The ancient city of Istanbul is where east meets west; the city literally straddles two continents, Europe and Asia. The Byzantine architecture, the lively markets and bazaars and the tremendous food make Istanbul one of the most interesting and beautiful cities in the world. So bring your appetite, a life jacket and a camera and prepare for 48 hours in Istanbul, Turkey! Written by World Explorer, Lee Abbamonte.
9AM TOPKAPI PALACE
Start at Topkapi Palace to see the historic seat of power dating back centuries. This cavernous palace is not what you might expect. It’s not like Versailles or one of Europe’s grandiose palaces but it is more humanizing and tells a great story of the city’s rich history. Each room is adorned with historic artifacts that date back centuries, many with incredible mosaics decorating hallways and walls.
12PM HAGIA SOFIA
While you may have to wait in line for a bit before entering the Hagia Sofia, you will not be disappointed. The great structure that was once a church, then a mosque and now a museum is both fascinating and beautiful. Stroll the centuries old structure and feel like James Bond in ‘From Russia With Love’.
2PM THE BLUE MOSQUE
The Blue is a phenomenal and majestic place to visit. You will be blown away by the architecture and the religious prominence it has for the Turkish people. You must remove your shoes before entering as is the custom but the massive carpet is very inviting. Have a seat and stare at the amazing ceiling, massive columns and feel history around you.
7PM TAKSIM SQUARE
After a little rest or nap head over to Taksim Square and stroll the city’s most important gathering place. Sample the fantastic street food from the numerous vendors or pop into one of the many restaurants to experience some local Turkish cuisine. After dinner, have some Turkish delight or pop into some of the souvenir shops dotting the square and the side streets around it.
9AM THE GRAND BAZAAR
Get ready for the shopping experience of your life. The Grand Bazaar is the most visited tourist site in Europe and it rarely disappoints. You can find pretty much anything you never knew you wanted in the Grand Bazaar and you can haggle price until you are blue in the face. Just remember many shops sell similar things so don’t be afraid to walk away and trust me, you will get lost in the Grand Bazaar but that’s part of the fun.
1PM BOSPHORUS CRUISE
What better way to see Istanbul than from the Bosphorus River?! These wildly popular cruises show you the city like you want to see it and perhaps give the best photos of the city. You get to experience the city from two continents and on a nice day, it doesn’t get any better than on the deck of the cruise boat.
4PM TURKISH BATHS
A Turkish bath or a hamam is a must in Istanbul. To be honest, some people love them and some people hate them but it’s something you have to try. It’s different than a traditional massage and you will get wet. There are many in Istanbul for locals and also that cater to tourists. Love it or hate it, you’ll have a great story to tell people back home!
7PM FOOTBALL MATCH
Football or soccer is the biggest sport in Turkey and the Turkish are very passionate about their football. The three main clubs are Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasary. Any match between those three teams gets really heated and the atmosphere is like Brazil or Argentina intense. Cheering for the away team is not advised but experiencing a football match in Istanbul is-you won’t forget it!
10PM RAFFLES HOTEL
ZORLU CENTER, 34340 ISTANBUL, TURKEY
In Istanbul, contrary to popular belief, you can go out partying. You can as rowdy as you want in some parts of town and the youth of Turkey will certainly be out with you. You can also enjoy a cocktail at the Raffles Hotel -- and you never know who you might run into at the bar!
WHERE TO STAY: THE RAFFLES ISTANBUL
ZORLU CENTER ISTANBUL, TURKEY
The Raffles Istanbul is an education in modern luxury that keeps to the city’s traditional roots and a great base for exploring the city. The Raffles is a beautiful property where you can find almost any type of food you want with the state of the art Zorlu Center built around the hotel. The rooms are spacious, comfortable and impeccably decorated and many rooms have amazing views of the Bosphorus Bridge that links to Europe to Asia.