• Hagia Sophia

  • Galata Tower

  • Bosphorus

  • Balat

  • Historical Area

  • Street cats

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WE TICKED THE MAP TO “ISTANBUL” for a week


One of the milestone of history, bridge between Asia and Europe, road to Asia, mixture of the cultures… There is not one phase that describes Istanbul…

A population of around  15 million residents on 5.170 km² area… Just for the comparation; Paris has 105.4 km² land area with around 2 million residents… It is a crowed city which is full of historical attractions and changing it’s modern face each day…

Just to make some sense watch our Visit Istanbul- Turkey video!

HOW TO GET TO ISTANBUL?

By Plane: There are 2 airports in Istanbul. Ataturk Airport is located in the European side and Sabiha Gokcen is in the Anatolian Side. Both can be chosen depending the area you will be staying in Istanbul and the airline companies you will be traveling with (Generally, cheap flights will be from Sabiha Gokcen and Turkish Airlines flights from Ataturk Airport) Both airports offer shuttle services to and from both parts of Istanbul. Outside of the airports you can find public buses, Havatas shuttles, Havas Shuttles and many taxis! There is also a metro line from Ataturk Airport that you can prefer.

For more information on easy traveling in Istanbul without a getting lost click our blog post!

WHERE TO STAY IN ISTANBUL?

We recommend you to stay close to the city centers like in Taksim, Beşiktaş, Kadikoy areas! Check booking.com for best deals on hotels and hostels in Istanbul.

TOP THINGS TO DO IN ISTANBUL?

Bosphorus Tour: Istanbul has a unique situation! The city is landed in two continents and the Marmara Sea divides the sea in two parts: Anatolian and Asian side! One of the must seen things is therefore a Bosphorus Tour. There a a half day tours offered for 20 Turkish liras by companies like TURYOL or public ferry lines. You can also pay extra and rent a private boat for yourself!

Traditional Night Out: You need to do a Raki & Balik night! “Raki” is a traditional alcohol very similar to Greek Uzo made of anise  and “balik” is a general name for any kind of fish. While tasting Raki, eating your fish along with the “meze”, you can watch the belly dancers and listen to some live traditional music which Turkish people call “Fasıl”. To find the closest places view: Zomato.com, Time Out

For more information on Raki and other traditional drinks in Istanbul click our blog post!

Street market: Visit street markets in Istanbul. This is a must that every tourist should experience once. Streets markets are great places to get involved in a city’s locals!

For more information on street markets in Istanbul click our blog post!

Evil Eye Bead: You will see many items with an evil-eye bead while you are wandering in Istanbul. The evil-eye bead is believed to be a protector from the evil-eye of others. You should get one for yourself and one for the loved ones as a souvenir.

For more information on souvenir ideas in Istanbul click our blog post!

Turkish Delights: If you have not tried them yet, you should taste one. The dessert menu in Istanbul is wide and fantastically delicious.

For more information on Turkish dessert in Istanbul click our blog post! 

WHAT TO EAT IN ISTANBUL?

There are a lot to taste when you are in Istanbul. The Turkish cuisine is wide and yummy. You will definitely gain weight during your stay in Istanbul.

For more information on traditional food culture in Istanbul click our blog post!

On the other hand, there is a great variety of street foods which is way cheaper but still very tasty and healthy.

For more information on street foods in Istanbul click our blog post!

ISTANBUL TRIP PLAN

When our foreign friends came to visit us and Istanbul for sure, we did this tour many times and it works! Like all the menu on the table. Perfect for limited time with fullfilling city guide. Note that: it is going to be tiring…

In order to make your trip easier, we have written a special blog on “Free-Apps you must download before you visit Istanbul”. This apps will give you the confidence and freedom to visit the city like a local!

1 week is never enough for Istanbul. But if you have packed days or limited vacation or want not just to tick Istanbul on your route, here is the 1 week city guide for you! All the details are included 🙂 Ex: where to have a break, where to stay, etc.

Note that depending on your taste you can also squeeze the plan or skip some routes… Enjoy…

Day 1:Historical area/ Old Town/ Sultanahmet Sights/ Hippodrome – European Side

In this route you will see; Dikilitaş area (Serpent Column, Colum of Constantine and Obelisk of Theodosius), Blue Mosque,  Sultan Ahmet Parc, Hagia Sofia Museum, Topkapi Palace, Gülhane Parc, Basilica Cistern,  Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, Cemberlitas Turkish Bath

Duration: 1 hour (just to walk)

Must have things are, a pair of sneakers and photo machine or  mobile 🙂

We always hit the city from the heart in other sense from the old town, because every journey start with history. On this route; Sultan’s walking paths, Ottaman Empire’ strongest capital palace, main Turkish Mosque, some Greek heritage and Istanbul’s most ancient and attractive sights are included. If you want, feel free to devide this day in 2 days.

“Hippodrome” in Byzantine period was named as “Horse Square” in Ottoman period and is finally named as “Sultan Ahmed square” nowadays. There are 3 obelisks stood right in the midlle of the Hipodrome which are also came up today; Serpent Column, Colum of Constantine and Obelisk of Theodosius.

Egyptian Obelisks /or Obelisk of Theodosius (Turkish: Dikilitaş) is one of the most ancient piece with full of mysteries. Therefore we suggest to start trip from the beginning and some historical background about it.

First let’s see what is writing on the pedestal in latin:

“DIFFICILIS QVONDAM DOMINIS PARERE SERENIS

IVSSVS ET EXTINCTIS PALMAM PORTARE TYRANNIS

OMNIA THEODOSIO CEDVNT SVBOLIQVE PERENNI

TER DENIS SIC VICTVS EGO DOMITVSQVE DIEBVS

IVDICE SVB PROCLO SVPERAS ELATVS AD AVRAS”

Saying that: “Though formerly I opposed resistance, I was ordered to obey the serene masters and to carry their palm, once the tyrants had been overcome. All things yield to Theodosius and to his everlasting descendants. This is true of me too – I was mastered and overcome in three times ten days and raised towards the upper air, under governor Proculus.”  (Source)

Turkish: “Önceleri direnmiştim; fakat  yüce efendimizin emirlerine itaat ederek, yenilen tiranlar üzerinde zafer çelengini taşımam bana emredildi. Her şey Theodosius ve onun kesintisiz sülalesine boyun eğiyor. Bana da böylece galip gelindi ve Proclus’un yönetimi altında üç defa on günde yükselmeğe mecbur edildim.” ( This Turkish translation is taken from a blog: http://www.hayalleme.com/dikilitasta-bir-yolsuzluk-hikayesi/ )

On the west face the same idea is repeated in two elegiac couplets rendered in Byzantine Greek, though this time it reports that the re-erection took 32 days (TPIAKONTA ΔYO, last line) not 30:

KIONA TETPAΠΛEYPON AEI XΘONI KEIMENON AXΘOC

MOYNOC ANACTHCAI ΘEYΔOCIOC BACIΛEYC

TOΛMHCAC ΠPOKΛOC EΠEKEKΛETO KAI TOCOC ECTH

KIΩN HEΛIOIC EN TPIAKONTA ΔYO

Translation: “This column with four sides which lay on the earth, only the emperor Theodosius dared to lift again its burden; Proclos was invited to execute his order; and this great column stood up in 32 days.” (Source)

One of the face shows how it was transffered and build at the Hipodrome and the other face shows the parliament on pedestal.

There are many source about Obelisk with different information and many mysteries. What we sure is, it was set up by Egyptian Pharaoh  III Thutmose at temple of Karnak around BC 1550. Roman emperor II Constantius made it transferred via Nile river at MS 357 as it’s honor of 20th year of throne. But it took a long time to hang it when Theodosius achieved to make it at MS390 in 32 days. Who is the last rulling emperor of both West and East Roman Empire.

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque): It was built between 1609 -1617 under the order of Sultan Ahmed I, who ascended to throne at the age of 14 as the 14th Sultan of Ottomans and reigned Ottoman Empire for 14 years. Interior is adorn with more than 21.000 handmade floral patterned tiles from Iznik (Nicaea), mainly with blue colour. Where you will recognize from the entrance. Thus, it is called Blue Mosque by the foreigners. (For more info click!)

Hagia Sofia Museum: was constructed under the order Emperor Justinianos between 527-565 as a church. It was the greatest church of those age on 570 squaremeters land area, which was used as a church for 916 years. After the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmed, was converted into mosque and it was used as a mosque for 482 years. At 1935 after the establishment of Turkey  under the rule of Atatürk, it became a museum.

“It has also been called “the eighth wonder of the world” by East Roman Philon as far back as the 6th century.” (For more info click!)

Topkapi Palace: was administration place for 400 years of Ottoman Empire. Consideration of 600 years of Empire’s existance, it takes huge importance for history. The construction was started  at 1460, after the conquest of Istanbul by Mehmed the Conqueror at 1453, and completed at 1478 with a 700.000 squaremeters area on an Eastern Roman Acropolis located at the Istanbul Peninsula. It includes though the Main Gate,  gardens, four courtyards (Hagia-Irene Church, Square of Justice, Enderun – Inner Palace, Imperial Sofa), Marble Terrace, Revan and Baghdat Kiosks, Circumsision Room and so on… The view from the Marble Terrace is priceless!  (For more info click!)

Gülhane Park: (Rosehouse Park) It is the oldest and one of largest public parks in Istanbul. Fun fair, picnic areas, trees from the 1800s, museum, etc. Perfect luch break stop!

Basilica Cistern: This big underground water reservoir was constructed for Justinianus I, the Byzantium Emperor (527-565). It is called as “Yerebatan Cistern” as the underground marble columns. There used to be a basilica in the place of the cistern, so it is also called Basilica Cistern. Cistern shelters 336 columns, two of them are supported by Medusa heads. The ambiguilty of from where they had been taken still continues. Another mystery about Istanbul history.. Cistern is covering 9,800 sqm area in total. (For more info click!)

Dan Brown’s movie “Inferno”’s some scenes will be shooted at Basilica Cistern.

Grand Bazaar: One of the largest and oldest covered bazaar in the world. It’s construction is started after the conquest of Istanbul for trading of textiles. Today, there are more than 4000 stores locate in the bazaar, which are ceramics, carpets, jewellery and gold stores, besides textile. ( For more info click!)

Dangerous motorcyle scene is shooted for James Bond Skyfall movie.

Spice Bazaar / Egyptian Bazaar: One of the unique bazaar considering it’s location and therefore impotance for trading. Mostly spice is sold here. Perfect stop for presents! (For more info click!)

Night: Stick to that area. Nargile Cafe and getting rest.

Çemberlitaş Turkish Bath (Çemberlitaş Hamami): After all day’s historical atmosphere, we thought relaxing at Turkish bath will be a great present! This is one of the best Turkish Bath, plus you won’t need to go far, it’s at the old town. Don’t forget to make reservation! (For more info click!)

Day 2: Shopping& Chilling area- European Side

In this route you will see; Karaköy, Galata Tower, Asmali Mescit district, Algerian Street/ French Street, Çukurcuma, Istiklal Street, FlowerPassage, Büyük Bayram Street (Küçük Beyoğlu), Cihangir, Tophane

Duration: 1hour 30 minutes (just to walk)

We prepared this day as just to chill around and getting in touch with locals, shopping and having a coffee break at cozy cafe places. Keeping the historical soul inside of yourself, facing with modern sides…

Karaköy is one of the oldest and most historical district and also transport hub. Jews, who escape from Spanish Inqusition, Armenians, Greeks had settled here for years. Nowadays, it is a popular disctrict with many cafes. From Karaköy to up to Galata Tower, many gift shops, galeries, French Passage will be welcoming you around.  Galata Tower is used as  observatory and as prison by the time being. Today, it is a touristic attraction with a restaurant on the roof. One interesting thing about it is, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi is flew across the Bosphorus from the top to Uskudar at the Asian side in 1683. The view is picturesque with all Historical Peninsula and Bosphorus! (For more info click!) From Galata Tower, make a little climb to the most popular shopping street(which is named as Istiklal Street) in Istanbul starting from Tunnel faced with Asmali Mescit Quarter; narrow streets, galeries, boutiques, terrace cafes, bars, restaurants, music venues and dancing clubs. This bustling neighborhood appeals you not only with bohemian style but also with posh side.. No need to say that, it has many alternatives for night life. One of the parallel street to Istiklal Street is called French/ Algerian Street; food court area with bars, cafes and restaurants. . If you fan of antique, Çukurcuma will be an adventure for you! Then you are on Istiklal Street (Independence Street) again; lays between Tunnel (underground) and statue of Atatürk at Taksim square… History is embraced by modernity… When walking by, you will recognize how architecture changes from one constraction to another… Istiklal street is the heart of Istanbul both for locals and tourists where day never ends. Many shops are open till the morning unlike many other countries. It has plenty of shopping stores (such as chains, boutiques,luxury stores), churches (St Antoine, Santa Maria), art galaries (SALT Beyoğlu, ARTER), passages (Aznavur Arcade, Atlas Arcade, Halep Arcade, Markiz Arcade, Suriye), historical cinemas (Beyoğlu), theatres (Orta Oyuncular Sahnesi, DT Küçük Sahne, Maya Cüneyt Türel Sahnesi, etc.) bars, cafes, even shopping mall (Demirören Shopping Mall)! What’s more? Anything you are looking for, be sure it is at Istiklal Street.  Prepare yourself to see little surprises popping up from both sides from Istiklal Street which might be hidden for tourist. Starting from Atatürk Statue at Taksim Square on the right side of Istiklal Street; Zambak Sokak (Zambak Street), Bekar Street, Mis Street, İmam Adnan Street, Büyük Bayram Street, Atıf Yılmaz Caddesi (Atif Yilmaz Avenue), Balo Sokak and Nevizade Street…You can see the locations on the map . There are many bars, cafes, venues on these streets… The most popular ones are; “Flower Passage” ((Turkish: Çiçek Pasajı) which is built at 1876 and famous with fish markets, restaurants, bars)) at Nevizade Street and “Büyük Bayram Street / Küçük Beyoğlu” (Little Beyoglu) where is chilling spot especially for tenage locals… Cihangir welcome you to have a drink! Down to seaside back, you will hit to Tophane where was Istanbul’s oldest industrial area in the Ottoman era. Today, you will find water pipe/ nargile cafes with different tastes. If you want to try once, this is the place!

Optional: Working district (Maslak Area): It is La Defense of Paris. How to go: from Taksim take metro to Hacıosman direction and hop off at Maslak.

Day 3: Jewish area (Balat / Fener Districts ) / Golden Horn District –European Side

In this route you will see; Greek Orthodox / Ecumenical Patriarchate, Church of St. Mary of the Mongols, Santa Chora Church,  Palace of the Porphyrogenitos  & City Walls, Eyüp Mosque, Pierre Loti Hill & Miniaturk Monument Park

Duration: 1hour 30mins. (just to walk)

Fener & Balat District is unique district with 2-3 story houses, colorful facade with little balconies, staircases along steep slopes with holy sprit from many religions. Balat is genereaus landlord for many ethnic minorities by the time being. From the Byzantine Greeks to Jews whom escaped from the Spanish Inquisition and after them to the Armenians that settled in Istanbul, they all have ended in the old Golden Horn quarter of Balat. It is easy to find any workship at any corner.

After Balat/Fener tour, take 99A numbered bus to Eyup Sultan Mosque where Eyüp Sultan’s tomb also takes place. Eyup Sultan Moaque is one of the most important mosques in Istanbul.  The name comes from a dear person whom was also friend and host of Prophet and participated in pincer movement of Istanbul by the Umayyad army. (For more info click!)

There is a cableway up to Pierre Loti Hill where named after French writer whose name is actually Julien Viaud, a true Istanbul lover whom came to this place to watch view of Golden Horn. (For more info click!)

Down back to Eyüp Sultan seaside area to take a small boat to Miniaturk on the other side of Golden Horn shore, to visit one of the largest miniature parks in the world.

After this route take the boat back to Eyup and take the same bus to Karakoy or Eminonu or feel free to take where ever you want 🙂

Optional: Rahmi Koc Museum or Industry Museum on the same side of Mıniaturk where you can take a bus to go there.

Day 4: Seaside area –European Side

In this route you will see; Dolmabahce Palace, Beşiktaş Area, Ortakoy Area , Kuruçeşme, Arnavutköy, Bebek, Rumelihisarı, Emirgan & Bosphorus Tour

Duration: 2h 30mins.

This is a coastline day. So all the way to seaside by Bosphorus with a beautiful view is a must! Dolmabahce Palace; is one of the most glamorous palaces in the world, built in 19th century. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, President of Turkish Republic, used this palace to welcome his foreign guests and kept a small room for his visits to Istanbul and stayed there. Also It was used as administrative center of Ottoman Empire lately and residence for the Sultans.  (For more info click!) Beşiktaş; besides the Naval Museum on the way, there is also a center where you will find shops, cafes, bars, pubs!  From Beşiktaş you will pass by the one of the most expensive hotel “Çırağan Place”, french educated “Galatasaray University”, historical “Kabatas High School” and you are there, Ortaköy! Eat “Kumpir” (smashed potatos), which you can’t miss when sellers saying outloud this meal in your mother langue 🙂 That’s true! There is also Ortakoy Mosque by the sea, with an amazing view. On the way to other destionations, you will pass by Kuruçeşme, Arnavutköy, Bebek, posh areas where mostly actors or some popular names hang out nowadays. Bebek is also famous for waffle! Try and compare. After Rumelihisari you will reach Emirgan. Emirgan Woods is a refreshing spot for getting away from all city life.

Optional: If you still have energy and want to go further, we definetely suggest to have a Turkish coffee at Sade Kahve cafe place at Baltalimani. Authentic ambiance with delicious tastes! This coastline route is a must! Even though you might get tired, you should do at least half of it. But if you still wondering what’s more, keep going until “Sariyer District”. Fish restaurants and Sariyer pastry (Turkish: Sariyer Böreği) are famous for this area.

On the way back if you got tired take 42T numbered bus to Ortaköy and from Ortaköy dock, and take a Bosphorous tour! You can also take Bosphorus tour from Eminonu or Kadikoy (at Asian side). What a refreshed day 🙂 Cheers!

Day 5: Islands

In this route you will see the Princess Islands!

Duration: 1h go & return way and other hours all depend on you

How to go: Take ferry from Kabatas, Eminönü or Kadikoy and spend all the day at islands.

Even though there are 9 islands exist, settlement is only at 5 of them which are: Büyükada (Great Island), Heybeliada (Saddlebag Island), Burgazada (Fortress Island), Kınalıada (Henna Island) and Sedef Island (Mother-of-Pearl Island)

Each of them is beautiful with it’s own nature, beaches, enciting houses and narrow streets just for pedestrian…

Great Island (Turkish: Büyük Ada) is the biggest one and has more options considering food, beach, etc. One thing you should do is take phaeton to the Aya Yorgi Hill where you will find Church of St. George which is the principal Greek Orthodox at Great Island.

Day 6: Seaside area - Asian side

In this route you will see; Maiden Tower, Pasa Limani, Cengelköy, Kuzguncuk, Kanlica, Anadolu Kavagi

Duration: 7h (just to walk)

Maiden Tower is a beautiful creation from around 340BCE. It locates around 150 meter off the shore of Salacak/ Uskudar. There are ferries run each 20 minutes to there. This is a must seen spot! (For more info click!) Give a break at Pasa Limani where you will find an affordable cafe by the seaside and traverse the road and woods will welcome you. Keep walking and you are at Kuzguncuk, small area with cozy cafe places. This area getting popular noways with art galerries and cafes. On the way to CengelkoyÇınaraltı” tea garden is a spot to have a break, where you pay for the tea and view is free… This is a long way to walk. Therefore our suggestion is from Cengelkoy take the 15 numbered bus to Kanlica to eat famous Kanlica yogurt by the seaside and afterwards take the same bus to Beykoz and from there take a cab to Anadolu Kavağı Hill to have view of Bosphorus where Marmara Sea ends and Black Sea starts. Meanwhile if you feel like walking or hop-up hop-off then do it! It’s a beautiful route by the coastline.

Note that: There is only one bus goes to Anadolu Kavagı (15A- Kavacık –Anadolu Kavağı) So you either can go to “Kavacik” district and from there you might take 15A numbered bus to Anadolu Kavagi or from Beykoz to Anadolu Kavagi by cab.

Day 7: Shopping& Chilling area - Asian side

In this route you will see; Kadiköy, Moda, Fenerbahçe Parc, Kalamış, Bağdat Street & Nişantaşı (at European Side)

Duration: 2h 20mins (just to walk)

Istanbul is a huge city considering the population. Therefore, there are some centers on both European and Asian sides. Kadikoy is one of them. Locals pereference at Asian side for shopping stores, restaurants, cinema, even opera house which hosts state ballet, opera and musical performances! (More info about Sureyya Opera House) Nowadays, locals’ preference is Moda to chill out! There is also popular wooden Historical Moda Dock (Turkish: Tarihi Moda İskelesi) cafe- restaurant to have a different angle of Bosphorus from Asian side.

There is a walking path all the seaside long. If you just want to smell the fresh air and chill,  following this path is just for you! Though Kalamis Marine, the road will lead you to Fenerbahce Parc where tea gardens, cafes and restaurants are located by the sea level. Fenerbahce sport team’s  training complex and a yatch dock also locate there. Up until to Bagdat Street all the coastline way is only for pedastrians.  If you feel shopping you will find many fancy stores or some chain stores on Bagdat Street. But if this is not enough take a minibus (yellow ones) to Taksim and from Taksim take metro to Osmanbey (Nisantasi exit), walk all the street down Tesvikiye Street where you will find haute couture shops, posh cafes and fancy face of Istanbul at Nisantasi.

Note that: This area is also recommended for night life!

Optional: Çamlıca Hill: A panoramic view of the southern part of Bosphorus and Golden Horn from 268 m (879 ft) above sea level. How to go: take a bus from Kadikoy on Asian side.

OUR TIPS:

One thing you should keep in mind, if you divide Istanbul to European and Asian sides, you will save time and won’t lose time on the roads as all the sightseeings are dispersed all over Istanbul.

4 Comments

  1. Merhaba,

    Yazılarınızı beğenerek takip ediyorum.
    Sizinle birlikte gezilerinizden birinde yer almayı çok isterdim.

    Sevgiler
    Esra

    • Merhaba Esra,
      Bu güzel yorum için çok teşekkür ederiz. Neden olmasın? Bir sonraki seyahat güzergahını bize iletirsen belki de yollarımız kesişir, dünya küçük 🙂

  2. Koray - İrem

    Merhabalar,
    Yazilarinizi cok severek okuyoruz…
    Ve basarilar diliyoruz

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