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.
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.
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
Istanbul's skyline is magical at night and one of the best places to enjoy it is from the restaurant on the rooftop of the Adamar Hotel in Sultanahmet. Just a stone's throw from the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia, the rooftop terrace has a 360 degree panoramic view, great food and a romantic atmosphere. The Bosphorus Bridge twinkles with ever-changing colours, the commercial district sparkles with modern skyscrapers, and the mosques and minarets glow with golden light. High above the rooftops, the sounds of the muezzins' evening calls to prayer echo and collide in the night sky around you.
And If the weather is less than kind, there is an indoor restaurant on the floor below with equally good views.
A hunting lodge built by Sultan AbdulMecid in the middle of the 19th century on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus close to the second bridge (Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge) and to the village of Anadolu Hisarı. It is Dolmabahce Palace in miniature. The guided tour is only in Turkish but there is often someone around who will translate for you. Open daily except Monday and Thursday, entrance is only 4TL. After your visit, turn left and walk the five mintues to see the ruined castle at Anadolu Hisari. There you can find several cafes on Kucuksu stream where you can have a meal and enjoy watching the fishermen and pleasure boaters pottering around.
Take a ferry to Uskudar and then hop on a number 15 (to BEYKOZ) bus from in front of the mosque opposite the ferry terminal for the 30 minute (or so!) journey up the Asian shore of the Bosphorus, passing the summer palace of Baylerbeyi on the way.
If you don't have time for the full day Bosphorus cruise then IDO (Istanbul Deniz Otobus) also offer a two hour trips along one of the world's greatest waterways without the lengthy (nearly three hour) stop at the north end of the Bosphorus. It is also kinder on the pocket costing 10 TL instead of 25TL for the full day tour. See the beauty of the city for less money and less time!
The ferry departs from Eminonu at 1430 returning at 1630 (it also collects from Uskudar for those staying on the Asian shore)
Take time out from the whirl of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar by stepping out on to its beautiful rooftop, and admiring the rows of domes from above. Climb the stairs in the courtyard opposite Cebeci Han.
Secondly, a totally authentic and cheap place for late breakfast or lunch in the bazaar is Onur Pilic (meaning "Honour Chicken"). This hole-in-the-wall serves delicious "menemen", scrambled eggs with tomato, cheese and green peppers served with French bread. Even better - ask for slices of chicken from the doner above to be placed on top, add chili flakes and enjoy.
Cebeci Han, Grand Bazaar.
Onur Pilic, Kavaflar Sokak 49, Grand Bazaar.
Google maps: bit.ly/9FKauZ
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
This is a new restaurant which is known as the best seafood restaurant in Sultanahmet. The food is outstanding, you should ask the staff for the special of the day.
The restaurant is on the shore of Marmara Sea with a view of Turkish islands. The "Boukoleon" name comes from the 5th century. There used to be a "Boukoleon Palace" standing right where you sit.
Now you can easily see the archeeological heritage of the old time palace. If you are interested in history, looking for a nice Istanbul view and also outstanding food, I would highly recommend you go to this restaurant.
Hagia Sofia, Sultanahmet, Istanbul
This tower's history goes back to 340 BC. It is in the middle of Bosphorus, and it has recently been renovated. It has 5 floors, top floor being the bar, and you get a free soft drink here, which is included in your ticket from the shore.
You can get the best scenery for the Bosphorus from this floor. Don't forget you are in the middle of Asia and Europe here. Ground floor is a very good restaurant, although prices are above the Turkish average, you're guaranteed to have good food here.
There are frequent boats from Uskudar, Salacak, it takes aroung3 minutes, but you can also take the boat from Ortakoy (though as not frequent as from Uskudar)
Between 408 and 450 Theodosius II constructed a wall arching round the city of Constantinople and providing a land defence running 4 miles (6.5 km) from the Sea of Mamara to the Golden Horn.
The walls served the city well protecting it from invading forces for nearly 1000 years until, in 1453, Mehmet the Conqueror breached the walls and entered the city.
The walls consisted of a main inner wall, 16 feet (5 m) think and 40 feet (12 m) high, a terrace, then an outer wall 7 feet (2m) thick) and about 30 feet (8.5 m) high, this outer wall overlooking a moat. The double walls also included a total of 192 towers plus 11 fortified gateways which gave access to the city. It was an amazing feat of engineering and must have been an incredible site to those approaching the city, especially if contemplating how to overcome this almost impenetrable barrier.
Now the ravages of time and neglect have meant that many areas of the wall have fallen into disrepair, though they are, as ruins so often can be, still very impressive, their shapes making jagged shapes, like broken teeth, against the sky. Other sections have been restored and these give a good indication of how the walls used to look.
We decided to walk along the walls from Yedikule Fortress to Edirnekapi before cutting inwards to the Kariye Camii Museum – a distance of about 3 miles. Walking ‘along’ the walls is a bit of a misnomer as though some guide books say it is possible to climb onto the inner or outer walls, access is not easy and the walls themselves, at times almost in a state of collapse, don’t always look safe enough to climb on. This did mean that for the first part of our journey following the route of the walls we were walking next to a busy main road and exhaust fumes are not the most pleasant accompaniment. However, next to the walls, in, I assume, the old moat are a string of allotments and the exhaust fumes were mitigated by the smell of growing vegetables and plants drifting across from them.
The old gates to the city are generally in quite good repair and close to one we were able to gain access onto the, reconstructed, outer wall and terrace, the latter also filled with allotments.
Though a bit ramshackle and rather a rubbish dump in places this part of the walk was fantastic as hidden from view we walked in solitude between the inner and outer walls watching butterflies flit between vegetables and trying to imagine what it must have felt like to be hunkered down in one of the towers waiting for an incursion or attack.
Later we passed through some more traditional neighbourhoods and stopped for tea at an outside café near the Topkapi Gate where we had a wonderful part English, part Turkish, part sign language conversation with some of the other customers who were interested to know where we had been, where we were going and how we liked Istanbul.
All in all it took us about 2 hours to complete our walk, arriving at the Kariye Camii Museum with a sense of achievement and some good memories. I wouldn’t recommend this walk for everyone it was tiring, it wasn’t always attractive – meaning the main road really – and certain sections of the walls are rather deserted and I wouldn’t want to tackle them on my own, however, it provided some of my most abiding memories of Istanbul and I am really pleased we did it.
You can join the walls at various places – bus 80 goes from Eminonu to Yedikule and buses 37E and 38E go from Edirnekapi, near the Kariye Camii Museum
When Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi tried to fly from the top of the 62-meter-high Galata Tower across the Bosphorus to Asia in 1638, most thought it the improbable hallucination of a mad scientist. Yet it was a dream befitting a period in which the Ottomans' imperial aspirations were truly astounding - and, like the winged Celebi, successful.
Standing atop the tower today, with all of Istanbul spread out 360 degrees all around, one appreciates the incredibleness of the feat, even while hoping to avoid trying to duplicate it oneself.
Although venturing onto the uppermost cylindrical ramparts of this narrow tower built by the Genoese in 1348 induces vertigo for some, it is a truly magical experience, especially at sunset, when the low haze of smog hanging over the western horizon turns the sky copper-red, as the distant mosques start to wail mournfully, seabirds circle down over the boats of the Golden Horn, and the bridges below resonate with the burden of traffic. Indeed, it is at the Galata Tower where one can truly experience this sprawling city in all its unfathomable glory, briefly attaining the tranquillity to take it all in, far above the massed multitudes of Istanbul's streets.
Galata Tower- Büyük Hendel Sok, Beyoglu, up from Karakoy
One of Istanbul’s most photographed monuments which incredibly dates back over 2,000 years, you simply cannot miss the iconic Kiz Kulesi or Maiden’s Tower, out on its own little island at the mouth of the Bosphorus.
In its capacity as customs control, defence tower, lighthouse and now restaurant, you can’t help but wonder what this intriguing structure has bore witness to over the centuries. This is truly a unique dining experience in what is itself a one-of-a-kind city.
The food is good, but who cares? It’s the view of the sun setting over old Istanbul from the tower’s summit that people really come here for.
Transfers from Salacak (Asian Side) and Ortakoy (European Side) daily – check the website for times. Booking recommended.
Tel: 0216 342 47 47
From a small park next to the Sherazade mosque, find the start of the remaining part of the aqueduct. There should be a hole in the fence it's possible to crawl through. Do so and you can then climb to the top of the aqueduct itself. Walk or crawl along the top for breathtaking views of the city and the Golden Horn. Jump off the other side and you're almost next to the Fatih Camii, a gem although off the normal tourist route.
The Galata Tower in Beyoglu was built in 1348 as part of the Genoese fortifications. It has been used as a watchtower and observatory and is now a tourist attraction with a nightclub and restaurant on the top two floors.
Having seen it stand out as one of the defining images of the Galata skyline it was great to go up it and see the wonderful vista of the city spread beneath and around us. A lift then a short flight of stairs takes you to the observation deck with its fantastic views. Look out towards the Bosphorus, The Goldern Horn or the minarets of Aya Sophia and Suleymaniye Mosque. Look down at the intricate network of narrow streets surrounding the tower.
Buyuk Hendek Sok., Beyoglu
The bar at the top of Ceylan International Hotel is wonderful for sipping classy cocktails while watching the Bosphorus. It’s especially great at night when, because the hotel is high enough to avoid the city’s lights, the only lights that pierce the darkness of the sea are those of the ferries and the floodlights of the mosques and palaces. Drinks are not cheap by Turkish standards but then neither is the view.
The hotel is towards Harbiye from Taksim Square
No matter how little time you have for visiting Istanbul, you have to take a boat trip along the Bosphorus. All boats zigzag the Bosporus stopping alternately at a European and an Asian port. The best time to take the boat is on a warm summer’s evening so that you get to see the sunset and, if lucky, full moon over the city.
There is a public service ferry that does the full length or privately run boats that also offer shorter routes
If you have more than a few days, I recommend taking the ferry to one or more of the Princes' Islands.
There are no cars, hardly any other city life noises and the air is definitely cleaner. They are my favourite spot for peace and quiet especially in winter, early spring and autumn as there is hardly anyone visiting and the beautiful wood-clad houses from late 19th century are empty and serene in all their glory.
You can walk around or take a tour in a horse drawn open (covered in winter) carriage and have a glass of tea by the port.
There are regular ferry services to the islands from Eminonu on the Golden Horn and Bostanci on the Anatolian side
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