Istanbul Travel Tips
March 4, 2009 4:19 AM   Subscribe

TravelWiki: Tips, Suggestions or Advice on Things to do in Istanbul. Off to Istanbul for 5 days (4ppl -2 Couples). What must we do?

We are all in Late 20s to early 30s and travel preferences probably range from:

Local restaurants / delicasies you just _must_ eat when there
Good bars to drink in
Historical/ Monument type stuff that is good to see.
Markets / Cultural Experiences.
Short Day Trips out of Istanbul

And Google map links or addresses / references are appreciated. (We are making a monster Google Map of things to do before we go).
posted by mary8nne to Travel & Transportation around Istanbul, Turkey (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Check out the Istanbul tag.
This question, for example.
posted by vacapinta at 4:23 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Pray for decent weather. I was there in cold wet weather, a couple weeks ago. Not nice. We saw the most obvious of places, having only a weekend.

There is a circle bus tour that gives a nice go-round of things in about 90 minutes. You can get on and off, if you like. It starts in front of the Hagia Sophia, which, IMO, would be reason enough by itself, to visit Istanbul. But don't neglect the Blue Mosque, either!

Maybe someone with more precise knowledge will come along, but, a word about dinning:
It seems that the larger part of a Turkish meal is made of appetizers. Main courses are surprisingly small! But they take the starters very seriously!

It seems like there are a huge number of low-quality restaurants going for the tourist lucre. My partner travels there for business, and has fabulous dinning experiences. We can't seem to duplicate that on our own.
posted by Goofyy at 7:00 AM on March 4, 2009

I highly recommend this. (Other bath suggestions in said thread.)
posted by meerkatty at 7:32 AM on March 4, 2009

This is obvious, but you'll want to see Topkapi Palace as well, in particular the collection of relics.

Also, get some fish sandwiches by the Golden Horn. Fishermen grill the fish on little boats by the Galata bridge. The part of town is called Eminönü, the south side of Galata bridge. Generally, the boats selling the sandwiches are west of the bridge. They then put them in bread with onion, lemon, and salt.

Watch your purse / backpacks, etc., around there, since there are a lot of cutpurses around there.

It's a good spot, since, if you're staying in Sultanakhmet (where the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia, etc., are) the Galata bridge is on the way to the Galata tower, and underneath the bridge are restaurants and bars. It's great to sit under the bridge, smoke a nargile (houkah), and watch the Golden Horn.

As far as great places to eat, I remember an area in Beyoglu (north of the Horn, I think Taksim was the specific neighborhood, west of İstiklal Caddesi) that was full of amazing restaurants, kind of the place to see and be seen. I'm sure your guide book will mention it.

Such an amazing city. Have a great time!
posted by mammary16 at 7:33 AM on March 4, 2009

Don't miss the cistern. Also, have tea on the ferry. And def. go to the baths.
posted by cestmoi15 at 8:07 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't stay in Sultanakhmet, its a tourist trap.

Taksim is cool for food and drink. Try midye, raw rice-filled mussels that they pop into your mouth as you're running about drunk. If you want to be real about it, try korkorec, which are spice sheep entrails usually in bread. And if you walk into one of the many patisseries, ask for Tavuk Gogsu (do not Google it!), and try to guess what it was.

There are two famous waffle shops side by side but I forget where. Ask. You might say what do the Turks know about waffles, hmmph etc., but they sure do.
posted by sidr at 8:36 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Go dancing. I can't recall the name of the neighbourhood we went out to, but my oh my can the Istanbulites dance! Lots of good night life :)
posted by tamarack at 8:59 AM on March 4, 2009

Seconding the Basilica Cistern, an amazing piece of engineering from antiquity. The Wikipedia article doesn't say anything about this, but I recall an information plaque in the cistern saying that it was part of Istanbul's water supply system until the 1960s, which has got to be some kind of record for a public utility.
posted by Quietgal at 9:25 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I went a couple of years ago with a friend and really enjoyed it. We did a boat trip up the Bosphorus which I'd recommend - takes the best part of a day and is really relaxing.

In terms of food - we were staying in the touristy area but avoid it in terms of going out in the evening as there really wasn't much there. We went to the other side of the golden horn and took the little finicular railway up the hill and the area around there had some really good restuarants and bars. We'd get the railway back down and the bus back to the hotel - which I remember as being really simple. The Timeout Istanbul guidebook had good suggestions.

One the best things we ate was actually at Istanbulairport- called Pide, it is like a Turkish pizza and is great. Worth searching out whilst you're there.

I remember getting told off by waiters for not ordering meze correctly! We would order the meze as if we were ordering starters and grilled meats as a main course. The Turkish have a more fluid approach - you order one or two cold meze to start and keep ordering, topping them up with hot meze as you go on and then grilled meats after a bit - you don't order everything at once!
posted by smudge at 12:34 PM on March 4, 2009

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the Grand Bazaar (Nuruosmaniye Camii) yet. It's a huge shopping area full of kitsch and treasures. If you're put off by the come-ones of the glitzy gold merchants, keep going deeper. You'll find interesting stuff, see interesting people, hear interesting things, and if you find the little kebab stand, you'll have a memorable lunch (order a smashed salad with your kebab and watch them make it).

One restaurant recommendation: Balikci Sabahattin. Serious fish.
posted by booth at 9:04 AM on March 7, 2009

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