Istanbul, as beautiful as it is, has a horrendous amount of traffic. It makes NYC’s traffic look tame in comparison. Upon arrival, if you’re feeling adventurous, it may be best to take public transport. If this is too much of a hassle, taxis are readily available. Ignore the drivers offering you a ride at arrivals and head straight to the taxi stand outside the airport. However near your hotel is, the ride will take at least half an hour, without considering gridlocks and road construction.
To really maximize your stay in Istanbul, choose a hotel located on the Bosphorus. Although they may be more expensive, they’re well worth it. Why not try a luxury boutique hotel right on the Bosphorus? Unlike luxury chains, Sumahan On The Water has its own water taxi shuttle service to get around the Asian shore of the city. The Sumahan also has its own Turkish bath, so if you don’t have time to experience a more traditional one, you can always take this experience in the comfort of your own hotel.
No trip to Istanbul would be complete without visiting one of its numerous Mosques. The grandest is Sultan Ahmet Mosque, also known as The Blue Mosque, located in the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul. An early-afternoon visit is advised to avoid prayer times. Try to plan your trip on any other day but Friday as this is the day all Muslim men are required to go pray Friday Duhr (noon) prayers in the Mosque. Women are advised to wear a headscarf while inside the Mosque and wear conservative clothing which covers most of their legs and arms. It is customary for both men and women to remove their shoes outside of mosques. Entrance to the Mosque is free.
Topkapi Palace is relatively close to the Blue Mosque. It is the largest and oldest palace in the world. It is absolutely breathtaking and if you’re an avid photographer, this place is one of the most aesthetically pleasing monuments in Istanbul. It also has the most incredible views of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn and the sea.
Have dinner at Nusr-Et Steakhouse to end the day. It is the most popular restaurant in Istanbul right now, so make a reservation beforehand. If you are vegetarian, don’t worry, they have three dishes just for you. Their dessert is really out of this world – traditional Turkish ice cream sandwiched in Baklava.
Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet, Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 512 0480
Start your day at the Grand Bazaar, one of the most ancient covered bazaars in the city. It’s a known tourist attraction so make sure to haggle prices if you’re keen on buying items. The bazaar really does have every Turkish-related item possible. Grab a cup of Turkish coffee while browsing the endless alleys, or if it’s sunny, munch on a cone of Turkish ice cream known as Dondurma. A word of caution, make sure you’re dressed in non-branded clothing for shopkeepers to give you a better price. Make sure to keep an eye on your belongings at all times, as the bazaar is known to be a hub for pickpockets.
After an exhaustive shopping spree, head to Gelgör Kebap Salonu which has the best kebabs in town. The owners are extremely nice and will even offer you dessert and tea ‘on the house’.
If you aren’t exhausted after a day out, Reina is one of the most scenic nightclubs in Istanbul. Reina is situated on the Bosphorus and has breathtaking views of the strait. It also houses an outdoor restaurant, so if you’re looking for dinner and an after party, Reina should be your top choice.
The Grand Bazaar, Beyazit/İstanbul, Turkey, +90 212 519 1248
Reina, Muallim Naci Cad. No:44 Kuruçeşme Ortaköy, Istanbul, Turkey, +90212 259 59 19 – 259 59 21
Start your day off with a filling breakfast at Saray cafe, which has famously accommodating staff. They are extremely attentive to all your needs – rare for a cafe that is always packed. The orange juice is fresh and the Turkish sausage is to die for. Considering this cafe is situated in one of the most aristocratic parts of town, it is quite humble. After you’re done with breakfast, take a walk in the fancy streets of Nisantasi, a district popular among fashionistas and Istanbul’s who’s who. For great shopping, Nisantasi is filled with exclusive boutiques as well as department stores.