Istanbul Weekend Breaks

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Weekend Breaks to Istanbul

Planning a short break to Istanbul? Check out Travel Library's recommended Top 10 Things To Do in Istanbul. It's a perfect companion for weekend city breaks to Istanbul. Once you've been you can add your own tips and suggestions to help other visitors.

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)

This is "shopping heaven"! The bazaar, situated next to Beyazit Square, is the largest covered market in the world. It is a small town in itself which houses over 4000 shops, mosques, banks, police stations and restaurants. You will be able to buy everything from Turkish carpets, glazed tiles and pottery, copper and brassware, all kinds of leather goods, cotton and wool, meerschaum pipes, alabaster bookends, and lots of other things. The main area ends at the Egyptian Spice Bazaar which in itself is worth a visit.

There are a few things to remember when shopping in the Grand Bazaar. Don't stop to look at goods if you are not interested in buying - you won't be able to get away again. When you do decide to purchase something, haggling is essential. Because the bazaar is made up of miles and miles of little passageways, it's essential to try and keep track of which shops you want to go back to. You may not find your way back again after a few hours of wandering around. Be aware of pickpockets and bag-slashers in the crowds. Try to keep your bag in front of you where you can see it.

The grand Bazaar is open every day from 9 am to 7 pm except on Sundays and holiday and it closes at 6pm in winter.

The best means of transport to the bazaar is with the Eminonu-Zeytinburnu tram. You will get out at the Carsikapi stop.

For more ideas on shopping go to: www.istanbultravelguide.net/shopping.htm

Blue Mosque

12 Sultanahmet Camii, Istanbul. Sultan Ahmet commissioned the architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga to build the Blue Mosque in 1606. He wanted it to surpass the nearby Saint Sophia Church (Aya Sophia) in beauty and in size. It was built in the Ottoman style and is decorated with glasswork and tiles. There are no statues inside the Mosque as praying to images is forbidden in the Islam cultures. You have to be appropriately dressed to be able to enter the Mosque. Footwear must be removed, no shorts, low necklines, or short skirts or tops is allowed. If the staff feel that you are not appropriately dressed they will provide you with a shawl with which to cover yourself. The Mosque is open daily between 8 am and 5 pm from Tuesday to Saturday but closes for prayer at certain times. Entrance is free.

While you are in the area be sure to also visit the magnificent Aya Sophia (Church of Saint Sophia) which located in front of the Blue Mosque.

Visit goturkey.turizm.gov.tr/

Hyatt Regency Istanbul

Taskisla Cad. No. 1 Taksim. This luxury hotel, situated only 20 km from Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, reflects the spirit and culture of this magical city. The hotel is in a spectacular setting overlooking the Bosphorus and is only five minutes away from all the historic landmarks that the Old City has to offer. You will be within walking distance of the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. The Taksim Square's shopping and entertainment areas are also just around the corner from the hotel.

A long day of sightseeing usually leaves on in need of some serious relaxation. Club Olympus, the Hyatt Regency Istanbul's fully equipped fitness centre, the outdoor swimming pool and floodlit tennis court, has everything you may need to rejuvenate.

The hotel offers a wide selection of restaurants and bars which will ensure varied dining options. Choices of cuisine range from exotic Turkish specialities to authentic Italian and Japanese food.

The hotel's website address is: istanbul.regency.hyatt.com

Topkapi Palace

Sultanahmet, Eminonu, Istanbul. This magnificent palace was home to the Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years. Topkapi (Palace of the Cannon Gate) was the heart of the vast Ottoman Empire. The ruling monarch lived in Topkapi's hundreds of rooms with his concubines, children and servants.

These days it houses artefacts dating from the time of the sultan's reign. There are many fine objects on display from gold thrones, cradles and jewellery with precious stones. Clothes and objects which are sacred to the native Islams are also on display including the beard and footprint of the prophet Mohammed.

One of the most famous and popular attractions at the Palace is the Harem. For centuries it has been clouded in mystery and intrigue. Visitors will se how the Sultans wife, concubines and mother lived. You will need a separate ticket for this tour. Try to buy it when you arrive at the palace as entrance to this area is limited. The palace is open between 9 am and 5 pm everyday except Tuesday. Because this is one of the top tourist attractions in Istanbul, you are advised to visit as early as possible. The entrance fee is between 10$ and 15$ and an additional $10 for the Harem Tour.

Website: goturkey.turizm.gov.tr/

Turkish Baths

When you travel to Istanbul, you should not miss the experience a Turkish bath (hamam). The hamam has been popular in Turkey for thousands of years but was perfected by the Ottomans for whom the public bath took on an important role. It was not only a place where they could fulfil the Islamic precept of cleanliness, but it was also the place to socialise. Hamams were the only baths in Turkey until western-style plumbing was accepted in the mid-20th century. Most hamams are simple and functional, but the historic hamams built by the sultans to serve their imperial mosques are marvellous works of fine marble with rich decoration, true to the Ottoman architecture.

The historic Galatasaray Hamam in Beyoglu and the Cagaloglu Hamam in Sultanahmet, are the most popular Turkish baths. Club Olympus at Hyatt Regency Istanbul also offers a Turkish bath.

The Hippodrome

Meydani, Sultanahmet, Istanbul. The Hippodrome was the heart of political and sporting life of Constantinople. It was the scene of games and riots through 500 years of Ottoman history. Take a step back to 203AD and imagine the chariot races and bloody massacres that took place in this arena. Here you will see the 3,500 year old Egyptian Obelisk, weighing over sixty tons. The Obelisk of Tutmosis was brought to Constantinople by Emperor Theodosius in 390 AD. All four sides of the obelisk are covered with hieroglyphics celebrating the pharaoh. You will also see the sculpture of a three-headed serpent which was brought from Delphi in Greece. I now only stands at seventy five percent of its original eight metres. At the northern end of the Hippodrome you will find an elaborate temple-like fountain which was erected by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1901, as a gift to the sultan and his people. Open from Tuesday to Sunday between 9.30 am and 4.00 pm.

For extra info go to goturkey.turizm.gov.tr/

Tarihi Pano Saraphanesi

This recently renovated cafe/bar is situated on the corner of Kalyoncu Kullugu and Hamalbasi streets across from the British Consulate-General. It was founded by an Ottoman Greek named Panayotis Papadopoulos in 1898. It's one of many wine shops in Beyoglu, which had many Ottoman Greek residents at the time. It is now a hotspot for up-and-coming Turkish professionals. Drinks cost around $1.50 to $3. Snacks and light meals are available.

For more on nightlife and bars in Istanbul go to: www.istanbultravelguide.net/nightlife.htm

The Egyptian Spice Market

This is prime retail space, is situated at the southern end of the Galata Bridge in the Eminonu district, right next to the New Mosque (Yeni Cami). You will enter a world filled with the exotic fragrances of the East. The shops are filled with anything from spices, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, lokum (Turkish Delight) and other edibles. Other high-margin goods and jewellery have also begun to move in to this market. The market is closed Sunday.

Bosphorus Cruise

A traditional ferryboat leaves from Eminonu (on the Golden Horn between Galata Bridge and Sirkeci Station) several times daily on a half-day cruise up the Bosphorus. The cruise include stops at several Bosphorus villages along the way. The entire cruise, all the way to Anadolu Kavagi on the Black Sea, takes almost six hours. Alternatively many people prefer to take the shorter 1-1/2 hour cruise from Eminonu to Sariyer, a northern Bosphorus town where they then get off. Enjoy a leisurely lunch in Sariyer and then tour southward with a taxi, stopping at various sights along the way.

The most popular departure times are at 10:35 am on weekdays, but there are later ones at 12:35 pm, and 2:10 pm as well. Departures on Saturday, Sunday and holidays are at 10 am, 11 am, noon, 1.30 pm, and 3 pm. A round-trip ticket costs about $5.

For info on other attractions in Istanbul: travel.yahoo.com/p-travelguide-191501812-istanbul_vacations-i

Develi Restaurant

Balikpazari, Gümüsyüzük Sok. 7, Samatya, Istanbul. Tel (212) 585 1189 or (212) 529 0833. Develi is one of the oldest and best kebab restaurants in Istanbul. with a breathtaking view across the Sea of Marmara. They specialise in dishes from southeast Anatolia which are traditionally more spicy than those in the west of the country.

Be sure to try the patlican kebap (kebab with eggplant) or the fistikli kebap (kebab with pistachios). Try two of Turkey's most famous drinks to wash down your food. Ayran is a cool, salty yoghurt drink which is refreshing in summer and Raki, nick-named Lion’s Milk, is a strong spirit with the taste of Aniseed, which turns milky-white when mixed with water.

Meals cost between $25 to $40.

For more reviews on restaurants in Istanbul got to: www.fodors.com/reviews/drevselect.cfm

User Suggestions

Sultanahmet Fish House - Restaurant or Cafe

The Sultanahmet Fish House Restaurant,Özlem-Haci SIMSEK, Ercan CEYLAN and Yasar CELEN, after their long years experience in tourism and restaurant managership, was opened to serve you the most delicious taste. We wish to be with you in our restaurant under the atmosphere which will make you feel at home. Our kitchen is mostly Aegean and Mediterranean and all the seafood types are available. Sultanahmet Fish House was founded in 1994 in the historical and touristic location of Istanbul, Sultanahmet. Since then we are the sole fish house located in Istanbul and serving to our foreign customers. The quality of our food is quite famous among the Sultanahmet region and you can easily get information and referances about us both from your tourist guides and hotels. To contact us and to make a reservation you can call us 0 (212) 527 44 41 or send us a message from the contact page.

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