Generally, crowds detract from an experience - more so in a beautiful, serene, spiritual place. In Istanbul the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) suffers due to it's popularity - especially with the cruise ship populations! To see/feel it as it should be seen/felt go in the evening - no crowds and a bonus of gorgeous lighting effects. Avoid prayer times by visiting www.namazvacti.com/Main.php?WSLanguage=EN
If you’re going to visit a historical site, it makes good sense to enjoy the whole experience as people in the past did, so I recommend the Cagaloglu Haman in Istanbul. It’s one of the oldest Turkish baths in the world and has been visited by figures as diverse and illustrious as Florence Nightingale, King Edward VIII and Tony Curtis. This place was a gift to the city from Sultan Mahmud 1 in 1741and it retains the original features, such as beautiful high-domed ceilings and marble fountains as well as an interior garden. The bathing experience is still just as it was in the Ottoman days - you are given a brisk body exfoliation followed by a bubble massage as you lie on a smooth marble plinth. I skidded around like a beached seal as the masseur slapped and pummelled me before washing my hair with a deliciously herbal scented soap. Afterwards, wrapped in white fluffy towels and sipping tea, I could almost imagine myself back in the days of the Sultan.
Alemdar Mh. Cağaloğlu Hamamı Sk No:34, Fatih, Turkey
+90 212 522 2424
Google map: bit.ly/15fTNQg
My family have just returned from istanbul. This is the fourth time I have been to this beautiful city but this was the first time we stayed at Alibaba Suites I would highly recommend these apartments to anyone. They are only five minutes away from the Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet Mosgue, are very clean, close to local shops where you are not paying tourist prices for food and other essentials. The apartments are fairly priced for what you get, better than staying in a hotel where you are stuck in one room. There was a lovely terrace upstairs where we used to have breakfast daily
Bunyamin and Moustafa, the two partners were very helpful and my children became attached to Bunyamin and wanted to visit them in their travel agency every day. We used to pass by and talk to Ben who was hospitable and would always give us good advice and looked after us as if we were their personal guests.
The apartment was cleaned every day and it was nice to come back to a nice and clean apartment.
Thank you very much Ben and Moustafa hope to see you soon again.
Walk through the ornate lobby of the Seven Hills hotel in Sultanahmet, and take the lift to the rooftop bar for the best view in Istanbul. Sip a Turkish beer or wine while drinking in the 360 degree panorama, including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the ships on the Bosphorus. Swap seats each round for a different but equally stunning view!
Istanbul is all about roof top views and one of the best is from the 5 Kat. Located in a non descript building on a quiet side street, after a ride in a shaky old lift you step out onto a beautiful outdoor terrace with a breathtaking view over the Bosphorus. Get there early evening to grab a bar stool and a cocktail and watch the sun go down and the lights go up. Great view of the light show on the Bosphorus bridge.
If you have any interest in military or turkish history this is the musuem to visit. Floor after floor of Ottoman weapons ranging from stylish scimitars to giant cannons. And on some days (check site) you get a free live show from an Ottoman marching band (mehter band bit like a highland regiment band in full costume with massive drum and pipes - great fun and much enjoyed by the Turkish schoolchildren on our visit). The text for the exhibits gives the "Turkish perspective" on issues such as Cyprus (but no mention of Kurdish conflict) and some debatable ancient history claiming Attila the Hun for the Turks. There is is even a Turkish submarine. In the grounds there are some giant cannon used in WW1 and a fighter jet. Highly impressive and most exhibits have English text. Companion naval museum is also meant to be good but we did not manage to find it. Recommended
Spend Christmas with a difference in Istanbul. It’s business as usual on Christmas day so you can hit the streets for a truly magical experience. Wander through the alleys of the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market, take a trip up the Bosporus to visit the Beylerbeyi Palace, enjoy the serene beauty of the Blue Mosque, indulge in a swanky meal at the restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art Istanbul. If you need something more Christmassy, then you can always pop into the Santa Maria Draperis Church just off the main pedestrianized shopping drag, Istiklal Avenue. Be prepared for some pretty inclement weather (a very warm coat and a sturdy umbrella definitely required) but otherwise you can avoid the Christmas panic and just enjoy amazing cafes and restaurants, local wine and a massive dollop of exotic. My teenage children agreed that it was the best Christmas present ever – along with the new suitcase to meet EasyJet hand-luggage specifications!
Google map: bit.ly/UcDm5K
It is an international kitchen but with a Turkish touch. Open kitchen with a large menu and small prices for big plates!
Nice decoration and it was comfortable and cosy.
Child friendly atmosphere and very nice service.
The owners are from the Netherlands and the coffee they serve is fair trade with about 20 different types.
Büyükdere Cad. Eczacı Ali Kaya Sok. No. 4 Levent (Pol Center Kapı No. 35), Istanbul 34394, Turkey
+90 212 324 5588
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!
Built in the 14th century, the 67m high, nine storey Galata Tower dominates the Istanbul skyline and has recently been completely refurbished to include a bar/restaurant and viewing balcony on its top storey. It was the tallest structure in Istanbul at the time, and now you can see the city that straddles two continents in a 360-degree panorama from the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace to the Bosphorus and Sea of Marmara. Enjoy a cappuccino and quick snack throughout the day, or book a table for a lively evening of fine international cuisine, great beers and wines and exotic but tasteful belly-dancing.
I stayed at the beginning and end of my recent stay in Turkey. The first time I was "upgraded" to a beautiful beautiful room! On the end stay, it was a regular room, but still very nice - and good value for the price. The staff were incredible, courteous, and helpful. The location - across from the Four Seasons Hotel could not have been better. The rooftop restaurant with a fantastic view had a very good breakfast buffet and good dinner as well. I would definitely stay again.
Describing "The Other Tour" isn't easy - but imagine if, instead of conceiving an iPhone, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs decided to design an Istanbul tour - and to conduct it in person. And imagine that, instead of being born in California, he'd been born Fethi Karatas in Turkey.
Such a tour would be "different" because Fethi - like Steve - "thinks different(ly)." Looking for an ordinary cellphone? - you won't appreciate an iPhone. Looking for an ordinary Istanbul tour of the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace or Chora Museum? - pass on "The Other Tour."
Istabul is, I am convinced, after our recent visit, unlike any other city in the world, where so many cultures and religions live side-by-side in the closest I've seen to harmony anywhere. And there's no way you're likely to appreciate it without the direction of Fethi Karatas. He'll take you to its diverse neighborhoods where you'll meet friendly residents you'd never otherwise meet because, frankly, those neighborhoods are a bit scary to conservative Western eyes, educated by media to suspect people who dress differently and pray differently than we do.
Example: Fethi explains that, back in the 1970s, a group of Kurds - an ethnic group aggressively ignored by a former government - went to an Istanbul area hillside without streets or power lines or water service, and in a series of night-time "assaults," threw up what would be a concrete-block "Hoover-ville" to establish a fact on the ground...and resisted a progression of eviction efforts. That was 40 years ago, and many of the houses still look like they were erected in those early overnights. Fethi not only walks you through them, he introduces you their residents - even took us to a schoolyard where we could watch (and photograph) the well-dressed children and their mothers picking them up at the end of a half-day session (because, as Fethi explains), the government is reluctant to invest in sufficient classrooms for people who pay no property taxes.
You'd never know that - you'd never see that - and you'd never understand that side of Istanbul on any ordinary tour.
Fethi takes you on a private powerboat ride on the Bosphorus, showing and explaining the historic mansions built to accommodate Islamic standards of separation of the sexes...their value today accentuated by the expensive yachts moored just offshore of them. He'll briefly dock and treat you to a special Asian-side yogurt available nowhere else in the world. And pour you some local wine as the boat captain cruises back to the Europe side.
Lunch is really special - prepared by his doting mother in her home. I guess vegetarians might be accommodated, but Istanbul can be a bit challenging for vegans and dieters. since the Turks are not an agrarian people (although I judge their tomatoes the best in the world). But Fethi's mom lays out a spread proven to tempt exceptions for even devoted PETA supporters...and the temptation is worth it. You simply won't find a better, more authentic meal in Istanbul.
You see the side of Istanbul Fethi sees - and you hear his opinions about it, occasionally peppered with language and explitives rarely heard in hyperpolite "guided tours" reciting litanies of facts out of Wikipedia. Want to see the tourist sites? - download a few apps to your iPhone - you really don't need a guide. Want to learn about Istanbul, the Ottomans and its many cultures and history from an informed, frank but admittedly personal point of view? - this is for you.
While I took a pass on the Turkish bath (I was the only male in the group, and decided to skip it), the ladies loved theirs. Over some deep-fried little fish at a cafe near the bath, I spent an enjoyable hour discussing Fethi's plans to take "The Other Tour" international, similarly uncovering the "real" sides of cities tourists miss with conventional tours.
Our evening ended in a restaurant with a great semi-pro band and waves of great Turkish foods and breads and salads and wine. And a bit of dancing, too.
All through the long day, The Other Tour is organized like the D-Day invasion. The van is ALWAYS there. NOTHING is transparently skipped because of traffic, because his drivers know back alleys and side streets like a London cabbie knows "the knowledge" (their tough test for a hack license). Even the breaks were well planned and interesting - like, at the end of the day, a stop at a small tavern with a back room where Fethi taught us the Turkish board game, "O-Key" (pronounced like "okay.")
The Other Tour is different, more expensive, and more extensive than any we found on Tripadvisor. It's not for everyone. Fethi know it, and puts himself - and you - on trial for the morning. If you don't like his choices and style, you can bail - or he can ask you to leave - at noon, no charge.
This is a one day tour of Istanbul, Turkey. If you are a true 'traveler' (fun, adventurous, open minded) this is undoubtedly for you. It is more of an experience than anything else and it shows you all sides of this incredible city. Participants learn, laugh and directly interact with locals for 14+ hours. It is easily the best experience I had in Istanbul - I just wish that I could find a tour like this in every city!
0090 (505) 884 04 95
Lovely trip of the Greek Islands and parts of Turkey in celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. Valide Sultan Hotel was to be our treat at the end of this lovely vacation.
Front desk Bunyamin clearly went above and beyond the call of duty. Once we had checked in, he invited us to the rooftop lounge and began our visit with a detailed conversation to discover what we would like to get out of our Istanbul experience. Once armed with this information he made a number of suggestions of things to do and see during our stay in Istanbul. From his selection of a guide to take us on a historic walking tour, to his personal tutelage in negotiating with shopkeepers in the Grand Bazaar his recommendations were flawless and his personal assistance was unparalleled.
Our room, The Marmara, was gorgeous in its extravagant fabrics and detail. The views were breathtaking; either experienced from our room, or the hotel’s excellent rooftop restaurant. There is no better location in Istanbul to enjoy the views of the many historic sites including the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque or the endless ships on the Sea of Marmara entering and exiting the Bosphorus.
The staff at the Valide Sultan was equally committed to the best overall experience for their guests. This hotel is small and intimate and while there, we felt like we were part of the family. They were consistently attentive whether servicing a request for our room, or suddenly appearing with a beautiful woven shawl to ward off the autumn evening breeze on the rooftop.
Valide Sultan was indeed the jewel that capped a most memorable holiday for us.
My friend and I stayed in Lausos hotel for five nights. Our room was beautiful. We had a corner room and had beautiful views over the sea. The breakfast was very good. All the staff were really polite and helpful.
Location of the hotel was excellent for all tourist sites. It's two minutes to the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya, and Topkapi Palace. Plus it's a short walk to the Grand Bazaar and about a 15 minute walk to the Spice Market (we took a taxi instead.)
Tektekci is the best shot bar I've ever seen.
Located in Beyoglu - Taksim area, next to Galatasaray, the bar serves over 100 homemade cocktail shots and offers really good music.
Tomtom Mahallesi Akarsu Sokak No.2/1, 34433, Beyoglu
+90(0)533 774 74 60
For the freshest fish in Istanbul, head for the harbour where a large traditional boat is moored on the quayside. As the fishermen land their catch, another group fillets the fish and lays them on a vast barbecue on the boat. It is quite a sight to behold as the golden mackerel sizzle gently before being placed on warm Turkish bread and served by men in colourful braided waistcoats. The queue is long but fast moving as hundreds of Turks and tourists alike enjoy a delicious lunch at the little tables set alongside the boat on the harbour while listening to the calls to prayer from the several mosques gracing the skyline. A memorable experience and lunch for two for less than a fiver!
Beside the Galata Bridge which crosses the Golden Horn at Eminonu, facing the Yeni Camii mosque.
Google map: bit.ly/GGoxRv
Expertly run by Evelin, a Dutch ex-pat, Cooking Alaturk runs a daily cooking class for tourists with the expert help of a local chef.
Don't fancy that? They also offer a four-course tasting menu of contemporary Turkish food which changes daily. Book ahead, since they have very limited tables.
I went on my 30th birthday and they bought me out a small cake and candle, while the staff sang 'Happy Birthday'.
When walking from the Galata Bridge to the Galata Tower, you might be fooled to thinking this little back street patisserie is just that, but when you take the almost hidden lift to the third floor of the building you can enjoy beautiful views of Sultanahmet across the Bosphorus. A large open air terrace sits upon the rooftop with excellent service, good prices and tasty food. The menu has a selection of Turkish, Italian and international dishes as well as a large selection of cakes from their ground floor patisserie. Excellent homemade soups for cold evenings and big salads for summer nights. A great place to watch the sun go down and the lights of nighttime Istanbul illuminate the Mosques and palaces across the river.
A wonderful blog giving you an insiders guide to everything you need to know. From simple workers cafes to specialist restaurants. We did the guided walking tour even though we had been to Istanbul many times and learnt more than any guide book can offer. It's a wonderful cultural event and you get a real feel for Istanbul , it's people and especially it's food! The guided walk may seem pricy, but proved to be worth every penny.
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