I spent with my husband four nights in Muhlisbey Hotel. On arrival we were offered free tea, water or coffee. Front desk staff gave us all the information we were looking for and took excellent care about our needs all the time. The room was really small but you are not here to stay in the room! They were very clean and tidy, furniture and equipment is new, hotel was fully restored and open in last month. The location is just in the heart of old Istanbul city. It takes only five minutes walk to Blue Mosque as well as Hagia Sofia. It is the perfect base point for exploring Istanbul due to the tram, bus and Orient Express connection. I would recommend Muhlisbey Hotel to all who would like to have value for their money! You will feel really welcome there!
Most people will argue that, while in Turkey, you should eat kebabs in all their different incarnations (İskender, döner, şiş, etc) or the pide, or baklava or any of the other amazing foods that Turkey has to offer.
However, if you truly want to get to the heart of Turkey’s crowning glory, Istanbul, there is no better nor faster way than the midye.
Midye, the little stuffed mussels with rice and lemon juice, are ubiquitous in most Turkish cities. But to walk across the Galata Bridge, eating midye, watching the sunrise, is another experience in itself. The rice in the overstuffed morsel, absorbs the saltiness of the sea and the sourness of the lemon, producing a combination much like Istanbul itself, that in the overcrowding of 11 million people and four empires, you can find peace in the calm waters of the Bosphorus, highlighted by the sharpness of the sun.
On this bridge, at this time, with this food, you can feel the overwhelming sense of beauty of the Queen of Cities.
Sold everywhere near the Bosphorus and the Galata Bridge.
Google map: bit.ly/GACD81
The name of the food is La Majune - i dont think its spelt like that but the food is amazing - there are so many of these take away and eat in places where its advertised clearly in front that they make and sell La Majunes. These are large circular flatbreads which are smothered in a lamb sauce ( not spicy at all ) and lettuce tomatoes and cucumber are added along with their fantastic houmous - you then roll it up and enjoy. It's a lovely filler as a light lunch to get you going on your shopping spree as the eastern side of Istanbul is bargain central!
If you are staying on the western side of Istanbul and fancy something more authentic - then catch a boat marked USKADAR at the port of the sea of Marmara and it will take you straight over.
Google map: bit.ly/GT1tAS
Akbil is a prepaid travel token for use on buses, trams and ferries within Istanbul. An excellent idea if you plan to travel around the city. You can buy the Akbil at many places round the city and recharge it as necessary. It saves you having to keep on buying tickets or individual tokens to travel, and travel costs are slightly lower.
The best thing about Akbil is you can use one for the whole family/group. All you need do is bleep each person through the turnstile, or onto the bus.
All over the city at Akbil sales points (usually news kiosks as well as at bus and ferry terminals)
This is a great restaurant on the Asia side of Istanbul. The servers are nice and the food is moderately priced. Hands down the best food I had in Turkey. When you've had too many donners go here for dinner. There is a nice market down the street too.
Guneslibahce Sokak 43, KADIKOY, Istanbul, Turkey
Google map: bit.ly/mt0VBA
It is such a suitable apartment for family travellers. Location is superb just nearby Blue Mosque. We found the apartment extremely clean. Home owner Bahadir took a very good care of us during our stay in July.
Without a doubt one of the finest vantage points Istanbul has to offer. We took the free shuttle service from Taksim Square to SantalIstanbul (a former power station, now the Museum of Energy/gallery space on the Golden Horn, www.santralistanbul.com), spent the morning there, then hopped in a dolmus down to Eyup. A cable car brings you up to the shady, hillside cafe. It's a little touristy, but get a good seat and with cay pretty much on tap, you will be well and truly rooted. The Halic (Golden Horn) ferry snakes back via Haskoy. Look out for the partially submerged submarine, an exhibit belonging to the Rahmi M. Koc transport museum.
Pierre Loti Cafe, Eyup
Karyagdi Sok., EYUP
Phone: +90 (212) 581 26 96
Google map: tinyurl.com/ycz2aee
Take the slow boat to Buyukada island. It takes about one and a half hours and only costs about four pounds each way. It is a lovely way to escape the scorching heat of Istanbul as the boat is open and breezy. You can watch the people getting on and off the boat and the tea sellers coming around- buy a cup it is refreshing and cheap.The boat stops at two islands before reaching Buyukada so you can enjoy the scenery. Buyukada is a great place for a day trip or overnight stay. You can buy an infinite variety of ice-creams, drink coffee by the port and watch the boats and people, or have a kebab. If you are feeling energetic hire a bicycle; but if you want to relax hire a horse drawn carriage taxi; then tour the island. You will be impressed by all the authentically restored wooden mansions. If you decide to spend a night, you have to stay in the iconic 1900's Hotel Splendid. Don't be surprised if you bump into Hercule Poirot in the elegantly faded drawing room.
Kadakoi ferry, Istanbul
There’s a forgotten train ride through the middle east that no-one mentions or goes on; it lasts from 8am on Sunday to 8pm Sunday and goes through two vast countries. This train departs Istanbul and arrives in Damascus and on-route it meanders its way through the interior of Turkey bordering mountain ranges and plains and going through medieval cities such as Konya and the rarely visited town of Antep. You then you enter Syria and immediately hit the mecca that is Aleppo, with its bustling streets and many souqs and then you travel through Syria and finally end up in the oldest continually habited city on Earth, in one of the greatest cities in the middle east, Damascus… and all of this for £50.
On Peykhane, one of the streets running off Divan Yolu and about ten minutes' walk from Cemberlitas. Unassuming, bright diner, with excellent, cheap meals (pide, kebab, salad, soup), no hassle or hustling, friendly staff, and the best fresh bread we tasted in the whole city. 12-20 liras for two. Convenient for Sultanahmet hotels but out of the tourist beargarden.
Karadeniz kebab, Peykhane
Sutis was recommended by the owner of the Cagaloglu Hamam (Turkish bath) in the Sultanahmet area. We were expecting a tourist trap, but loads of locals eat there - always a good sign.
Prices are insanely low for the area and you can definitely find something for under six lira. We tried the tavuk durum for 3.75ytl - chicken, fresh vegetables and fries in a thin flatbread. It was the best thing we'd eaten in Istanbul!
Paket Servisi Saatlerimi - just up the road from Cagaloglu Hamam, towards the Grand Bazaar.
Tel: 512 01 61 - 522 02 54
If you want to buy some tea glasses, head for this shop just behind the Spice Bazaar. There's a wide range and, as it isn't a tourist-oriented shop, you can buy them cheaply and individually (thus avoiding the overpriced sets a few metres away in the Bazaar).
Go out of the exit at the junction of the 2 sections of the Spice Bazaar and turn right.
It's only a simple cafe in the Grand Bazaar, but the tables on the "street" provide a lovely, inexpensive spot to sit and watch the world go by. You'll find it at a junction just north of the musical instrument section, not far off the goldsellers' street.
As a non-meat eater I couldn’t help but notice the irony of eating somewhere where the only main dishes are kofte: meatballs and kebab. However, having been recommended by a number of visitors and with an especially carnivorous husband wanting to sample as many kebabs as Istanbul could offer I was happy to give Tarihi Selim Usta Sultanahmet Koftecisi a try. And, having visited once, happy to go back a second time.
Situated amongst the many eateries of Divan Yolu Tarihi Selim Usta Sultanahmet Koftecisi seemed consistently bustling and busy with a steady stream of locals and tourists. Inside it is basic and functional – but what more do you need – the same could be said of the menu which, apart from kofke and kebab offers lentil soup, rice (pilav), green salad, bean salad (piyaz), yoghurt and bread as accompaniments. However in no way does that do the food justice. It is what you might call comfort food of the first degree, unfussy, straightforward and flavoursome. Lentil Soup was thick and tasty, the bean salad - seasoned with mint and a little oil - lovely and fresh, both the kebabs and kofte were nicely spiced and well cooked and the yoghurt was delicious – again a wonderful fresh, palate cleansing taste.
Sit downstairs and you are right in the middle of things with waiters scooting about taking orders and delivering food from the grill, upstairs was quieter with excellent views over Divan Yolu. Service is friendly and fast and the price is excellent – between 20 and 30 YTL (£7.20/$13.80 to £10.80/$20.70) for a meat dishes, two or three accompaniments, yoghurt, bread and a couple of drinks. This is fast food at its tastiest and best, perfect for a lunchtime break.
12 Divan Yolu
Nearest tram stop is Sultanahmet
Housed in an old palace overlooking the Hippodrome the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts charts the history, influences and changes in Islamic art through the use of pottery, tiles, artefacts, calligraphy, glass and metal work, manuscripts and friezes.
There are some wonderful exhibits, especially the beautiful calligraphy and decorated manuscripts, vibrantly coloured tiles and also the exquisite, elaborate pins and brooches used to decorate turbans.
The later galleries and the Main Ceremonial Hall contain one of the world’s foremost collection of antique carpets. The exhibition explains the different types of carpets and how some styles are named after certain artists i.e. Holbein, because they were featured in paintings by those artists. In the west Turkish carpets were so prized that they were used as table coverings rather than on the floor, thus showing the wealth of those who owned them.
The museum also has an Ethnographical Section which includes a reconstruction of a traditional Yurt dwelling and also details of how natural dyes are made from such things as plants, dried flowers and even crushes insects.
All the exhibits are well displayed with descriptions in Turkish and English. There is a lot to take in however the museum also has a lovely tea room where you can refresh your senses and feet and, in summer, sit out on the terrace with beautiful views over the Blue Mosque.
At Meydani 46, Sultanahmet
Overlooking the Hippodrome, opposite the Blue Mosque.
Tucked in a busy street of bars, restaurants, hotels and hostels, Albura offers a large selection of Turkish and International dishes at very reasonable prices.
Wooden floors and ceiling are offset by orange/ochre walls and exposed brickwork, the walls also decorated by interesting metal lamp fittings. Seating is on iron or wooden chairs and some very comfortable leather banquettes.
The menu is extensive with traditional Turkish dishes – such as mixed meze, kebabs and fresh fish – on offer next to wider ranging fare such as crepes, salads and pasta. There are also a number of vegetarian options.
The food was well cooked and very tasty, more along the lines ‘comfort food’ than modern or fusion cuisine but nothing wrong with that, as attested by a number of people in the restaurant who were visiting for a second time. Indeed had we not wished to sample as many restaurants as we could we may have returned as there was a number of different things on the menu I would like to have tried. We had a couple of criticisms, the salad we ordered had a bit too many pickled/bottled vegetables, making it rather less fresh and more bland then I would have liked, and the baked potato accompaniment with one of the dishes was slightly cold, however, these are really minor caveats and didn’t effect our overall enjoyment of the meal.
Combine all the above with friendly staff and a price tag for two starters, two main courses, a dessert, two beers and a coffee of 83 YTL (approx. £34.00) and you’ve got a good evening out.
Yeni Akbiyk Cad. 26
It costs 1.3 lira (50p) for one journey on the modern funicular between Taksim Square and Kabatas and it is much better than taking a taxi. The trams and the ferry costs the same amount and the ferry, crossing from Europe to Asia, is a must.
Taksim Square, Istanbul.
Freshly-caught fried fish, sandwiched between crusty bread, onion optional. Eat it while sitting at infant-sized tables facing the Golden Horn. Costs less than a pound, tastes great.
Get off the tram at Karaköy, turn around with Sultanahmet behind you, cross the road, walk past the fish market and jetty until you come to tables and chairs set out on the grass. Sit down and wait for the server to notice you.
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