Istanbul Journals

A Week in Turkey: Istanbul

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A November 2012 trip to Istanbul by ssullivan

Hagia Sophia Photo, Istanbul, Turkey More Photos
Quote: Our big international vacation of 2012 took us to Turkey and Jordan. The first week of the trip was spent in Turkey, primarily exploring the city of Istanbul, but also with a quick day trip to view the ruins of Ephesus.

Must-See Istanbul Attractions

Basilica Cistern

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Attraction | "The Hauntingly Beautiful Basilica Cistern"

Basilica Cistern Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
On our first morning in Istanbul, we headed into the city’s historic central core, the Sultanahmet District. After a stop in a café for a snack of Turkish coffee and baklava, we headed up the street to the Basilica Cistern. The cistern is a fascinatingly beautiful underground site, originally built in the 6th century as a water storage and filtration facility for the Great Palace of Constantinople and other neighborhood buildings. There are several hundred ancient underground cisterns in Istanbul, several of which are accessible to tourists. The Basilica Cistern is the largest, with a storage capacity of up to 100,000 tons of water. Eventually forgotten about, the Basilica Cistern was rediscovered in ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 21, 2013

Basilica Cistern
Southwest of the Hagia Sophia
Istanbul, Turkey

Sultan Ahmet Square/Hippodrome of Constantinople

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Attraction | "The Hippodrome of Constantinople"

Sultan Ahmet Square/Hippodrome of Constantinople Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
One of the oldest locations in Istanbul, the Hippodrome of Constantinople was a large sporting venue in the middle of Constantinople. At one time, the location was the site of races, athletic events, and festivals. Today, not much remains of the original structure, and the space serves as the Sultan Ahmet Square, a public park just outside the gates of the Blue Mosque.The original Hippodrome was built in AD 203, and renovated and enlarged by Constantine in AD 324. The facility contained a large U-shaped racetrack, viewing stands, and lavish decorations of gold and bronze statuary. In the center of the Hippodrome, a series of monuments acquired from all over the empire. Today, only a few of...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 28, 2013

Sultan Ahmet Square/Hippodrome of Constantinople
Between Aya Sofia And Blue Mosque
Istanbul, Turkey

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)

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Attraction | "The Blue Mosque"

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
In a city known for its many domed mosques, one large one stands out as a "must see" attraction. That mosque is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, better known to visitors as the Blue Mosque. The nickname derives not from the mosque’s exterior (it is not blue), but from the thousands of blue tiles that decorate the interior walls and ceiling of the building’s interior.The Blue Mosque is not the city’s largest (that would be the Süleymaniye Mosque) nor is it the oldest (several mosques in the city were already well over a century old when the Blue Mosque was built), but it is the city’s most famous, and rightfully so. The impressive structure, with room for 10,000 congregants, was built in fewer than...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 22, 2013

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)
Sultanahmet
Istanbul, Turkey
0212 458 0776

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)

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Attraction | "Wandering the Maze of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar"

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi) Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
No trip to Istanbul is complete without visiting one of the world’s largest and oldest indoor marketplaces – the Büyük Çarşı, or Grand Bazaar. This immense shopping experience involves over 60 covered streets and more than 3,000 merchants, and on a slow day, over a quarter million shoppers (and on the busiest days, double that). If there is any place in Istanbul where a visitor can willingly get lost in a maze for hours without complaining, it is the Grand Bazaar. For North American and European travelers, this is perhaps the city’s most exotic destination for self-immersion in a place that feels completely foreign.Dating back to 1455, the Grand Bazaar is a combination of covered and uncov...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 27, 2013

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)
Kalpakcilarbasi Street
Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia

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Attraction | "Hagia Sophia – 1,500 Years of History in One Package"

Hagia Sophia Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Turkey is known as the place where the East meets the West, and Istanbul, straddling both Europe and Asia, exemplifies this notion both culturally and geographically. But if there is one place in Istanbul where a visitor to this city can really feel the merging of different cultures, it is the Hagia Sophia (or Ayasofya, as spelled in Turkish). This imposing structure in Sultanahmet was already over 1,000 years old when its larger neighbor, the Blue Mosque, was built. In its nearly 1,500 years of history, it has witnessed the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, a change of the city’s name, served as the focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church, performed a short stint as a Roman Catholic Cathedral (57 yea...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 22, 2013

Hagia Sophia
Sultanahmet Square
Istanbul, Turkey
+90 212 528 4500

Topkapi Palace

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Attraction | "Home of the Sultans – Topkapi Palace"

Topkapi Palace Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Located on a large plot of land in Istanbul’s historic core, the Topkapi Palace served as the home of the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1856. This large royal residence, with its massive courtyards and multitude of buildings, serves as a museum, chronicling the history of the Ottoman period. Visitors may tour many of the buildings, and see collections of Ottoman treasures, jewelry, and weapons. The site, with its prominent point on a hill overlooking the city and water, also offers sweeping views of much of the city, the Golden Horn, the mouth of the Bosphorus, and the Sea of Marmara.Access to the palace is usually gained through the Imperial Gate, located near the Hagia Sophia. Inside this...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 28, 2013

Topkapi Palace
Sultanahmet Square
Istanbul, Turkey
90 212 5224422

Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi)

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Attraction | "Spices, Nuts, Turkish Delight & "Viagra" at the Spice Bazaar"

Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi) Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
One of the best activities in Istanbul is shopping, and when you hear people discuss shopping in this city, inevitably, two places will be mentioned – The Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar, or Egyptian Bazaar. Similar in design to the Grand Bazaar, the Egyptian Bazaar is an enclosed shopping area, filled with nearly 100 vendors. Less maze-like than its bigger cousin, the Grand Bazaar, the Egyptian Bazaar is mostly contained within an L shaped building, with some additional shops that cater less to tourists and more to the local population located on a few narrow streets behind the main building.The Egyptian Bazaar get its common name, the Spice Bazaar, from the focus on edible goods, parti...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 27, 2013

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

Bosphorus Tours and Cruises

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Attraction | "A Trip Up the Bosphorus"

Galata Tower, Istanbul Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Our last afternoon in Istanbul was spent enjoying a cruise on the Bosphorus. Taking one of the many boats along the Bosphorus allows visitors to experience a unique view of the Istanbul skyline, view a number of historic sites and palaces from the water, and provides access to several ports of call along the waterway that stretches from the Sea of Marmara in the south to the Black Sea in the north.A variety of options exist for cruising this waterway that bisects Istanbul, separating Europe from Asia. For a short cruise, as little as half an hour, a commuter ferry boarded at Eminönü, Kabataş or Beşiktaş allows for a fast trip of 30-60 minutes to one of the Asian commuter ports, generally Ü...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 28, 2013

Bosphorus Tours and Cruises
Alemdar Mah. Divanyolu Cad. No : 22
Sultanahmet, Istanbul
+90 554 797 26 46

Cagaloglu Hamami

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Attraction | "Steamed, Massaged, Scalded & Scrubbed… a Visit to a Hamam"

Quote:
On our last night in Istanbul, we decided to experience a hamam, or Turkish bath. Istanbul offers many options for a hamam, with some catering more to tourists than locals, and vice versa. We ended up selecting the Cağaloğlu, one of the city’s more famous hamams, partly due to its convenient location in Sultanahmet, and also because of the positive reviews we had read. At over 270 years old, Cağaloğlu is a youngster among Istanbul hamams; it was the last hamam to be built during the Ottoman Empire.Upon our arrival, we were presented with a menu of services available. We selected a full-service option, which included a massage and then scrubbing. We made our payment (only cash is accepted, ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 22, 2013

Cagaloglu Hamami
Prof. Kazi Gurkan Cad. 34
Istanbul, Turkey
212/522-2424

Istanbul Accommodations

The Istanbul EDITION Hotel

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Hotel | "The Istanbul Edition"

The Istanbul EDITION Hotel Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Located in Istanbul’s bustling Levent District, the Istanbul Edition is one of the city’s newer hotels. The Edition was the launch hotel for a new lifestyle brand from Marriott in 2011, and remains one of the few locations of the brand. Despite not being located close to the main tourist sites of the Sultanahmet District, the Edition is still fairly convenient for a leisure trip to Istanbul, as it is located practically right on top of the Levent Metro station. The only downside to using public transit to access the city’s historic core is that two transfers are currently required to get there, although this inconvenience will eventually be eliminated somewhat as continued expansion of the city’s metr...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 21, 2013

The Istanbul EDITION Hotel
Buyukdere Caddesi No: 136
Istanbul, 34330