Istanbul Journals

Istanbul - Minarets and Magic

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A May 2003 trip to Istanbul by mightywease

The Blue Mosque Photo, Istanbul, Turkey More Photos
Quote: With its fusion of Asian and European influences, Istanbul is a wonderful city. From the beauty of the Topkapi Palace through the tranquility of the Blue Mosque to the bustle of the bazaars, the city's cultural and historical heritage contributes to a vibrant, fascinating, and often magical atmosphere.

Istanbul - Minarets and Magic

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Overview

The Blue Mosque Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
There are a lot of places to visit in Istanbul, and one of the greatest pleasures is simply walking through the streets between those places; however, here is my Top Ten Must See Sights (in no particular order of preference): TOPKAPI PALACE -- Serene gardens, exquisitely decorated pavilions and the intriguing Harem.THE BLUE MOSQUE -- Beautiful artistry of construction and decoration, both inside and out.HAGIA SOPHIA -- A magnificent feat of architecture, with a dome that seems to float in the air above the interior space.BASILICA CISTERN (Yerebatan Sarayi) -- Eerie, haunting, unusual, fascinating.SULEYMANIYE MOS...Read More

Best Western Hotel Spectra (

Hotel | "Hotel Spectra (Best Western)"

Best Western Hotel Spectra ( Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
This hotel is in a great location, virtually on the corner of the Hippodrome, about a 2 minute stroll from the Blue Mosque, 5 minutes from Aya Sofya, and 10 minutes from Topkapi. It is a budget hotel, so don't expect luxury. However, what you do get is a small, charming, and welcoming hotel. The rooms are fairly basic, not huge, but clean and comfortable. They are all en-suite and have a TV and a fridge. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and the atmosphere relaxing. There is a small bar in the foyer area where, on my first visit to Istanbul, I spent several lovely evenings chatting with the reception and bar staff about anything we could think of! Internet access is free to guests staying in ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 12, 2004

Best Western Hotel Spectra (
Sehit Mehmet Pasa Yokusu 2, 34000 Sultanhamet
Istanbul, Turkey

Hotel Sari Konak

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Hotel

Hotel Sari Konak Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
This lovely hotel is in a perfect position for exploring the sites of Sultanahmet and Istanbul being a short walk from the Blue Mosque and the Hippodrome and a slightly longer stroll to Sultanahmet tram stop.The hotel is attractively furnished and being a converted Ottoman house includes traditional Turkish elements and decoration. We had a room on the first landing quite close to the lobby, I have read some criticism from other reviewers that these rooms are rather noisy, however, the combination of long days of walking, a filling Turkish meal and a couple of glasses of Efes meant that we slept like the proverbial logs and hardly noticed any noise. The room was small but comfortable and adequ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 29, 2006

Hotel Sari Konak
Mimar Mehmet Aga Cad. No:42/46
Istanbul, Turkey 92802
+90 (212) 638 6258

Caferaga Medresesi

Restaurant

Caferaga Medresesi Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Situated in a peaceful, quiet 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 (medresseh means school) houses workshops and exhibition rooms highlighting traditional Turkish crafts such as calligraphy, ceramics, jewelry, etc. which you can look round either before or after your meal. The food was well-prepared and very tasty and our kick-boxing, friendly and attentive waiter was great!The menu reflects more of a cafe than a restaurant feel. We had lamb meatballs with chilli and spaghetti, a delicious dish of scrambled eggs with tomatos and chilli plus bread and a diet coke each. The total cost for both o...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 13, 2004

Caferaga Medresesi
Caferiye Sokak.
Istanbul, Turkey

Cennet

Restaurant

Cennet Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Cennet is a small, traditional (although in a touristy way) Turkish restaurant on Divan Yolu, very near Cemberlitas. Their menu consists of dishes such as mixed appetizers (stuffed vine leaves, aubergine salad, tomato and chilli sauce), kebabs, and gozleme (filled pancake). The food is prepared upstairs and lowered down from a gallery on the top floor, except for the bread and gozelme, which is prepared by a number of women in the middle of the restaurant. There are tables and chairs but its much more fun to sit on cushions on the floor, stretch out your legs, and eat your food from the low tables. The atmosphere is relaxed and pleasant, the staff friendly and eager to help, the food s...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 16, 2004

Cennet
90 Divan Yolu
Istanbul, Turkey
+90 212 5131416

Albura Restaurant

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Restaurant

Albura Restaurant Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
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’ t...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 8, 2006

Albura Restaurant
Cankurtaran Mah. Yeni Akbiyik Caddesi No. 26
Istanbul, Turkey
90 (212) 517 9031

Balikçi Sabahattin

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Restaurant

Balikçi Sabahattin Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Walking into Balicki Sabahatin is a little like walking into a favourites Aunt’s front parlour – white linen tablecloths, white lacy coverings at the window, cream and sea-green walls with a few pictures - all neat, tidy but not off putting. The restaurant specialises in fish and seafood, there isn’t a menu as such – although I believe you may be able to ask for one which includes hot starters – after showing you to your seat and taking an order for drinks (raki is a good accompaniment though we went for beer, they do have a wine list but we found it a little on the expensive side) a waiter will present a tray of mezes from which you make your choice. These includes salads, marinated fish – th...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 8, 2006

Balikçi Sabahattin
Seyit Hasan Koyu Sokak 50
Istanbul, Turkey
+90 212 4581824

Suleyman Mosque (Suleymaniye Camii)

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Attraction

Suleyman Mosque (Suleymaniye Camii) Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
The Suleymaniye Mosque, built between 1550 and 1557, was founded by Suleyman the Magnificent and designed by the master architect Sinan. The age of Suleyman the Magnificient was a golden one for the Ottoman Empire. The empire itself stretched over parts of Western Europe, Asia and Africa, arts and culture flourished in Istanbul as did architecture which, perhaps, reached it’s peak in the Mosque that bears Suleyman’s name. As well as being a place of worship the Mosque complex was also a community centre including a hospital, soup kitchen, school and bath house plus a welfare system that tended to the needs of the poor of the city. It was estimated that each day the Mosque complex fed over 1000 of the...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 13, 2004

Suleyman Mosque (Suleymaniye Camii)
Istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom

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Attraction | "Blue Mosque"

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) was built for Sultan Ahmet I between 1609 and 1616, a time of declining fortunes in the Ottoman Empire, by the imperial architect Mehmet Aga, a pupil of the renowned architect Sinan. The name "Blue Mosque" comes from the blue Iznik tiles which form part of the decoration in the Mosque’s interior A good starting point for a visit to the Mosque is to walk round the exterior to get a good view of the external architecture. The six minarets were considered somewhat scandalous the time the Mosque was built, six minarets being seen as an attempt to rival Mecca. The way the domes seem to sit on top of each other and the balancing effects of three minarets, on...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 13, 2004

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom
Sultanhamet
Istanbul, Turkey

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom

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Attraction | "Aya Sofia"

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Hagia or Aya Sophia (Church of the Divine Wisdom) was inaugurated in 537 by Emperor Justinian. It has been a church, a mosque and is now a museum, it has provided inspiration for architects, it has survived earthquakes and periods of unrest and still remains, after nearly 1500 years, a source of awe and wonder to all who see it. The exterior of the building with its somewhat patchy reddish-pink colouring is a bit of a hybrid. Buttresses have been added to support the weight of the dome and minarets were built when the building became a Mosque. I wouldn’t say that it was a graceful exterior but it is certainly impressive.When you first enter the building it may take a while for your eyes to adjust to t...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 13, 2004

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom
Sultanhamet
Istanbul, Turkey

Topkapi Palace

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Attraction | "Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi)"

Topkapi Palace Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
The Topkapi Palace is, I think, one of the highlights of a visit to 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.I’d suggest starting a tour of the palace with the Harem (see separate tip) partly because tickets are limited so it is best to book into a tour straight away but also because it allows a ‘private’ view of the day to day workings of the palace as opposed to the more public and ceremonial areas in the first two courtyards. Then start to explore the courtyards and pavilions. In the second courtyard, near to the entran...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 13, 2004

Topkapi Palace
Sultanahmet Square
Istanbul, Turkey
90 212 5224422

Yerebatan Sarayi

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Attraction | "Basilica Cistern - Yerebatan Saray"

Yerebatan Sarayi Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Constantine the Great reputedly built the original cistern on this site, with the current one being enlarged and rebuilt by Justinian in 532. It was known as the Basilica Cistern after the Stoa Basilica, which used to stand above it. The cistern provided the water for the Great Palace situated across the Hippodrome. For many years after the Ottoman conquest knowledge of the cistern was lost. However stories of how local people were able to draw water, and even fish, from wells in their basements led to its rediscovery. Walking down the steps from the unassuming entrance on Yerebatan Caddesi into the dim and shadowy interior the first impression is one of wonder and slight disbelief. It is hard to im...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 16, 2004

Yerebatan Sarayi
Yerebatan Caddesi 13
Istanbul, Turkey
+90 212 5221259

Galata Tower

Attraction

Galata Tower Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
The Galata Tower in Beyoglu was built in 1348 as part of the Geonese 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.While I ador...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 1, 2006

Galata Tower
Galata District
Istanbul, Turkey

Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi) Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
The Spice Bazaar is also known as the Egyptian Bazaar, Misir Carsisi, because taxes from the sale of Egyptian imports were used to help finance it.The Bazaar 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 or offer of tea and once inside you can peruse an array of spices, sweets, nuts and teas. This is a good place to shop for gifts to take home - spices, Turkish delight, other sweets. Or maybe some Apple Tea to accompany the Tea Glasses you buy at the Grand Bazaar.The streets around the Spice Market, particularly leading up...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 1, 2006

Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi)
Behind the Yeni Cami Mosque
Istanbul, Turkey

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)

Attraction | "Grand Bazaar"

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi) Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Noisy, busy, easy to get lost in, hard to get out of but always fun and enjoyable sum up my feelings about the Grand Bazaar. If you enjoy shopping and bargaining you'll love it. If you find bargaining or 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 Glasses, 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 generally very always hospitable. Often an invitation into a shop will be accompanied by an offer of Ap...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 1, 2006

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)
Kalpakcilarbasi Street
Istanbul, Turkey

Topkapi Palace

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Attraction | "Topkapi Palace - Harem"

Topkapi Palace Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Harem means forbidden and this area of the palace was indeed forbidden to all men but the sultan, princes and the eunuchs who attended and guarded the Harem quarters. The harem was, essentially, the private living quarters of the Sultan, his wives, concubines and children, all contained in a labyrinth of corridors rooms and courtyards. At one time the harem contained 1000 concubines, most of whom were Christian or Jewish slaves who had been captured or were bequeathed to the Sultan as a gift. Once in the harem the girls would be taught singing, dancing and musicianship, amongst other skills, and would begin a life in the hothouse atmosphere of the harem. There competition to rise through the r...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 8, 2006

Topkapi Palace
Sultanahmet Square
Istanbul, Turkey
90 212 5224422

Topkapi Palace

Attraction | "Topkapi Palace - Treasury"

Topkapi Palace Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
The Treasury at Topkapi Palace is a riot of gold, gems, glitter and, to be honest, wondrous excess. Contained within it are precious items made for the Sultan and court, either to be used by them, or given as gifts to other rulers and dignitaries. Many pieces are themselves gifts presented to the Sultan through diplomatic channels. There are gold plated thrones, bejeweled plumes used to decorate turbans, the amazing 86 carat Spoonmaker’s Diamond and probably the best known object in the collection, the Topkapi Dagger. Golden, studied with jewels and dominated by three large emeralds (one of which conceals a watch face) in its handle the Topkapi Dagger is a lesson in beauty, affluence and sheer...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 8, 2006

Topkapi Palace
Sultanahmet Square
Istanbul, Turkey
90 212 5224422

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art

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Attraction

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
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, artifacts, 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. Holbei...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 8, 2006

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art
Meydani No 46 (Across Hippodrome from Blue Mosque)
Istanbul, Turkey

Yedikule Fortress

Attraction

Yedikule Fortress Photo,
Quote:
The Fortress of the Seven Towers was built around the Porta Aurea (Golden Gate) constructed circa AD390 by Theodosius I and through which Emperors entered the city. The gate became part of the city walls, built during the reign of Theodosius II, and then after the Ottoman capture of Istanbul, Memhet the Conqueror began remodelling the fortress adding 5 towers until it took the shape that it retains today.The fortress was originally used as a treasury but then became a prison in which foreign dignitaries, members of the ruling elite and deposed Sultan’s were held – and executed. Now as well as being a historical attraction the fortress is used as a concert arena.You can still see the re...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 18, 2006

Yedikule Fortress

Istanbul, Turkey

Church of St. Savior in Chora (Chora Museum)

Attraction | "Kariye Camii Museum (St. Saviour in Chora)"

Church of St. Savior in Chora (Chora Museum) Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Built between 1316 and 1361, around an earlier church, the small brick building of St. Saviour in Chora (now called the Kariye Mosque Museum) contains some of the most wonderful and best preserved examples of Byzantine art anywhere. The church’s patron, Metochites, a Byzantine scholar and politician ended his days as a monk at the church having been allowed to return after falling from power and spending two years in exile.The mosaics found in the church portray scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, the Day of Judgement, and Heaven and Hell. The colours in the mosaics seem as vibrant and fresh as they were when first created. When the church was converted to a mosque in the 15th ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 18, 2006

Church of St. Savior in Chora (Chora Museum)
Kariye Cami Sokak, Edirnekapý
Istanbul, Turkey

Theodosian Walls

Hotel | "City Walls"

Theodosian Walls Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
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) thick 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 engine...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 19, 2006

Theodosian Walls
Outskirts of Istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey

Theodosian Walls

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Attraction | "City Walls - Walk"

Theodosian Walls Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
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 m...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 19, 2006

Theodosian Walls
Outskirts of Istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey

Ortakoy

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Attraction

Ortakoy Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Nestled under the shadow of the Bosphorus Bridge is Ortakoy an attractive neighbourhood of narrow cobbled streets lined with cafes and shops which, across the busy road, heads upwards to a more residential area of apartments and houses. Here we spent a pleasant hour or so strolling around losing ourselves among the houses and glimpsing views across to the Bosphorus Bridge all under the watchful eye of the many neighbourhood cats.The main square of Ortakoy, Iskele Meydani, is on the waterfront and, like the warren of streets leading to it, contains a number of cafes and restaurants, quiet on the rather damp October morning when we visited but, I imagine, bustling in the evening or on a warm sum...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 26, 2007

Ortakoy
Bosphorus suburbs
Istanbul, Turkey