)……..there, you will find great photo ops of the mosque as its lit up at night, WITHOUT the mob of tourists and their guides…Drop a a couple of Turkish lira’s in the donation box, and you can pretty much walk freely inside and wonder at the architecture.. …..btw, tell em Ozaer sent ya heheh..!

  • Ozaer N.

    hehehe this happens to me in La Jolla everytime!!

  • DL

    This is more of a meta suggestion, but consider making it over to taksim square with a free couple of hours after doing some of the “old Istanbul” sites on the European side. To really get a feel for what Istanbul is, see this modern fifth avenue-like area in the context of such an old world city.

  • Ozaer N.

    Lauren: I’d skip the big hotels and stay at one of the cute boutique hotels in Sultanahmet…they also have a great view of the Bosphorus, and is next to the blue mosque, Hagia Sophia, Suliemaniye Mosque, and Grand Bazaar…not to mention Topkapi. I suggest the Deersadet Hotel (I just stayed there a month ago)….The small hotels are cozy, the rooms are great, and the service is outstanding! Free breakfast is usually included, and if you stay more than 3 days, they usually pick you up from the airport.

  • Dave Op

    Others have mentioned the best places. I am going to give you a couple of links.

    1) Get a Rick Steve’s tour book of Istanbul or Turkey (the guy you see on PBS television)
    http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/destinations/turkey/turkey_menu.htm

    2) Go with Melitours.
    http://www.melitour.com/
    I had the founder, Mehlika “Meli” Seval, as tour guide when she was still with Rick Steve’s. (She is the one you see on PBS with Rick Steve’s, at least back then.) At that time, she was already active in her own company, the melitour. I would try to get her personally for a day or two.

    Last tip…hotels if paying on your own…
    - go with the Four Seasons at Sultanahmet, as you can’t bet the location. For cheaper ones, there are tons of them in the Sultanahmet area, see Rick Steve’s book.

    - go with Ciragan Palace Kempinski if looking for historic ones.

  • http://www.sjbvision.com Sandyjb

    Just got back from Istanbul last week after jumping on the $500 fares….its cold right now but pretty bearable and we had an amazing time. Go to Hamdi for some great and cheap Turkish food. Some one below had a link to it. Across from the restaurant, by the water, go get some lokma (amazing fresh Turkish donuts that will set you back a Lira) for dessert.

    Other notable places to eat…Mikla inside the Marmara Pera hotel (expensive at about $80/person with food and drink) but has pretty amazing views and the food is damn good. Also try Banyan Tree inside the House Hotel in Ortakoy…we had an amazing lunch here…again food is pricey at about $25-30/entree but well worth it. Skip the drinks here…incredibly pricey but it has a wonderful view again. Stop in at one of the dozens of bakeries on Taksim square to get turkish desserts….its mind boggling the number of desserts they have. And definitely get some sahlep to drink, or if you prefer some sahlep with ice cream.

    We also woke up at 5 am to go see the Blue Mosque and get some pictures (it was far too crowded in the day) and it was amazing to have the place to ourself and get a beautiful sunrise. Here is a pic I got.
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10100519700273315&set=a.10100519660283455.2734759.3416040&type=3&theater

    Check out Galata tower (they have a 11L entry) but we decided to go next door to the Anemon Hotel rooftop and buy a drink instead and have a similar view. I found Topkapi palace to be incredibly boring (maybe its just me) but they do have a wonderful view of the Bosphorus from there.

    We also arranged airport shuttles via http://www.backpackerstravel.net and it was something like 20 euros for 2 people in a private car. We used it 3 or 4 times. Note that cabs are cheap though…We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Harbiye (mainly coz they would confirm suite upgrades in advance) and one way to the airport was 45L for 4 people. Feel free to go through the album if you would like and let me know if you have any questions.

  • Mucdl

    1. Dont stay in Sultanhamet!
    2. Do visit Sultanhamet!
    2. Stay at the Park Hyatt, if you are diamond hopefully you”ll get a Spa room.
    3. Take the ferry to Kadikoy and walk around, eat at Ciya
    4. Buy “Istanbul Eats” and eat at as many places as you can.
    5. Day one Aya Sofia, Blue mosque, Topkapi
    6. Day 2 Isktal Cadddesi,and SIDE STREETS! Kadikoy
    7. Day 3 everything else.

  • Dave Op

    Agreed. The Asian side of Istanbul gives you a real feel for the local people, not to mention the great sunset view. I took a ferry there, where I must be the only foreigner. I eat at one of the restaurants where no one spoke English, so the staff took me to the kitchen and let me point out what I want. Hehehe.

    As far as places to eat, I like the non-tourist area. Most restaurants I ate, no one spoke or they spoke very little English. I did just fine.

  • http://twitter.com/byzantinist Marina

    I’m an intrepid historian, who’s been living in Istanbul for over 3 years, so I could ramble on and on about things to see—and ‘adventures’ to avoid. Istanbul is a multifaceted city: it’s easy to fall in love with it—and equally easy to become unnecessarily disillusioned (which is a shame, for it is definitely a magical, delightful place).

    When inspiration strikes me, I design custom tours for individuals (leisurely boat rides in the sunset—check, helicopter tours—check, street and gourmet food adventures—you name it). Since I’m such a huge fan of yours I’m definitely inspired to help you plan your trip.

    Come to think of it, if I’m in town when you’re here, I’d be happy to guide you and your dad for a day. I’m dead serious. It would be an honour.

    You can reach me on Twitter @byzantinist (I believe your assistant also has my email: I was one of the lucky PanAm contest winners).

    Cheers,
    Marina

  • http://twitter.com/byzantinist Marina

    I wouldn’t recommend Park Hyatt *so* highly, though, of course, it depends on what room you’re staying at. I’d say Four Seasons Ortaköy or Çırağan Palace Kempinski, if at all possible. Can’t beat the view of the Bosphorus—or the service.

  • http://twitter.com/byzantinist Marina

    +1 for Mikla. An interesting amalgam of local and international cuisine.

  • Anonymous

    Me and a friend went to Turkey during the Thanksgiving holiday. Istanbul was great and I’d definitely recommend visiting Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. If you’re interested in night life, Taksim Square was fun.

  • RomanHans

    1. See the harem section at Topkapi Palace.

    2. Packaged Turkish Delight tastes like artificially-flavored rubber when compared to the real thing: http://www.mydestination.com/istanbul/shopping/116411/ali-muhiddin-haci-bekir-confectionery . Great old-school store in Beyoglu.

    3. Drink raki.

  • susiem

    Stay at The Edition. Just stayed over thanksgiving and it was wonderful!!! Also we went to this wonderful place near the Bosphorus in Bebek called Kale Cafe. It was full of locals eating great traditional turkish breakfast.

  • brianb

    Everyone has mentioned the touristy stuff, so I won’t add anything else to that list. But if you’re in Istiklal area during the darker hours, get lost in the alleys, spend some time at an open bar or cafe, smoke a hookah while tossing dice on a backgammon board with a local, and don’t forget to try the apple tea. Istanbul can be hectic, but outside of America, it’s like my personal home-away-from-home. If you can work it into your schedule, I would also recommend walking around Balat and Fanar to get a taste of Istanbul’s poorer side before they gentrify the area.

  • Stevebojs

    1. Go see the four seasons in sultanhamet. The sunday brunch there is excellent.

    2. Go to the basillica cistern.

    3. Take a walk around the golden horn. I’m not sure if all the fishermen will be there during this time of year, but in the summer the rocks are packed with men out fishing and smoking. And lots of feral cats.

    4. Avoid strangers who try and befriend you quickly. Taksim has a lot of these.

    5. The Istanbul Modern is worth a short visit if you are an art fan.

  • Sertan

    OK, I think it is time to hear from a guy from Istanbul.
    I would suggest as many already did, not to stay in Sultanahmet Area. There are some very cute places but that area is soooo touristic that it would be hard to enjoy it if you stay there.
    You may consider Taksim Area, very central location to enjoy the city, especially new Talimhane area with lots of new and good hotels.
    MUST DOs:
    -Walk down the Istiklal Street, and stop by at St. Antoine Church. Great courtyard.
    - Walk down French Street, off Istiklal Street. Very cute area with lots of antique shops.
    - Go up to the top of Galata Tower. On a nice clear day you can see a lot.
    - Walk on Galata Bridge, enjoy the lcoal people fishing.
    - Definetely go to Ortakoy area. Great square. Stop by at the House Cafe for lunch or just for their great coffee and pastries.
    - Go to Bebek area, bus ride or just a short cab ride from Taksim/Ortakoy, enjoy the nice park there. and depending on your time, walk back to Arnavutkoy by the Bosphorus. Great walk, great views.
    - Cistern is a must!
    - Take the ferry to Kadikoy and walk around the Carsi (market), stop by at Ciya for some very good Southern/Southeastern Anatolian food.
    - Go to Suada, a small island in the middle of Bosphorus. There are free boats from Kurucesme area. Suda Kebap is very good, a bit pricey, place for good Turkish Kebaps. What’s best is the views from the middle of the Bosphorus.
    - Go to Nisantasi area, not far from Taksim Square (either take Metro/subway) or just walk. Very nice upscale shooping/exploring area with lots of nice shops, cafes. And tehn walk down to Besiktas from Nisantasi enjoying late 19th-early 20th century buildings.
    - You may try Pera area, not far from Istiklal Street. And Fish Market / Nevizade street area (Balik Pazari) for some authentic Turkish meyhane experience.

    If i can remember more later, i will add more.

  • Sertan

    Ohh….If you go to Ortakoy area (or even in Taksim area) try kumpir, baked potato with TONS of toppings…Every American friend that I have taken to Istanbul liked it!

    Also, if you want to experience local people, you may want to go to Bagdat Street on Anatolian side, a short cab ride or bus ride from Kadikoy. You can go to Suadiye area and walk down the street on Bagdat street. Nice shops, cafes, and local people!

  • Andy J.

    Smantha is soooo right. We used to live pretty nearby in Acibadem and ate there at least once a week.

  • Andy J.

    Brian, you should also just make a point to ride the ferry from Eminonu to Kadikoy. It only costs about $1.50 US and has a great view of the old city…especially great after dark. You can ride the trolly (called Tramvay) from Sultanahmet down the hill to Eminonu in 10 minutes. And the ferry is warm and comfortable…a 20 minute ride. You’ll need to take this if you decide to go over to eat at Ciya Sofrasi (pronounced Chee-ya Sof-rah-suh) which I highly encourage you to do. The warren of market streets over on the Asian side in Kadikoy that you need to walk through to get to Ciya are great, too.

  • Sertan

    I wouldnt call it “the best” but definetely one of the very good ones. Very good food for very reasonable prices. Their “Yuvarlama Corbasi” (a very authentic southeastern Anatolian soup with meatballs and chickpeas is very very good.) They have a couple of different Ciya’s right across the street from each other: One for Kebaps only. The other for homemade Turkish food, like salads, appetizers, different regional main courses. They are all good!

  • Kevin Hamilton

    Have fun, watch out for the taxis as they are notorious for cheating tourists. Try the Turkish vodka too, very good. They are aggressive about getting you into their restaurants but when they do, they treat you like royalty across the entire country.

  • leftpinky

    When you’re at the Topkapi Palace, make sure you see the Treasury. My friend went and missed it. Among other things, it has Moses Staff, keys from the Kabaa, and for those of you not interested in that, the world’s fifth largest diamond. There is also a restraunt in sultanahmet next to backpackers has access to a partially excavated (in progress) castle/fortress/who knows that you can go into. VERY cool. best travel guide for turkey? How about the one written and maintained by the original Lonely Planet Turkey writer:
    http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/index.html

  • Keith

    -A couple of buddies and i spent a few days in Instanbul this summer. No doubt that dinner on Suada is a must! As your other poster said, its a small island in the middle of Bosphorus with outdoor restaraunts and bars on it. As far as nightlife is concerned, Club Reina is one of the sickest clubs in the world (and we are club owners). Check it out…http://reina.com.tr/

  • leftpinky

    Btw, the restaraunt is next to backpackers travel, not backpackers. It’s on Yeni Akbiyik Cadessi (street).

    Decide if you want to stay in SultanAhment. It’s not bad, plus super conveneient. I stayed in Sultanahemt in 2006 and then at the W. The W was nice (nearly Hilton/Hyattor whatever, I think), but it’s really far. Theyre near the last tram stop, so easily a 20-30 min trip, plus 15 min walk, unless you take taxis (traffic sucks). You need 3-4 days for Sultan Ahmet, so dont waste them going back and forth. Since Istanbul is full of hills and cobble stone streets, you’re feet will hurt, so I’d say stay close.

    There is a four seasons in sultanahmet, rest of the hotels are local. Ist also is pretty expensive nowadays. Not london/Paris, but you’re looking at $25-35 for a semi-fancy restaraunt and even street food can set you back 5-7 in Ist.

    In the rest of the city, it is much cheaper. As for a super swanky restaraunt, check out 5Kat. Been there a couple times and the food is pretty good, but the views are to die for. they have a website.

  • leftpinky

    Also, check out dolmabahçe palace. Didnt go the first time, but did the second. Topkapi is cool, but unfurnished. The Emperor moved to dolmabahçe about 100 years ago and took all the furnishings. If you want to see how they lived, check this out.

  • Anonymous

    +1 for Ciya Sofrasi, amazing food and reasonably priced. The ferry over to Kadikoy is great too.

  • Anonymous

    The Dervish performance on Sundays in a theater right off of Isitiklal Caddesi is terrific. The musicians and whirling in the distinctive white dresses is unique. There are a limited number of places that they are able to perform outside of the city of Konya, where they are primarily found.
    This is the mystical Muslim sect that practices Sufism and they are followers of Rumi.
    +1 for the Turkey Travel Planner mentioned earlier, Tom is a fount of knowledge when it comes to Turkey.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasonjeon Jason Jeon

    You’re going to LOVE the Star Alliance (Turkish Airlines) lounge Brian. It puts all the others to shame.

  • http://twitter.com/MEANCHAT Ahmet Can

    I am going to suggest some off the beaten path locales in addition to popular destinations – I go to Istanbul twice a year. Ismigul is a great cafe serving organic Turkish fare – breakfast or lunch right across the street from Macka Park near Nisantasi. Adem Baba is a great fish restaurant in Arnavutkoy, a seaside town near the Bosphorus. Simply prepared fresh seafood. Afternoon tea at the new Four Seasons on the Bosphorus is great if you happen to catch a sunny day where you can sit outside. The new Aquarium in Florya is also fun (see recent write-up in NY Times today).

    Kanyon and Istinye Park are swanky malls, but the Covered Bazaar is also a must-see. Cukurcuma, near Taksim, is great for antiques and there are some neat cafes. Definitely go to a hammam (either in a hotel or one of the old historic ones) and get a good scrubbing. Weather permitting, take a ferry to Asia and you can get a great view of the historic Istanbul skyline.

    Akaretler area of Besiktas where the W hotel is located has some nice shops (try haremlique for great towels) and a trendy bar.

    Sakip Sabanci museum has a nice calligraphy exhibit. Istanbul Modern is also cool and has a nice cafe with great view. Pera Museum often has nice exhibits.

    If you can catch a show at Babylon for live music, that could be fun (check biletix.com.tr).
    Get a copy of Istanbul – The Guide (it might be provided gratis in your hotel room). Time Out Istanbul will also have current listings.

    Feel free to message me on Twitter (meanchat) if you have questions. Have a great trip.

  • http://twitter.com/MEANCHAT Ahmet Can

    I think I am oen of the few people who don’t like Ciya Sofrasi – didn’t like the meat and cherry combination.

  • http://twitter.com/MEANCHAT Ahmet Can

    Kempinski and Four Seasons are nice when you can enjoy the pools in the summer. I like to stay at Marmara Pera in the winter – within walking distance to everywhere and great views for a very reasonable price.

  • *A_Cares

    LOL
    I’ve been to *so* many better *A lounges internationally… IST’s is a zoo.

  • Robert

    I know you tend to stay in big corporate hotels… but if you havent booked yet… you should consider a small one with local flair. Istanbul really excels in this regard. I was to Istanbul last week and stayed at the Tulip Taksim. Cute sexy hotel.

  • Jonathan Palmer

    I was just in Istanb

  • http://twitter.com/MEANCHAT Ahmet Can
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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=685121871 Christopher Wu

    Hey I don’t have twitter but would love to hear more about your custom tours…. coming to Istanbul in October.

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