48 hours in Istanbul
by Marion Smith
The meeting point of the Orient and the Occident
The role of Istanbul, a wonder of history and culture, has always been as a mediator between work civilizations and religions. Thanks to its geographical position as a midway point between east and west, it is one of the most popular cities in the world.
Journeying through the rich weave of history and geography that is Turkey, I did go to a wedding, to mosques and to the Grand bazaar as well as a street market. The cosmopolitan cultural influences accumulated over the years adds to the variety of tastes that you find in the food. In fact, you can find almost every type of local food possible. In addition to restaurants offering Otoman Palace cuisine, the street food is also worth a try. Fast food such as doner kebabs, lahmacun, meatball sandwiches, and pide are also very tasty. My favourite meal is the Iskender kebab and Kunefe for dessert. If you like fish you should defiantly try one of the many seafood restaurants along the Bosphorus. Get a fish sandwich from one of the boats docked on the left side of Galata Bridge and enjoy it with a pickle juice from street vendors in the square.
In recent years, Istanbul has become a major shopping destination, the ever growing metropolis, which many mistakenly take to be the Turkish capital is also a busy business centre. In many of the city’s districts, large and luxurious shopping centres have opened. You find internationals brands ranging from Victoria Secrets, GAP, Guess, The body Shop and many more to local brands like LC Wakiki, Koton, Mavi and even the Genuine Fake brands can be found at the large outdoor markets and the world famous Grand Bazaar.
The Spice Bazaar ( also called the Egyptian Bazaar) across from Yeni Cami ( New Mosque ) is another popular tourist destination. The smells of the spices, teas and variety of dried fruit make one drool as you fantasies about the delicious meals that you can cook using these simple and yet food altering ingredients. The store owners are eager for you to test their goods, each one greeting in English and offering a test of their delicious Turkish delight. The best Turkish delight is made from honey, they are rolled and include a variety of flavours from pistachio, pomegranate and even nutella.
In a city surrounded by water , one of the easiest and certainly most pleasant ways to get around is by boat. On Fridays, touristanbul service offers Golden Horn cruises. Travel aboard Istanbul’s iconic ferries from East to West and if you have time for a day trip, the Princes Islands one of the gems of Istanbul are a must with their horse drawn carriages. Sight seeing from a ferry is one of the best ways to view the palaces of the Bosphorus, such as Dolmabahce Sarayi on the European side and Beylerbeyi Sarayi On the Asian side. As you are enjoying the sea breezes and the smell of the sea salt, watch out for dolphins swimming by and an abundance of jelly fish. On your trip you will pass the Maiden’s Tower made famous by the Bond movie The world is not enough.
It is safe to say the Turkish people love children. Don’t be surprised if your young ones are the centre of attention at any given restaurant or shop. But pinched cheeks and ruffled hair are not all that Istanbul has to offer children. On the Turkish airlines flight your children cant expect to be well entertained with the games and children movies on board . Once in Istanbul, take them to the Sapphire 4D Skyride with a platform at 236 metres this is the perfect introduction to Istanbul’s most important sights. Another fun day for children is Miniturk, this park shows Turkey’s most popular sites in miniature version and has an amazing selfie spot where children can feel like giants! Even as an adult I have found some great photo spots in this park. Galata Tower may only be 70 metres high, but it offers a commanding view of all major monuments of the Historic Peninsula. On a day when the weather is not so good why not visit the historical collections of industrial and engineering times at the Rahmi M Koc Museum? I don’t know what I loved more, the collection of old cars like Cadillac’s, Mustangs and Jaguars or the delightful doll houses that pulled me back to memories of my childhood.
A firm favourite with children is always the Istanbul Sea Life Aquarium, the 80 metre underwater tunnel will stun your kids with hug numbers of fish, sharks, and stingrays.This is a great way for children to discover life under the surface.
Turkish ice cream went viral with a video of a Kahramanmaras Ice cream seller making fun of tourists. If you think you’re to smart to be tricked, accept the challenge and get yourself a portion !! I love this ice cream and cant resist the pistachio flavour each time I travel to Turkey.
On the Asian side you will find Sakirin Mosque, this is the first Mosque in Turkey to be designed by a female architect. While on this side of the Bosphorus stop at Ciya Sofasi for delicacies from all over Turkey and the region. This restaurant draws many diners from the European side, proving the authenticity of its dishes. For history buffs, Haydarpasa Train Station is a treat. This was the Western terminal of the Baghdad Railway and once the busiest station in the Middle East. The German designed building is like a castle, while the interior is Oriental.
Turkey’s outlandish culinary riches are best savoured at Mikla or Alancha, two of Istanbul’s swankiest dining spots for modern Turkish cuisine. Book a window table at Mikla for a breath taking view of the Old City and Beyoglu,or surrender to a nerve ending dance of dishes at Alancha’s sumptuous tasting menu.
Istanbul is a city that stands for everything you can look for in a travel destination: centuries of history, wonderfully rich cuisine, noteworthy shopping spots, a vibrant arts and culture scene and a booming night life.
48 hours is now where near enough time but it will definitely tease you and you will leave this amazing city wanting more. 😀
Must sees for an 8 hour Visit.
Luckily, many of the city’s must – sees are located on the Historical peninsula. The fastest way to get there form Ataturk airport is by taking the metro form the arrivals terminal to Aksaray, then changing to the tram that takes you directly to Sultanahmet district. Make sure you add at least 2 hours of comment to your itinerary and minimum one hour for passport and security checks before your boarding time.
If you start sight seeing at the Blue Mosque and continue touring in a counterclockwise route, your trip will end very close to the returning tram stop. After exiting the Mosque walk across Sultanahmet square until you see Topkapi Palace gate infront of you on the right. Buy your ticket online at muse.gov.tr to skip the queue. Exiting the palace, continue the tour to your right until you see the queue infront of Hagia Sophia. If you didn’t get a ticket in advance, you can still avoid the line with the help of a certified tour guide. Next cross the street and go quickly to the Yerebatan Cistern. this hidden underground gem cannot be missed!!.
You can also see the Hipperdrome in the square while walking.
12 hours in Istanbul
You can add this onto your 8 hour trip.
Between visits to Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia, take a stroll along the picturesque back streets of the neighboorhood, which take you to the courtyard of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums. To enjoy the full collection you will need at least half a day .
Follow the tramline which passes by Gulhane Park and continues towards Eminonu, where you can visit the centrally located New Mosque. On the left side of the main entrance you will see bird food sellers. Try Turkish coffee from Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi in Eminonu. In the stalls nearby you can also find other coffee – making essentials, such as cezve and tiny cups.
Take a stroll along Galata Bridge, occasionally stopping to take a look at the fisherman trying their chances with little rods. Next stop: Galata Tower , which is located right ahead of you. If you have enough time at the end of the bridge turn right and explore the hip Karaoke neighbourhood, some of the trendiest neighbour hoods are there.
48 hours in Istanbul
You can add this onto your 12 hour trip.
Take a cruise down the Bosphorus on the second day, hop on and hop off as you zig zag between Europe and Asia. Staring at Cengelkoy pier on the Asian side, you will head north up the strait until you reach Istinye on the European side. Before hopping on one of the Sehir Hatlari ferry boats in Cengelkoy, enjoy a classic Turkish tea at the Tarihi Cinaralti Cay Bahcesi. This family tea garden is right on theatre overlooking the traditional fishing boats, has a view of the Bosphorus bridge and is aired by a sycaore tree. The further North you go, the greener the shoreline becomes. Look out for the pristine traditional Ottoman mansions called yeller. If you crave a coffee break hop off at Bebek for a couple of hours.
Various airlines fly to Turkey but Turkish airlines will get you there on a direct flight. From Johannesburg this is just over 9 hours. They now offer 10 weekly flights and the best part is they fly at night so you wake up in the morning in Istanbul. South Africa passport holders can apply for the e-Visa online that takes less than 3 minutes . We can stay for 30 days in Turkeys and the visa is free of charge. With strict security measures in place this country is well worth the visit and wont do any serious damage to your credit card.
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