24 hours in…ISTANBUL

Yet here comes a new issue of the “24 hours in…” series, designated to transform a – maybe forced – stay like a layover into a short extra-vacation. Of course these itineraries – one for a sunny and an alternative for a rainy day – are great not only for layovers but for any kind of a brief stay, e. g. on your way to a beach vacation on the Turkish coast. But since Turkish Airlines often offers the best prices when going to South East Asia (and I heard that sometimes they might even be your best bet going to Colombia), a short stay anywhen soon might be quite probable.

Galata Bridge and Yeni Cami
Istanbul at its best: Fishermen on the Galata bridge in front of the magnificent backdrop of Yeni Cami.

?     Local Currency:

Turkish Lira (TRY) / 1 TRY= 0.28 US$ (August 2017) / current rate

?    Emergency Hotline:

Police 155

Emergency/Ambulance 112

?    National Airline: 

Turkish Airlines

?    Airports:

Atatürk Airport / IATA-Code: IST
Sabiha Gökçen Airport / IATA-Code: SAW

?    Tourist Info online and onsite

Atatürk Havalimanı/Atatürk Airport 
Yeşilköy (small desk after passing customs)
Open daily from 8 a. m. to 11 p. m.
Phone: + 90 – 212 – 465 31 51 and  + 90 – 212 – 465 35 47

Meydanı – Sultanahmet (on the Hippodrome)
Open daily from 9 a. m. to 5 p. m.
Phone: + 90 – 212 – 518 18 02

?    Getting Downtown and Back

The Tünel Train is not only one of Istanbul’s landmarks:
Although it’s the oldest and shortest train line, because
 of the steep ascent its services are highly appreciated.

There is nothing easier than getting from the Atatürk Airport to any place in the greater Istanbul area. Presuming that you’ll stay only 24 hours, the best way is to book yourself in a hotel in the Aksaray area since then you don’t have to change trains: Just take the Métro M1 from Havalimanı to Aksaray.
First you should get an “Istanbulkart“, a sort of credit card that you have to tap up with an amount of your choice and eventually you use your credit on all public transport. One ride will cost you between 1.60 TRY and 2.95 TRY depending on the distance. Following this itinerary – including the rides from and to the airport – you will need about 10 to 15 TRY – this is including the initial amount of 6 TRY that includes 4 TRY fare credit.You can tap up at any time, and fares are significantly cheaper using this card instead of tokens.

?    Morning Activities

If you choose the below stated hotel or another accommodation around Aksaray station, you find yourself in the perfect spot to go to all the places recommended.
So grab your Istanbulkart and off you go to Tophane station by tram T1 (towards Kabataş) – of course leaving at Aksaray.

Dolmabahce Palace
The building, the garden, the views –
everything is romantic at Dolmabahçe 

The foundation Dolmabahçe palace is built on was put there by Sultan Ahmet I. beginning of the 17th century. Before there was a bay. Then in the beginning of the 19th century Sultan Abdülmecit I. ordered to build this palace according to occidental royal architecture like e. g. Versailles. Finished in 1853, it was the Sultan’s main residence till the end of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey’s first president Kemal Atatürk died at Dolmabahçe on November 19, 1938.

Besides the palace there is also the Dolmabahçe Camii, its mosque, to be visited – and then you can relax for while on a bench under the trees next to the Dolmabahçe Saatkulesi, the clock tower.

Dolmabahçe Palace 
Dolmabahçe – Beşiktaş
Phone: + 90 – 212 – 236 90 00

Open daily from 9 a. m. to 4 p. m. except Mondays and Thursdays.

Note: Expect long queues for the tickets and unfortunately they don’t accept the Müzekart. Be aware that you can visit only with a guided tour (which is included in your ticket).

Ready for some more outdoor activities? Then let’s visit the Sultan’s park, the lush and serene Yıldız Parkı. It’s about 2 km / 1.5 mi East of  Dolmabahçe, but you have to walk along big roads with much traffic. So better walk back about five minutes to Kabataş station and take on of the buses like No. 22 or 30D to Yahya Efendi station.

At the park you can just wander along the well-maintained walkways and maybe enjoy a cup of turkish mocha at the Restoran Dahill overlooking the mighty Bosporus. Or you combine your stroll with visits to the traces of the  Ottoman past around the park: The Yıldız Sarayı, the palace with the adjacent mosque, the Yıldız Camii.

Turkish Tea
Enjoy oriental delights: Turkish tea and baklava,
a wedge of cake with nuts and honey.

Then, there are three small pavilions, the Çadır Köşkü, the Malta Köşkü, and the Şale Köşkü, which is actually part of the Yıldız Sarayı. At the Çadır Köşkü as well as the Malta Köşkü are very posh tea salons where you can enjoy refreshments and feel like an Ottoman noble.

Yıldız Parkı

Open daily from October to May from 9 a. m. to 6 p. m. and June to September from 9 a. m. to 8 p. m.
Entrance is free

Dahill Restaurant
Palanga Caddesi
Yıldız Parkı – Beşiktaş
Phone:  + 90 – 212 – 227 49 28

Yıldız Sarayı
Barbaros Bulvarı
Yıldız Parkı – Beşiktaş
Phone: + 90 – 212 – 258 53 44

Open Tuesday to Sunday 9 a. m. to 4.30 p. m.

⛈    Morning Activities

It’s definitely not difficult to spend an inspiring and fun day in Istanbul even though it’s raining. Let’s visit some really cool museums and see some great Turkish contemporary art. We’ll get to the classics later.

Let me lead you to a neighborhood that at the first glance seems not very appealing: Maslak, Istanbul’s financial district up North next to the Technical University.

Proje4 Elgiz Museum
Azade Köker: Exploded Still-Life and
Jan Fabre: The Wall of the Rise of the Angels,
an incredible cockroach dress  – only
two of the many original works at the Elgiz 

After a short walk from Aksaray to Yenikapı station you take the Métro M2 towards Hacıosman. Get off at İtü-Ayazağa station. Walk down Dereboyu 2 Caddesi and turn right into Maslak Meydan Sokak. On the left hand side you’ll get to a big parking lot that you have to cross to reach Istanbul’s first venue of contemporary art – the Projet4/Elgiz.

Dr. Can Elgiz, an architect and building contractor, started to collect modern art in the 1980s and is so kind to present it to the public at his museum – for free! Besides the permanent collection the special sculpture exhibits on the gallery’s rooftop are worth the visit – and the long ride out here.

Elgiz Museum
Beybi Giz Plaza 34398
Maslak – Istanbul
Phone: +90 – 212 – 290 25 25

Open from Wednesday to Saturday 10 a. m. to 5 p. m. (Saturday 4 p. m.)
Entrance is free

Istanbul Modern Inside
Istanbul Modern: Cool, exquisite art inside….
(Photo: Sinan Koçaslan/Istanbul Modern) 

While the Elgiz is definitely a hidden gem worth to be discovered, there’s another gallery introducing a wide range of contemporary Turkish artists, it’s the Istanbul Modern.

To get there from the Elgiz museum ist easy: You take the Métro M2 at İtü-Ayazağa station towards Yenikapı and get off at Şişhane. I hope it’s not raining too hard since now you have to walk about ten minutes down Kumbaracı Yokuşu towards the Bosporus and then turn left on Meclis-i Mebusan Caddesi.

….cool, exquisite appearance outside.
 (Photo: Muhsin Akgün/Istanbul Modern)

The Istanbul Modern houses a fantastic collection of modern and contemporary Turkish artists including painting, sculpture, and video. In addition it’s the main venue of the Istanbul Biennal that is taking place this year from September 16 to November 12, 2017.

Istanbul Museum of Modern Art
Meclis-i Mebusan Caddesi
Liman İşletmeleri Sahası, Antrepo  4
Karaköy – İstanbul

Open from Tuesday to Sunday 10 a. m to 6 p. m. (Thursday to 8 p. m.)

?     Lunch

Time for lunch? What better way of combining one of Istanbul’s most important sights – the Galata bridge with groups of fishing man standing, sitting, and sprawling around while waiting for the fishes to bite – and sampling some of their catch next to the waters of the mighty Bosporus?!
The bridge’s lower part is packed with fish restaurants, but unfortunately I have to warn you that they are all overpriced tourist traps.
Exquisite quality at a good price – this is what you get at Tarihi Karaköy Balikçısı not far from the bridge on the ‘Golden Horn’.

To get there, take bus No. 30D at Yahya Efendi station and get off at Karaköy station. From there you walk all the way down Kürekçiler Kapısı Sokak (about two minutes) and you practically crash into the restaurant. Coming on a rainy day from the Istanbul Modern, you take tram T1 at Tophane and get off at Karaköy.

Tarihi Karaköy Balikçısı
Tersane Cad.
Kardeşim Sok. 30
Phone: + 90 – 212 – 243 40 80

?    Afternoon Activities

After lunch you might want to walk a little and it comes handy that you have to cross Galata bridge, anyway. You can either walk all the way to the Topkapı palace which are about 2,5 km / 1.5 mi so it takes about 30 minutes, or you cross the bridge walking and hop on the tram T1 at Eminönü, or you just take it right away at Karaköy station and save your energy for exploring the palace.

I explicitly don’t recommend the Istanbul Tourist Pass – it costs 120 € including nonsense like a free shuttle from the airport (one way!); that’s absolutely outrages! But I highly recommend you get a museum pass, the ‘Müzekart‘. It’s good for five days, which you might not need. But at a price of 85 TRY it still will pay if you follow this itinerary. And another advantage is absolutely priceless: You don’t have to wait in line, but can walk straight in. Once you see the queue in front of Hagia Sofia and Topkapı Palace, you will thank me for this tip.

Faience at Topkapi palace
There is gold and there are diamonds and pearls, but I think
I love the faience the most.

It was Sultan Mehmet II who began with the construction of the palace right after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Over the centuries various significant transformations took place, so that the Topkapı Palace got its present appearance only in the early 18th century. Following Turkish tradition the palace is not one big building, but consists of many individual dwellings and pavilions. The entire complex has a size of 69 hectare / 170 acres and housed up to 5000 people; it was like a town of its own. Besides the beautiful gardens and incredibly decorated buildings there are a couple of fascinating museums showing all the splendor and opulence of the Ottoman royalties. Although I’m a big fan of contemporary art and love the modern galleries at Istanbul, I find that the Topkapı Palace is the most important sight to visit when in Istanbul since for me it’s the cradle of Turkish culture.

Topkapı Palace Museum
Fatih – Istanbul
Phone: +90 – 212 – 512 04 80
Email: topkapisarayimuzesi@kulturturizm.gov.tr

Opening hours are from Wednesday to Monday:
October 30th – April 15th 9 a. m. to 4.45 p. m. and
April 15th – October 30th 9 a. m. to 6.45 p. m.

Arkeoloji Parki Sultanahmet
When in Turkey do as the Turkish do – strolling around
the Sultanahmet Arkeolojik Park.

Once you are at Sultanahmet, you should absolutely do what everybody does because in this case everybody is right: Go to see the enormous structures of Ayasofya Camii and the spiritual atmosphere of the Sultan Ahmet Camii; both buildings are just a stone throw from the palace around the Sultanahmet Arkeolojik Park.

There cannot be a visit to Turkey without a visit to one of the many tumultuous markets. So you should end your sightseeing at the Kapalı Çarşı, the big covered market. From Sultanahmet it’s just a mile so you can actually walk there. If you are tired walking, take tram T1 at Sultanahmet station and get off at Çemberlitaş.
You’ll find the exact entrance address below in the afternoon activities for a rainy day.

⛈    Afternoon Activities

Even if it’s raining cats and dogs, you absolutely have to see Topkapı Palace which prides itself to have many beautifully decorated rooms and halls as well as exhibitions of different treasures like weapons, costumes, and precious stones. From the lunch place you walk back to Karaköy station where you take tram T1 to Sultanahmet.

For info to this visit please refer to the sunny afternoon activities above.

Arkeoloji Müzesi Istanbul
The exhibits are found in and outside the museum:
Here some statues and sarcophagus.
(Photo: Schezar,/www.flickr.com/people/rym/)

If after the visit to the Palace you still have time, I recommend a visit to the very nice and interesting İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzesi which was founded in 1891 as the main archeological museum of the Ottoman Empire and is until now Turkey’s largest and most important archological museum. Next to the mesmerizing sights around – like the Topkapı Palace, the Sultan Ahmet Camii, the Ayasofya Camii, and the Yerebatan Sarayı it is highly underrated.

İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzesi
Osman Hamdi Bey Yokusu
Sultanahmet – İstanbul
Phone: + 90 – – 212 520 77 40

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Kapali Carsi
The blue print for occidental malls:
The Kapalı Çarşı, Istanbul’s covered market.

Everybody knows that the markets are an important part of the oriental culture, and you are lucky since in Istanbul is a huge covered market that you can visit even on a rainy day. It’s not very far from the Arkeoloji Müzesi, so if it’s not raining too hard you can actually walk the mile; otherwise just take tram T1 at Gülhane station and get off at Çemberlitaş.

Mahmutpaşa Bazaar Gate
Taya Hatun Mahallesi
Mahmutpaşa Yokuşu Sokak 4
Fatih – Istanbul

After you’ve shopped – and before you drop – let’s grab some hearty Turkish dinner. To the diner it’s only a short walk of about ten minutes.

?    Dinner

There are many restaurants everywhere – and in the highly touristy Sultanahmet neighborhood you should be careful because the owners tend to add an unexpected tourist surcharge. Anyway, I absolutely love the very Turkish fast food chain Köfteci Ramiz that you’ll find at many locations all around Istanbul – and the rest of Turkey, for that matter.

Not only do they offer delicious Turkish burgers – ‘Köfte’ – the best and most impressive part is their salad bar offering far more than tomato, carrot, and iceberg lettuce: There are all these exotic beets and sprouts and herbs – and everything is arranged with so much abandon and an eye for detail. Go and try it out – it is so good!

Köfteçi Ramiz 
Bab-ı Ali Cad.
Himaye-i Ekfal Sk. 17
Phone: + 90 – 212 – 527 13 40
Email: cagalogluistanbul@kofteciramiz.com

The diner is open from 9 a. m. to 9 p. m.

?   Nightcap

Instead of a ‘nightcap’ I recommend you see the really mesmerizing ceremony of the whirling dervishes. There are various venues – sometimes combined with a dinner. This touristy show is definitely not the real thing, so I recommend Turkish Cultural Dance Theater & Whirling Dervishes Ceremony. You have to make reservation and only then they supply you with the address. I can tell you it’s behind the Sultanahmet Arkeolojik Park towards the Bosporus.
It’s a ten minutes walk from the diner to the ceremony’s venue.

To get to the Amethyst Hotel after the ceremony, you walk to the Sultanahmet station and take tram T1 to Aksaray station.

?    Accomodation

Especially if you are on a layover and need to get back to the airport in the early morning, staying close to Aksaray station makes things much easier.

Amethyst Hotel Laleli
Aksaray Cad. 6
Phone: + 90 – 212 – 638 60 70
Email: info@amethysthotel.com

Need assistance planning this or other trips? Check my service pages

Plus – I’m happy to answer all your questions and share further information. To get in touch, please follow my blog (check also facebook and twitter) and send me a message, I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Note: You know that I am always keen to supply you not only with correct information, but like to add links so you have the chance to re-check. I’m sorry to say that doing this for the Istanbul post was impossible: Many sites are pure scam or impossible to navigate or my computer warned me to open them – it was just pathetic! So I’m terribly sorry that you don’t find as many links to the venues as in my other articles, yet I hope that this post will be useful and help you having a great time in Istanbul – and if it’s only for 24 hours.
Renata Green

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