Istanbul’s latest design hotel situated on the city’s Asian side. A recently restored Ottoman distillery with thoughtfully designed rooms that unusually manage to strike a perfect balance between comfort and modernity. Large windows enable guest to take full advantage of the spectacular Bosphorus views. For added convenience, the hotel provides free scheduled boat shuttle service to the city centre.
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.
A Byzantine prison and the still standing stretches of the Theodosian city walls.
Yedikule is interesting in itself, but the walls are an exceptional place to visit where it's possible to take a step back in time. Fields cultivated in the middle of the city? You get it. Families on wooden carts drawn by donkeys? Check. Strangely, the whole experience will seem even more atmospheric if you walk along the walls in a slight drizzle, preferably in February.
There are some amazing mosaics at the Kariyer Camii.
Yedikule, Kariyer Camii
To escape from the crowds in Sultanahmet and/or Taksim why not spend an evening (or two) on the Asian side of the city? Hop on a ferry from Eminonu, Karakoy or Besiktas and get off at Kadikoy.
For a great, quality meal of meze and grilled meat or fish head for the restaurants opposite the ferry terminal. Olympiat I and II are particularly good with muscle-bound waiters wobbling under trays piled high with a bewildering selection of hot and cold appetizers.
Only a short walk away (admittedly uphill) you can find a whole street of bars, full of the young, trendy and beautiful. Particular highlights are Isis (possibly Istanbul's only Egyptian theme bar) and Masal Evi (fairy house) a haven for couples.
When you're done, the hotels of Taksim are only a dolmus ride away, or taxi for the heavier of wallet.
Kadikoy - opposite the ferry terminal and then off Bahariye Caddesi
Feeling nostalgic for London Routemasters? Ever imagined yourself in the cockpit of a Douglas DC3 Dakota or behind the controls of an Istanbul tram? Then a visit to this fascinating transport and industrial museum should be ideal. The museum is a massive personal collection of transportation assembled by the eponymous Turkish industrialist who founded the museum. You can also see speedboats, steam engines, a Formula 1 car, the Sultan's personal railway carriage, and most unexpectedly a Turkish submarine.
Rahmi M Koç Museum, Hasköy Cad. No: 27; Hasköy 80320 - Istanbul
Tel: 212 369 66;
Buses 47, 54HM and 54HT; www.rmk-museum.org.tr
It's easy to miss the Hippodrome, in a sense, because it's the space between buildings. It's well worth paying attention to, though.
The space still retains the long shape of the chariot racing track which was famous in antiquity and was the site of a famous riot. The fans of the racing teams were as obsessed as modern day football fans.
In the centre, the late Roman and Byzantine emperors displayed numerous antiquities hauled to Constantinople from all over the empire, including Egyptian obelisks and the serpent column from the sanctuary of Delphi in Greece, which was set up to commemorate victory over the Persians by the Greeks in 480 BC. Only the column is there now, but it used to support a giant tripod (bowl on three legs) - a fitting symbol to put in the Hippodrome since tripods were, like modern 'cups', the usual prize in athletic games.
The Egyptian obelisk is from Karnak, brought to Constantinople by Theodosius I, and placed on a relief-decorated base. The base shows the imperial court and Hippodrome scenes, and around it is the original ground level of the Hippodrome.
The Hippodrome is between the Blue Mosque and the Museum of Islamic Art. A row of tea shops next to the Blue Mosque looks onto it
Take the Bosphorus Steamer's ticket to see breathtaking views of the Bosphorous, where two continents cross. You’ll also see wooden houses on the waterfront, historic palaces and two fortresses. The passenger boats looks like Italian vaporettas. Ferry ticket are five euro for a return, and the ferry leaves at 10 in the morning from Sirkeci. Trips take around two hours.
Sirkeci Vapur Iskelesi across Yeni Cami
Sultan's Inn: an inexpensive but lovely hostel with a nice terrace, showers and air-conditioning. I was very impressed with the price - I shared a room with a friend for around £12 per night each.
Chemberlitash Hamam: a spacious Turkish bath - the changing room, if I recall, is a corridor, but the actual hamam is large and one can spread out and lie on the marble slab in peace. In the smaller baths, there is no room on the central marble slab and you have to sit around, sweating and waiting for your turn for massage instead of lying down and relaxing.
Sultan's Inn (beware, there are many inns with Sultan in the name - so make sure you get this one): Mustafa Pasa Sokak No. 50, Kucukayasofya, Sultanahmet, 34700
Çemberlitas Hamami, Vezirhan Cad. 8 (off Divanyolu at the Column of Constantine; tel. 0212/522-7974; $25 bath, massage, and kese [a scrubbing using an abrasive mitt], including tip; $10 bath only; daily 6am-midnight with separate sections
If you like strong, flavoursome coffee you'll love Turkish coffee. It is the perfect way to end a meal, particularly when accompanied by some Baklava.
If you want to buy coffee to take home with you I would recommend Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi (Tahmis Caddesi 66, very near the Spice Bazaar). Smells lovely and tastes even better.
Situated in a peaceful, quite courtyard very close to Divan Yolu, Yerebatan Sarayi and Aya Sofya this is a perfect place to stop for lunch or a drink. The medresseh itself houses workshops and exhibition rooms highlighting traditional Turkish crafts such as calligraphy, ceramics, jewellery etc, which you can look round either before or after your meal.
The food was well prepared and very tasty with the menu reflecting more of a cafe than a restaurant feel, for example, lamb meatballs with chilli and spaghetti, a delicious dish of scrambled eggs with tomatoes and chilli plus bread
Also our kick-boxing, friendly and attentive waiter was great.
Caferiye Sokak, Sogukkuyu Cikmazi No 1
Quite easy to miss but is signposted from Caferiye Sokak
The Book Bazaar is in a lovely little courtyard just off Beyazit Square and near the Grand Bazaar.
The stalls and shops sell a mixture of different books from tourist guides, textbooks to bestsellers and magazines. There are also some fantastic places to buy prints, pictures and calligraphy.
The clientele seems to be a mix of students from the nearby university, locals and tourists.
A great place to wander and browse.
Please note that all prices are fixed so no haggling.
Sahaflar Carsisi Sok, Beyazit
Noisy, busy, easy to get lost in, hard to get out of but always fun.
If you enjoy shopping and bargaining you'll love it. If you find bargaining and being approached by people a little uncomfortable then the Grand Bazaar is probably not for you.
Yes, it's very touristy. There are endless shops selling apple tea classes, Turkish coffee cups, belly dancing outfits etc. However you can also buy beautiful jewellery, fine fabrics, good value leather goods and, of course, carpets and kilims.
The shop keepers can be persistent but are always hospitable. Often an invitation into a shop will be accompanied by an offer of apple tea or Turkish coffee. If you don't want to buy anything just politely refuse. If you do, then get set to bargain. Offer about half the asking price, or below, and work from there. Have in your mind what you want to pay and stick to it.
Remember, always be polite. And if you do get exhausted with haggling there are plenty of little cafes to sit down in, have a drink and admire the bargains you've bought.
There are various entry points to the bazaar including Nuruosmaniye Gate, near the Nuruosmaniye Mosque and Beyazit Gate, near the book bazaar and Beyazit Square
The Spice Bazaar or Misir Carsisi (Egyptian Bazaar, because taxes from the sale of Egyptian imports were used to help finance it) is a colourful mix of sights, sounds and smells. Much smaller and more accessible than the Grand Bazaar, it is equally as busy. Traders will tempt you into their shops with a tray of Turkish delight and once inside you can peruse an array of spices, sweets, nuts and teas.
A good place to shop for gifts to take home. Or some apple tea to accompany the tea glasses you buy at the Grand Bazaar.
The streets around the Spice Market, particularly leading up to the Grand Bazaar, are a crowded, vibrant noisy, confusion of people, shops, stalls and carts.
Cami Meydani Sok/Yeni Cami Cadessi; Open: 9.00am-6.00pm closed Sunday
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 Topkapi Palace must be one of the highlights of visiting Istanbul. Built between 1459 and 1465 it is not the traditional royal palace building I was expecting, but a series of pavilions and kiosks placed in four large courtyards and surrounded by beautiful gardens.
The harem, the private living quarters of the Sultan, his wives, concubines and children, is a labyrinth of corridors rooms and courtyards. Some of the rooms, such as the imperial chamber and the dining room of Ahmet III, are exquisitely decorated. Standing in one of the courtyards overlooking the Harem baths it is easy to imagine the daily life of the women here, their frustrations, hopes and ambitions.
In the narrow corridors one can imagine the scheming, intrigue and jostling for position as the favours of the Sultan were vied for.
The third courtyard contains the treasury, where the famous Topkapi dagger is held, and the pavilion of the holy mantle, which contains some of Islam's Hholiest relics. Walking past the room containing the Prophet Mohammed's mantle listening to the sound of chanting as verses of the Koran are recited was a heady, quite emotional experience.
In the fourth courtyard is the Baghdad Pavilion beautifully decorated with blue and white tiles and the gold canopy of the Iftariye Pavilion where there are wonderful views over the Golden Horn.
nearest Tram stop: Sultanahmet
Hagia or Aya Sophia (Church of the Divine Wisdom) was inaugurated in 537 by Emperor Justinian. It has been a church, mosque and is now a museum.
The first thing to strike you when entering the nave is its sheer size and scale (the dome reaches a height of 54m, 187 ft). It is worth letting your eyes wander up the walls past the half domes and on to the apex of the main dome which seems to float, as if suspended in the air, above the interior space. Quite dizzying.
The galleries contain some beautiful frescos, you can also get a close up view of the huge plaques bearing calligraphic inscriptions which hang over the nave. The views over the nave itself and the ceiling are fantastic.
Just outside the exit is an exquisite ablutions fountain. Visiting Hagia Sophia is a truly awe-inspiring experience.
Ayasofya meydani, Sultanahmet; nearest tram: Sultanahmet
In bustling Galata step off the street into a tranquil garden with a cemetery. Inside, there's a beautiful old building with a wooden chamber in which dervishes hold ceremonies at times. Mevlevi ceremonies used to be performed for visitors on the last Sunday of each month (but check if this is still the case).
Galata Mevlevihane, Galip Dede Caddesi.
A chocolatiere. They have been making the best profiterole to my knowledge since 1923. The owner claims that he took the original recipe from either Paris or Vienna, and modified it. For anyone who cares for chocolate, it is a real treat.
Enter Istiklal Caddesi, aka Beyoglu, from Taksim. It will be on your right, after the French Consulate and some stores. It is a hole in the wall but any local will be happy to point it
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