Interested in Istanbul?
We'll send you updates with the latest deals, reviews and articles for Istanbul each week.
So, you've already dished out a fortune visiting the top destinations in your guidebook, and you've still got a couple of days to burn in Istanbul. Now what do you do? Instead of ambling aimlessly until flighttime, why don't you discover, dine or or just daydream at these Seven Spendthrift Sites.
Some six centuries ago, Constantine Emperors casted troublesome princes to rot on these nine islands. Nowadays this picturesque archipelago, with Buyukada as its largest island, spoils its visitors with a glimpse into late 19th century Ottoman lifestyle. The islands, just 13.5 miles west of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara, can be reached by ferryboat in 90-minute for about $2 USD. You can island-hop or land for the day on Buyukada, where you can rent a donkey, bicycle or even hire a horsedrawn carriage, which seats 4 comfortably. It'll set you back about 15 bucks to travel the 8.5 miles around this Victorian wonder, which to this day bans the use of motor vehicles. As you clip clop along the route, make sure to visit the Monastery of Saint George or jump off this floating terra firma for a quick, refreshing dip.
Located smack across the historic square of Sultanahmet and its two majestic sanctuaries, the Mosque of Sultanahmet and Aya Sofia, the original Sultanahmet Kofteci is always busy but never have I had to wait for a table. For over 8 decades, it has been known for its fast and courteous service of kofte plates -- a nutty, spicy lamb meatball dish. Combined with crusty bread, hot pepper, a serving of Piyaz (white bean salad), and polished off with a to-die-for Irmik Helva (modestly sweet semolina, pine nuts, milk, and butter), you'll dine like a pasha or comcubine for less than $10 USD.
Sultanahmet Kofteci is located at 12 Divan Yolu, Sultanahmet - TEL:+90 212 5131438
For about 3 US quarters, you can span the Bosphorus Strait from Europe's Eminonu Port to Asia's Kadikoy Port, and for another 75 cents you can take an old-styled tramway to Moda or walk there shoreside along the recently completed quay. While this excursion is rarely covered by tour guides, a visit to this northwesternmost tip of Anatolia will not only make you a hit in front of an envious crowd around the office water cooler but you'll also be able to glimpse the scenic enclave of Topkapi and the famed Golden Horn while on location.
OK. It's hot, and you've crossed the great continental divide. Once in Moda, you've gotta to get a lick of arguably the best ice cream in Turkey at Ali Usta Dondurmaci. For $1, you get try one of his 30 plus flavors he has served come rain or shine in as many years. The chocolate is to die for and so is the visne (pronounced vishne, a creamy sour cherry flavor) or go for the his most famous Santa Maria.
Ali Usta Dondurmaci is located at Moda Caddesi, 264; Kadikoy, Istanbul
Be inspired by the scenery and go home to write that best-selling novel. That's what Pierre Loti, a mid-19th century famed French novelist, did some 150 years. He is said to have conceived his literary masterpiece, Aziyade -- named after a local who stole his heart, while gazing down at the expansive views of two continents' shores and the estuary that seperates them. But finding your muse may be easier than finding Pierre Loti's coffeehouse. You can either ask your hotel's concierge for assistance or try to locate it yourself. If you choose the latter, go to the Eyup Mosque, climb up through Eyup Sultan Cemetery for about 20 minutes and you will arrive. Don't worry, follow the signage halfway up to guide you to your final destination -- and one of the best kept tourist secrets.
Pierre Loti Cafe is located in Eyup on Gumussuyu Cad., Balmumcu Sokak, and can be reached at Phone: +90 (212) 581 26 96
Before you enter, a Turkish lesson is de rigueur. Otherwise peddlers'll surely take your wallet for a ride. If you want to know the price of an item, ask in the native tongue "Shu ne kadar?" The reply will surely be foreign to you, but make sure to brush up on your Turkish numbers before you arrive. Why go to Misir? Simple. Coffee mugs for less than $2 USD, T-shirts for even less, and you can also buy the usual tourist fares: fabrics, jewelry and nacre-inlaid backgammon sets for a little bit more but still less than at the Grand Bazaar. Last tip: always bargain!!!
But, alas, life's not all about shopping. While there, check out the 350-year-old ceiling, the maze of alleys filled with haggling merchants, and you'll be transported back to the famed trade center of 17th-century Istanbul.
Misir Carsisi is easy to find: go to Eminonu, locate the Yeni Camii Mosque and the bazaar will begin on its right flank.
This "Maiden Tower" is over 2400 years old and, while it can be seen from any western point along the Bosphorus, its interior begs to be seen. A sunset viewed from this location will be the cherry-on-top of your trip to Istanbul. The boat trip there from most ports on either continent is a couple of bucks. Once there spend another couple more for the coffee and just sip as you enjoy Istanbul 360. Truly a must. But make sure not to miss the last boat back to the mainland. Otherwise you'll get stuck there, but probably for not as long as the legendary princess who was exiled there by her father until the day she died of a snake bite, fulfilling the prophesy that put her there in the first place.