Istanbul was the end of my second trip to Turkey, and the three nights we spent there seemed one.
The mixture of cultures, the succession of historic dominance, the location between Asia and Europe, everything is present in this town, able to respect all the believing, religions, costumes and styles.
Highlights? So many… But Holy Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Suleiman’s mosque, Grand Bazaar, Yerebatan cistern, the Hippodrome, Dolmabahce Palace, the boat trip along the Bosphorus, the…
See? Three nights was nothing. I was there again! 6 nights now! Wow!
However, 5 days working! Damn! Anyway, something else was seen. Let’s remember it.
Luxury and History
The long lines to enter the palace are only beaten by the even longer lines to enter the harem. Of course everybody dreams with that visit, and no one gets disappointed. The palace is fabulous, and the rich collection in display increases its appeal. To compose the perfect ensemble, the sights provided by its splendid location are gorgeous.
Reserve several hours, even a full day, but pay a special attention to the harem scheduling, since it opens half an hour later (10AM) than the palace, and closes one hour earlier (4PM), with a separate entry control.
It’s easy to understand why visiting the harem in Topkapi demands an extra line – it is the most precious area of the palace, a very beautiful complex, with many details to justify hours of admiration and interpretation.
I had to skip it in my first visit, but in the second it was a top priority, as it must be to all.
Paintings, tiles and stained glasses in Harem
One of the wonders in Harem is the intricate decoration, where paintings combine with tiles, in a visual harmony that turns impossible to understand what is what without a close look. The gracious decoration, refusing the geometric simplicity common in Muslim art, helps to identify the feminine identity of the space.
Stained glasses bring the sun to reinforce the beauty of the walls and ceilings.
One of the interesting details in the palace is the heating system.
Each room has a fireplace, with different models but all of them well decorated, carefully matching the room.
Those in the Harem are particularly beautiful.
The Baths of the Sultan and the Queen Mother, dating from the late 16th century, and decorated in Rococo style in the 18th, consist of multiple rooms – a caldarium, a tepidarium and a frigidarium.
The ceilings were conceived to allow natural sunlight in. There is marble and golden artifacts everywhere, even in the golden lattice to protect the sultan or his mother from murder attempts.
There was a fire 1574, and the actual look comes from the reconstruction by Sultan Ahmed I.
Harem means kids (lots of them, probably), and the secluded yards of the harem were a safe place to their games.
Everything far from the eyes of the common mortals, everything planned and managed with care and good taste.
The largest kitchen in the Ottoman Empire, this immense building with its 20 chimneys, and a big story, is today used to display many artifacts, some of them in silver or porcelain.
In the first visit the crowds didn’t allow a good visit, but in the second everything was easy.
Yes, I know, the differences between May and August…
Ahmet III Library
In the centre of the third yard there’s a square building built in the 18th century to house the sultan’s library.
It’s a very harmonious building, with a domed large space and porches all around, embellished with a fountain.
There’s a low basement to avoid moisture in the books.
The entrance to the second yard is made through a beautiful gate.
It was the place where the foreigner visitors should dismount and wait for permission to enter thus justifying the name.
It is not dated, but it comes from the 16th century or earlier.
The palace is a large complex, with several buildings distributed in a wide and nice garden.
An outer gate opens to a wide garden with several nice elements, and including the main complex where the inner gate opens again to a garden but smaller, and with the most important palaces close to each other.
With thousands of visitors each day, the gardens are an excellent solution to rest a while, to plan the sequence of visits, and to wander around noticing the several angles of each monument.
The palace is a mandatory visit, but don’t forget to go to its terrace to see… Istanbul.
All around, the views are great, “explaining” why was the palace built in that location.
In the first yard of Topkapi, a byzantine church built in the 6th century and dedicated to saint Irene, survived wars and earthquakes, with several recuperation and adding.
Once used as arsenal and warehouse, it is today, a concert hall.
Ahmet III fountain
This fountain in Turkish rococo is located in the square facing the Imperial Gate of Topkapy Palace.
It was built in 1728.
It was a social centre and gathering place during the Ottoman period of Constantinople, and it remains as a gathering place for the hordes of tourists entering and leaving the palace.
Directions: Entrance to first courtyard of Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet
If I had to choose a single point where everybody goes, becoming the merging points of all nationalities and cultures, I would choose Gulhane.
As the transport stop best serving Topkapi, Saint Sophie and the Blue mosque, this is a frenetic place, with a never ending rush of people coming and going, groups getting together, people seeking for orientation, and… touts, chasing their victims.
Islamic Sciences and Technology History Museum
During our professional visit to Istanbul, to a briefing near Topkapi, we parked and walked by a large building identified as a museum.
Without time to stop, I checked later, and I think that it is this new one.
Sorry, no more references.
What a lot of history lives in those walls!
Most of the best and worst of human story is documented in this church.
Several times built and destroyed, the final building, expected to be (and maybe it was) the biggest and most beautiful church in the world, was built in the 6th century, but story kept flowing over it.
Eight centuries later, the Ottomans conquered the town, and transformed it in a muslim mosque. In 1935 Ataturk, at last, transformed it in a cultural museum. Now, with its Christian decorations emerging from the Muslim coverings, it becomes a monument to tolerance and religious coexistence. Impossible to miss…
Address: Ayasofya Meydani, Sultanahmet
Website: Sainte Sophie
Still Saint Sophie
In my second visit I didn’t enter Sainte Sophie, but could appreciate the influence that it had in many constructions around it, and the justice that makes it the central point of Istanbul tourism.
Blue mosque – Superb
Built in 1609 this harmonious mosque composes with its neighbor Saint Sophie a marvelous complex.
Presenting six thin minarets (usually four) and a delicate construction it’s the inside that gives reason the common name of Blue mosque.
Watch your dressing or you will end passing a new model of skirts, as we did.
Sultan Ahmet Cami (Blue mosque)
A second look at Blue mosque was a great opportunity to observe some missed aspects in the first visit. First of all, that this mosque, built in the 17th century, was strongly inspired in Hagia Sophia, adding Byzantine elements to Ottoman style. The second one is that “Blue mosque” is a strange name for a Portuguese – we are used to blue interiors by the use of tiles, and the result of the wonderful tiles inside the mosque is not so blue. The third and last one is that the beautiful mosque continues beautiful, and visited out of peak season (though always with many people), gives another sensation of calm and peace.
Website: Blue Mosque
The touristy centre of Istanbul is a garden that links Hagia Sophia with the blue mosque. Always crowded of people, it is the place where photographers will find that there are no nice pictures from the monuments without strange people walking or resting, but always in the most inconvenient positions, everybody bothering everybody in all the directions.
Everything happens there, and life is also a good thing to retain.
… But not only a garden
It’s interesting to know that… once… there was a byzantine hippodrome in that place. Nowadays we have a modern garden, with a few old columns: an obelisk brought from Egypt, a spiral column from Delphi, and the biggest and ugliest one that, it seems, was originally covered with bronze. It occupies the area adjacent to Saint Sophia and Blue Mosque but only reading the guides you will find out that… once…
History framing history
A second visit, a deeper look, and the confirmation that in this large square, once a Byzantine hippodrome and now transformed in a gardened avenue, the highlights (excluded the surrounding marvels) are the two obelisks and the ruins of a third one.
Where did it come from?
I will check it out…
Constructed for Justinianus I, this underground reservoir is called as “Yerebatan Cistern” because of the marble columns.
It’s a big cistern is 140×70 meters, wit colums mixing Corinthian and Dorian styles.
In two pillars there are sculpted medusa heads, hardly discussed by the specialists.
I was warned that this building was adapted to a shop, with all the limitations that it brings. Anyway, the visit was suggested, and I traveled around searching for a open door – no way!
Known also as Roxelana’s Bath, this nearly five-century-old Turkish bath, has been beautifully restored at a cost of TL17 million, and now offers extremely expensive massages to men and women.
I didn’t waste my time: travelling around I saw some “hidden” details of the beautiful Istanbul
Don’t be mislead by the exterior image – this is one of the most beautiful mosques in Istanbul.
Formerly the christian church of Saints Sergius and Bachus, this orthodox church was the model of Hagia Sofia, sharing the same treatment – a conversion to a mosque.
Some details of the original decoration are still present, and… you must go inside…
Directions: Downhill and southwest from the Blue Mosque
Sergius and Bachus
Generally called Little Hagia Sophia this beautiful mosque, south of Blue mosque, uses the structure of a Byzantine church dedicated to St Sergius and Bachus.
I was really impressed by the beauty and clarity of this mosque.
Transformed in the 16th century, it suffered the effects of time, and only in 2006 was restored. That’s the reason why everything inside it is bright and clear.
Little Ayasofia’s yard
Adjacent to the mosque, the yard with the usual fountain deserves a visit.
Well gardened, it is a succession of small shops with all kind of arts and crafts.
Maybe too pricey to shop, it is very interesting to browse.
Address: Demirci Resit Sokak 28
The quarter south of Blue Mosque is very beautiful.
With narrow streets flanked with traditional houses in wood, the streets closer to the touristy area are intentionally embellished for tourism.
As you walk longer south, the touristy maintenance fades, but the beauty remains, more natural and authentic.
Mahmud II tomb
A big mausoleum in roman style, was built in 1838, and was shared by Mahmud II and his son, Abdul Aziz and grandson Abdul Hamid II (I think – I was not too close to the family).
It is located in Sultanahmet, close to big Bazaar.
Address: Divan Yolu Cad, Cemberlitas, Eminonu
In my first visit to Istanbul, I was taken to the bazaar – “this is the bazaar, let’s enter, be careful not to get lost… let’s go out… it’s seen”.
Things are better when you are on your own, when you may decide where and when to enter, have the pleasure of loosing yourself with time to check what you like, feel the place and its surroundings.
I had it this time, and got a better idea.
There’s not much difference between the bazaar and our malls in Sunday, only the exposed articles have a more eastern look.
Buying… well that’s a different matter, you will have to bargain, but this time I was in REAL vacations – Fernanda was not there!
Time also to read that the bazaar has 4000 shops (or 1200), was built in the 15th century and has 250 000 visitors a day (or 400 000 and me). The shops are grouped by type of goods, and that forces competition and helps buyers, but also makes the images so repetitive, that a non-shopper as me may accelerate to exit.
Address: 34200 Beyazit Square, Istanbul,Turkey
Directions: Beyazit Gate,
Website: Gran Bazaar
Located near one of the entrances of Grand bazaar, the Nuruosmaniye Mosque is considered one of the best examples of mosques in Ottoman Baroque style.
It was built by order of Sultan Mahmut I, and it has also one particularity – the absence of an ablution fountain, as usual.
Yes, I know that turkish bath is mandatory!
Forgive me, but I have bad experiences with massage, and that made me skip it. I know that I’ve been at the door of one of the most famous Turkish baths, in Sultanahmet, near Grand Bazaar, but didn’t pass the door.
Maybe in my third visit, but after seeing the hamman in Dolmabahce I think I will be very disappointed…
Sokollu Mehmet Pasha mosque
We were with a Turkish friend, wishing to show us the mosque where he used to make his prayers.
It was close to this mosque, so, we just had a glimpse and passed by.
Back home I read that this is one of the most beautiful mosques of Istanbul, with great tiles and stoned glasses.
Another reason to dream with a third visit to Istanbul…
Zal Mahmut mosque
Due to deteriorated inscriptions and inconsistent documentation, which provide dates ranging from 1551 and 1579, the exact construction date cannot be pinpointed.
Standing on an inclined site in Eyüp, between two avenues that run along its east and west sides, the complex can be entered via portals on either side. It consists of the mosque and the tomb on the south side, and the upper and lower madrasas on the north side of the site. In the Zal Mahmut Pasa complex, Sinan shifted from the graded pyramidal structures of his earlier mosques, building a large, pierced rectangular box with a single dome that is twelve and a half meters in diameter. On the exterior, the effect of the dome diminishes next to the height and monolithic character of the exterior walls.
Entering through the portal to the north of the prayer hall, one sees four small columns carrying the upper gallery, which block the view of the dome. The unexpected experience of limited vision continues, as the central space is dimly lit in comparison to the side galleries.
Further into the prayer hall, the dome above the central space rests on large pendentives over four colossal piers, or “elephant feet”. The arches are plainly visible, a departure from Sinan’s pyramidal mosques, where the arches are embedded in the supporting semi-domes. With the revelation of the arches, the side galleries become independent structures. They hold many windows, some reaching up to the level of their flat roofs, and are better-lit than the central space.
On the qibla wall, the pentagonal mihrab niche features two small columns on its sides and a pencil-work frame.On the exterior, the single-balcony minaret stands at the northwestern corner of the mosque and is entered from the western bay of the portico. On its east elevation, the mosque has a vaulted basement floor that opens to the lower courtyard with rows of arched columns. Two massive piers, exposed on the south elevation, soften its flatness. Overall, the mosque is a relatively simple composite structure of brick and stone.
Did you read till here? Congratulations, I got tired and decided to cut! Remember: the original (complete) is in archnet.org
Markets in the street
When we talk about “Markets” in Istanbul, ninety nine per cent of the people imagine immediately the Grand Bazaar.
However, all the city lives, and markets may happen in many places, in organized places or in the streets.
We found a street market behind the Blue mosque, and we were attracted by the strong colors, but also by the clean look of everything.
Address: Nakilbent SK
It is not one of the top mosques, so with our limited time, it was another skipped monument (I don’t know if entrance is allowed to tourists).
Seen from the harbor its sight is wonderful standing as a first plan in a spectacular panorama, with the top monuments showing here and there atop the hill.
Directions: Eminonu, southern end of Galata Bridge
Standing between Ali Paça and Nusretiye mosques, by the sea, this square fountain, built in 1732 by the sea (now, a few more meters away) is the third of Istanbul in size, with all the four walls showing the same decoration.
Address: Tophane Square
Directions: Between Nusretiye Mosque and Kilic Ali Pasha, Beyoglu
Kiliç Ali Pasha
Being part of a complex that includes a school, Tophane fountain, a tomb and a hammam, tradition says that this mosque was built in a space recovered from the sea by the most famous Ottoman architect, Sinan, in 1581, by request of admiral Kiliç Ali Pasha, who occupies the tomb.
Address: Meclisi Mebusan Cad. ,Tophane, Beyoglu
Built in the 19th century, this is… one more mosque.
Its size and location, close to Tophane fountain invite to the visit, but it adds not much to the visit of the other great mosques
Tophane cultural and arts center
This heavy but beautiful building close to Tophane fountain was in the 15th century a cannon foundry, reconstructed in the 19th century.
Recovered and transformed it is nowadays ruled by the university, that uses the building as an exhibition hall.
Sea or River?
Istanbul has a perfect relationship with the sea.
The straight protects the coast from big storms, and that allows the Turks to treat it almost as a river.
Big and small boats, palaces and restaurants almost at water level, and a special care to turn to the water “the city’s face best side”.
Will it be alike in winter?
”Next Time”… Last time
In my first visit we didn’t visit Dolmabahce palace – three days in Istanbul gives only time to start, but the vision we had from the river made us feel sorrow, for being forced to skip it.
It stayed in the agenda!
In my second trip to Istanbul I DID, of course, visit Dolmabahce, and there are several new tips in my pages about it.
Built in the middle of the 19th century, this palace marks the beginning of the approach of ottoman culture to western patterns.
Several styles (Baroque, Neoclassical, Rococo) merge to Ottoman, to produce a Palace expected to impress.
And it does. I will reserve several tips for details.
Address: Visnezade Mh., Besiktas district
The biggest and most luxurious room (if it is possible to say so, in the male’s part of the palace), is the ceremonial room, prepared to receive 2500 people.
The heaviest chandelier in the world came from England, a gift from queen Victoria. The hall keeps being used in big official ceremonies.
Address: Visnezade Mh., Beskitas district
For someone living in “glass world” (as I did), the palace impresses by the artworks produced in the golden days of glass manufacturing.
All the European giants are present, with pieces so great, so hardly built and mounted, that the palace could work as a display of the best in glass history.
Well… maybe with something more from Lalique.
Centrally located, this double staircase was constructed integrating Baccarat crystal pieces with brass and mahogany, and it surely is the most beautiful staircase I ever saw.
The palace is richly decorated, with pieces of great value, and wisely displayed.
No matter the shapes, materials or techniques, oriental or occidental, nothing seems to be out of context.
I risk to say that the sultan should have been a practical man – in his bedroom, in the harem, he didn’t show much opulence nor comfort, just the strictly needed for the occasion and subject.
The modernity of the palace is expressed by the presence of a fireplace in each room, clearly planned with the whole palace and not as a later adding. The style is carefully adapted to each room.
The modernity of the palace is expressed by the presence of a fireplace in each room, clearly planned with the whole palace and not as a later adding. The style is carefully adapted to each room.
Nice and rich bathing area, with silver taps in Egyptian alabaster walls.
Technically, I don’t know how things worked, but in such a nice place the sultan needed not to hurry!
Harem in Dolmabahce Palace
The harem is beautiful, but after the outstanding luxury of the main palace it seems… poor and sad.
I suggest that, if you may, you reverse the order of the separated visits – start with the harem, and finish with the palace – this will save you the sensation of wasting time and the consequent loss of interest in the details that the harem may provide about HOW they really lived there, in the old days.
Guest’s room in harem
Yes, hospitality is a real characteristic of Turkish people, and my room in Dolmabahce Palace was very comfortable.
I didn’t want to abuse their hospitality, and that’s why I didn’t accept to stay there for long.
Forget those bad spirits who suggested that it was because the harem was empty, and those who blamed that I was shocked differences to the sultan’s luxury.
Of course, the powerful ruler of the 20th century couldn’t skip this marvelous palace, but it seems to have used it in a very discreet way.
His room is elegant but modest, when compared with the inherited opulence, and the luxury that surrounds it.
I must confess that the image of the gates played a very important role in my decision to visit the palace.
They are beautiful and a good sample of what expects us inside.
The palace uses well the proximity to the sea, with aesthetic purposes, but security doesn’t allow a free open side.
A somewhat strange fence, with gates lines the water.
Not too big, not remarkable, the gardens around the palace are nice, and help acting as a distraction, in the (sometimes) long minutes in the lines to enter.
Crystal Room in Dolmabahce
Only a few people decide to visit this pavilion, separated from the main complex, and housing a small museum.
Well, it’s nice, a sort of greenhouse where glass is king in all the details.
It´s sign posted at your right when exiting the palace.
Included in Dolmabahce complex, a separated pavilion in the garden, houses a large collection of European and ottoman clocks.
If with time… why not?
“Changing of the guards” is a featured performance in many cities.
We didn’t see it in Istanbul, but, in Dolmabahce Palace, we saw the guards marching before or after rendition.
If they have a public ceremony… we missed it.
Separated from the palace but integrated in the whole, this mosque was built together with it, in the 19th century.
Used by the sultan, it has some rich ornaments, including Baroque elements.
Address: Omer Avni Mh, Beyoglu
Visible from far, this tower, built by Genovense in the 14th century and still keeping its Italian look, is now the place of a restaurant and, it seems, a “tourist trap”.
Going up is expensive and the sights are… roofs and distance.
We didn’t risk to go up.
Address: Buyuk Hendek Cad., Beyoglu
This large square, dominated by the Republic Monument, is the centre of modern Istanbul, flanked by the commercial and the hotels areas. It is also the main hub to public transport.
Address: Taksim Myd, Gümüssuyu Mh., 34400 Beyoglu/Istanbul, Turkey
Directions: Located in the European part of Istanbul, Turkey,
The most commercial street in Istanbul, this is the place where everybody goes, because… everybody goes, I think.
Commerce and the few attractions in the area spread to the adjacent streets, the real interesting detail in the quarter.
I must confess that I was there six or seven times, but only because it was close to the hotel, and… where else should I go by night?
St Anthony church
The biggest catholic church in Istanbul was erected by the Italians, and dedicated to St Anthony of Padua, WHO WAS NOT FROM PADUA BUT FROM LISBON! (excuse-me).
The church built in the 18th century was later replaced by the actual one, built in 1912 in the Venetian neo-Gothic style.
Address: Istiklal Cad.
The old district of Pera gave place to the modern Beyoglu, with the inevitable Istiklal Caddesi, dominating the area.
However, a few signs of the classical quarter do remain, showing the Ottoman architecture.
Address: Between Galata Bridge and Taksim square
For a week I repeated to myself each time I crossed Taksim square “I must visit that church”, but I always moved forward, without finding the entrance.
In my last day I decided to find the entrance, which stands in a narrow interior street, a bit tricky to find.
Well, it is a byzantine church in regular use, and when I went there, it was closed.
In my next week in Taksim it will be visited in one of the first days!
Address: Katip Çelebi Mh., 34433 Beyoglu
Directions: Istiklal Caddesi near junction with Taksim Square
Flanking Istiklal caddesi, there are a few passages that function as small commercial galleries.
Avrupa is particularly nice, with statues all along it.
Don’t ask me what do they sell there, because I had no eyes for the shops, and that is, maybe, the greatest drawback for local merchants.
In the old flower market, a narrow corridor flanked by restaurants, is… nice!
Directions: Connects Istiklal Avenue with Sahne Street, in Beyoglu district
Istiklal caddesi is the main commercial street, and people uses to walk along it, forgetting the lateral smaller streets.
It’s an error – some of them hide wonderful spots with typical squares, passages and small gardens that we shouldn’t miss.
Watering Istanbul is mentioned as always being a big problem, wit several solutions added along the centuries.
The complex system used several different structures, some of them above ground, some other below.
In Taksim, a polygonal building named maksem was a distribution chamber built in the 18th century, and still operating… it seems!
In my first visit to Istanbul it was difficult to reach the hotel, one night, because there was an international game of Galatasaray.
I remember the area, and, this time, I walked there, verifying that it is Besiktas stadium.
Maybe it will be easy to understand – Why not Besiktas-Galatasarai?
We had no game there, this time, but noticed that it is in a wide and steep park.
In a pause to breath, we were left in a park with awesome views.
We weren’t told where we were, and only comparing pictures I was able to have an idea.
It seems the area called Bebek, close to Rumeli Hissari castle.
Out of season
Tourism seems to play already a strong role in Istanbul, where some places show a seasonal functionality.
We were in a park, with what should be a great and probably nice complex of lakes and waterfalls, but everything was stopped, dry and dirty.
I think that if the park was out of service the guide wouldn’t have taken us there, so, I believe that part of it will work only in summer months.
Well, we were in May, and, in Portugal, things to work in summer are usually already moving by then!
Almost all the cities with a river have boat trips in it.
Mostly times with good reasons, because people “live” the rivers and most interesting spots are at their edges.
Some other times, only… because!
Bosphorus is one of the first, where the main monuments in the hills show another perspective from distance, and the coast reveals new beauties we didn’t notice inland.
Perfect location, in the back of Rumeli castle and overlooking the Bosphorus bridge, comfortable room, excellent food and wine, this was, for sure, my best meal in Turkey.
I only don’t know the price, because we were guests, but it couldn’t be cheap.
Address: Sariyer, Dogatepe Parki 4-6
Phone: +90 212 257 0819
What a fun!
It was hard to find a restaurant in the area serving alcohol, and someone indicated Yoti, a club serving meals.
How we laughed!
We descent a staircase following the waiter into a dark room, and from there to an even darker room, where the waiter lightened a candle, allowing us to find the way to one of a few small tables lined against the wall.
We sat in the dark, only with the candle’s light and waited, until the waiter came with a list, impossible to read with that light.
We called the waiter’s attention to that detail, but he answered that there was no problem, since the options were only chicken or lamb.
We choose, and a few minutes later the dishes and drinks came, to be eaten… in the dark.
We were already used to the candle’s light, and ate without great problems, always laughing about the adventure, when, at the end of the narrow room, another dimmed light was turned on, and three or four people started talking in Turkish.
We kept on, noisily, until noticing that we could only listen to a woman’s voice, in a group that, in the shade, seemed to have two men.
hat’s when we found that the lady was… reading! Poetry, maybe, but seriously, in the middle of our noisy conversation.
Well, don’t ask me about the dinner – It was not expensive (small portions), but that was not the interesting thing to remember.
Address: Istiklal Cad. , Sadri Al?s?k Sok. 22/A
My friends “needed” a beer!
I followed them and had my unique beer in Istanbul.
Not cheap (they said, I have no idea about beer prices, even in Portugal…) too big can for me, and a few minutes of relaxation and conversation, in a quiet place.
Directions: İstiklal Caddesi, near Taksim
Fortunately, I was not the only one in our group used to have wine with the meals, and my friends decided to suggest this restaurant, with a reasonably priced beer.
Well, it was a small confusion with ordered dishes, I didn’t eat exactly what I ordered, but it was not bad, served with sympathy with a glass of… wine, they said!
Unknown (good) restaurant
Many years ago, a few years before starting to write in Virtualtourist (which means… staring to register things), in my first visit to Istanbul, I had a very good lunch south of Topkapi palace overlooking the sea.
I couldn’t identify the large restaurant – in my picture it says “Restaurant Sehir” but I think that “Sehir” is not exactly a name, but something like grill, or any general designation. It stays in the marginal, but I can’t help more than showing its image.
Address: Kennedy caddesi
Walking with three ladies, I had to resign to their options, and to stop for lunch in a place that, I must confess, I would never choose if I were “in command”.
Well, I had a fork and knife meal for less than 3 €, drink included.
The only drawback (expected) was… no alcohol. I hate sweet drinks with the meals, and… well Ayran is typical, and not so bad, after all.
Address: At Kabatas station
I entered this restaurant (as a matter of fact we sat outdoors) led by friends from England and Norway that had been there before… having a beer.The food was reasonable (local food with international presentation), the prices moderate, and it had… beer (I rather had wine – a terrible red wine, soon replaced by a not so poisoning white one)
Address: Cumhuriyet Cad. Gezi Dukkanlari No:2 D:3, Taksim
To forget – forgotten
In Siçli, really “Out of the beaten path”, I was taken to this restaurant and offered a vegetarian meal.
Well, that’s not exactly my kind of food, it was not awful, but didn’t impress me.
The only thing I remember is the drink – Ayran (reasonable drink out of the meals, acceptable with those things that we eat).
I promise to forget the place.
As a matter of fact, I already did – I couldn’t catch what was the real name of the restaurant nor translate the Turkish words for the served food.
I can’t complaint – it was offered, with gentleness, but I don’t imagine the price.
A common local restaurant with a practical solution: the food was being prepared at the entrance and we only had to point what we wanted to compose our dishes.
Tasty food, well presented, not expensive, but… no alcohol.
Address: Divan Yolu Cad. 54/1
The only restaurant that we visited in the Asian side, Padrino has a very large room with good presentation.
The food is also selected, with a careful presentation and service. The only weak point in such quality is the absence of alcohol.
As a guest, I had no idea of the prices, but they couldn’t be cheap!
Address: Iskele Cad 8C, Caddebostan
Phone: +90 216 385 9319
Website: Il Padrino
Kervansaray – good option
This hotel was chosen by the local people that organised our visit.
We had a special fare and paid far less than the counter’s price.
The room was not big, but looked smaller than it really was. The furniture was aged, and even lining had fading colors.
It was not dirty, but it didn’t “look” so clean.
The bed was comfortable, and everything worked well in the washroom.
Breakfast was too oriental, poor in fruits and bread, with many prepared dishes based in fresh cheese and vegetables with oriental flavors – I skipped most of them.
However, it was enough for a reasonable meal, and breakfast was the only meal that we took in the hotel.
Unique Qualities: Location in Taksim’s hotel hub.
Address: Sehit Muhtar Cad. No 61, Istanbul, 80090, TR
Phone: +90 212 235 5000
Taksim – Tricky square
Taksim is the centre of modern and nightly life in Istanbul, and, to be honest, an ugly square.
Furthermore, it is bigger than it seems, very irregular, with a garden squeezed in the middle, and it may become tricky at night.
It happened to me, coming back to the hotel by the “wrong” side, finding a close way, with two alternatives: crossing the empty dark garden, or turn all the way back.
This was my decision, and then I noticed how tired I was…
Harem in Dolmabahce
It was a small disappointment, the visit of harem.
In Topkapi, this is the most harmonious and beautiful area, and I was expecting the same – no way.
The area visited by the sultan still keeps some beauty and richness, but the remaining area is poor and somewhat neglected, compared with the male part of the palace.
Sultan’s mother has a distinctive treatment but far from the official opulence. I think that the visit should be done in opposite order, starting by the harem and reserving the official area to the end.
I had to visit the Asian side, and, in a quick look, tried to find any difference – I didn’t.
As a matter of fact that continental separation is only a convention, without any differences in landscape, people or construction.
The bridges that connect them have that special meaning – only a few meters of water separating two parts of the same country, the same people, the same city.
Only one difference – history and tourism are mainly in European side.
I know Turkish folklore, and understand the large diversity of the people, creating great differences in music and costumes from place to place.
We had a great dinner with folk dancing in Ankara, but nothing in Istanbul.
In Topkapi I saw a couple of nice girls, in costume, but the barrier of the language didn’t allow me to understand if they were going to dance or coming from dancing.
I had their picture… and that was all.
Poetry in a strange language
This is hardly a place for foreigners. We were there searching for a alcohol allowed restaurant, and found ourselves in a very dark tiny bar, eating by candlelight, with three people talking in the corner.
When we heard a light applause we finally discovered that it was not exactly a common conversation: a lady was reading a Turkish text (poetry?) and the two men were listening, applauding and commenting it in the end.
Well, it could be interesting, but not for us, the “barbarians” understanding only Portuguese, English, French, Spanish, Italian and Norwegian.
However, the meal and the beer were reasonable, the wine awful, the prices acceptable, and eating in the dark made us laugh.
Address: Istiklal Caddesi, Sadri Sokak, No 22, Beyoglu,
Reverence to Ataturk
I know the big importance of Ataturk in modern Turkey.
It is not surprise his presence everywhere, in official places and political instruments, but I noticed that popular respect follows the same high level of reverence.
From taxis to touristy gadgets he is always present.
In my second visit to Istanbul I had the opportunity to visit Volkswagen’s “local empire”.
Big organization, big buildings, big commercial image, but the top of it was a relic – a Beetle car covered with stones.
Precious? Not so precious?
I don’t know, but the car was there, and if you decide to buy it I hope that you’ll invite me, to see how do the stones behave facing the wind.
Istanbul is a very big city, that keeps growing all the time.
Though the central area seems somewhat controlled (thanks God, thus preserving some authenticity), there are a few “islands” where skyscrapers grow side by side, and construction continues, larger and higher.
Near the blue mosque, we decided to walk a little along some secondary streets, and it was a pleasant surprise – cleanliness, traditional construction, good taste.
Well, we were still in a touristy area, but… it was good!
One night we went to dinner at an excellent restaurant, on the hillside above the Rumeli Hisari castle.
Before and after we enjoyed the excellent views, in particular the sunset, with the view extending over the Bosphorus and its shores on both continents. Magnificent.
A big maze, it’s the ideal place for shopping in Istanbul.
The shopping lovers have everything there, their companion may enjoy the site. Much more organized than the Islamic souks, the place keeps the oriental touch, and bargaining is the general sport.
Don’t miss it, but have a look at street markets too
Website: Grand bazaar
Arts and Crafts
Some typical yards inside walls are used to display art and crafts, using the beauty of the scenery to promote the works.
These cozy places bet in quality and design, far from the “chinawork” that fills the touristy stalls everywhere.
The prices are, as expected, higher than in the banal markets.
Maybe the most beautiful yard that we visited was entered by accident, when searching for the closed Roxelane baths.
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