Essence of Istanbul

Four key Istanbul experiences. Don’t miss them!


Take the Metro to Asia

It’s a purely Istanbul experience..hope on a metro in Europe and find yourself in Asia 19 minutes later. Marmaray, the Number 5 metro line, runs for one and a half kilometres of its journey through a tunnel bored under the Bosphorus. The metro supplements the crowded bridges and ferries that link the two continents. The line was finally inaugurated, after a nine year delay, in 2013; the tunnel diggers turned up hundreds of thousands of archaeological finds including the submerged remains of 36 Byzantine ships. (A new museum will be built to house the artefacts.) In Uskudar, on the Asian side, the gigantic mosque,Yeni Valide Camil, is inland from the harbour. Explore the streets behind this mosque and you’ll find a covered market plus the colourful Kite Museum. Admission free.. Open 9-5. closed Sundays.


Bargain in a market

Every week 200 markets display their wares in Istanbul. The oldest and biggest is the Grand Bazaar which has been doing business since the15th century. Go for the atmosphere and the photo opportunities that are everywhere along its 58 covered streets.You might even spot a bargain. Open 09:00 to 19:00 but closed Sundays. The smaller Egyptian market (also called the Spice Market). is open every weekday 09:00 to 19:00 as well as Sundays from 10:00-18:00. Ozer, Stall 82 in the Spice Market, is a well-regarded antique and textile shop.It specialises in hand woven silk scarves and restored antique clothes for women..

Marvel at a mosque

So many mosques (over 3,000), so little time. Which to see? How about the mosque of Suleymaniye the Magnificent. It’s the iconic mosque on Istanbul’s skyline. It reopened in November 2010 after three years of refurbishment and is now more magnificent than ever. Some say it is the most beautiful mosque in Istanbul; it is definitely the largest. Built in the 16th century, it is lighter and less ornate than many of its contemporaries and has a peaceful atmosphere all its own. It’s within walking distance of the Spice Market. Visitors welcome except during prayers.

Have a hamam

Turkish baths, hamams, are world famous; this is your opportunity to indulge in style. Traditionally, men and women bath separately. An exception, and therefore popular with tourist, is the 16th century Suleymaniye Baths next to the Suleymaniye Mosque. Couples and families only. Singles might try the utterly luxurious Kilcali Ali Pasa hamam. It reopened in 2012 after seven years of meticulous restoration. Make a booking, read a guide to the process and acquaint yourself with hamam etiquette on the hamam’s website . or


Good to know

Curious about the ‘Maiden’s Tower” on the island off Uskadar? A short boat ride from Salacek (near Uskadur on the Asian side) or Kabatas on the European side is all it takes to reach the island for a close up look. Since 2000 it has been possible to enjoy a coffee or a meal in the tower’s cafeteria or restaurant. The tower has quite a long history – dating from 340 BC .It has been destroyed and rebuilt a couple of times, served as a tax collection station, a quarantine and a lighthouse and features in at least three legends.. only one of which has a happy ending for the Maiden involved. The stories are the subject of a series of murals in the tower. Ferries leave frequently from either shore and cost 5 TL from Asia, 7TL from Europe; free after 18:45 in the evening . The view at sunset is worth seeing.
You won’t go far in Istanbul without running into Turkish Delight for sale. A box of the gelatinous sweets makes a good packable souvenir. To take home the very best involves a foray into the back streets behind the Spice Market. Enthusiasts agree the most delightful of Turkish Delights is made and sold by Altan Sekerleme, a neighbourhood shop established in 1865. Little English is spoken – but the generous samples say it all. The two most famous varieties are the rosewater and the pistachio. Address: Kible Çesme Caddesi. No: 68 Eminönü,
Get in touch with your inner Ottoman. If you have ever wondered how you’d have looked as a pasha or a pasha’s favourite, this is your chance to find out; make a booking with Giyeck Nostalgic Photos.You will be encouraged to rummage through their collection of over historic costumes and transform yourself. The resultant photos will be a unique souvenir of Istanbul. Prices depend on the number of photos – either printed or digital files- you choose. For example six photos cost 180 TRY. The studio is not far from the Galata Tower and Tunel Square on Istikial Street. Phone for directions and a booking, +90 212 251 8181 or contact them on online:




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