The Perfect Weekend in Istanbul
Collected by AFAR Editors , AFAR Staff
Conquering Istanbul with a three-day itinerary is easier than it seems, thanks to the proximity of many landmarks and an extensive public transport network. Brush up on local history with the mosques, bazaars, and palaces of the Old City; head north for hilltop views, gilded mosaics, and the lively neighborhood of Beyoğlu; and venture east to explore the Asian side's waterfront mansions and quaint, quieter streets.
Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Meydanı Sok. No:46, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Closed for many years for restoration, the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum reopened in late 2014 and is located on the edge of the Hippodrome in Sultanahmet. The building was once the palace of Ibrahim Pasha (1493-1536), the Grand Vizier,...
Süleymaniye Mah, Prof. Sıddık Sami Onar Cd. No:1, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Suleymaniye Cami is a working mosque perched above Istanbul. Farther away from tourist areas, this mosque brings calm to your soul for its beautiful view outside and the dense quiet inside.
Emniyetevleri Mah. Eski Büyükdere Cad., Emniyetevleri Mahallesi, Yamaç Sk. No: 7, 34415 Kağıthane/İstanbul, Turkey
In Istanbul, the most authentic place to smoke nargile (also known as hookah and shisha) is Corlulu Ali Pasa Medresesi. The 300-year-old Medrese evolved from a religious school and dervish lodge during the Ottoman times to bazaar stores in the...
Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Ayasofya Meydanı, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
first night in Istanbul, summer breeze cool and uplifting, local beer in hand - cold, delicate on the palate - food ordered... the sun setting, casting shades of peach and blue and glowing shadows across Hagia Sophia. I felt like I could reach out...
Cankurtaran Mh., Ayasofya Meydanı No:2, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
The sun sets over Istanbul as I am coated head to toe with aromatic clay and served fresh fruit sprinkled with pistachios under the heavenly dome of a 457 year old hamam. Tenderly, my attendant washes me before lathering my body with olive oil...
Dervişali Mahallesi, Kariye Cami Sk. No:8, 34087 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
To see a dazzling collection of glittery mosaics, go to Santa Kariye, the 5th-century Byzantine church. Also referred to as St. Savior in Chora and as the Church of the Holy Savior, the church is richly decorated with 14th-century mosaics in...
Eyüp Merkez Mahallesi, 34050 Eyüp/Istanbul, Turkey
Overlooking the Golden Horn in Eyüp, Pierre Loti Hill offers a spectacular panoramic view of Istanbul's seven hills. Linger here for a while and partake in keyif—the Turkish art of idle relaxation—at one of the rustic teahouses and restaurants...
Asmalımescit Mahallesi, Meşrutiyet Caddesi No:99, 34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
by Sylvia Kouvali The Istanbul Modern, right on the Bosporus, shows works from such well-known Turkish artists as Kutlug Ataman. The second-floor restaurant has harbor views. Meclis-i Mebusan Cd. Liman İşletmeleri Sahası Antrepo No. 4, 90/(0)...
İstiklal Cd., Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Most travelers to Istanbul will stay within the comforts of Old Istanbul, the main tourist precinct where the Aya Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and Spice Bazaar lie. But lingering here will leave one to ask, “Where are all the local...
Firuzağa Mahallesi, Bostanbaşı Cd. No:19, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
The Çukurcuma neighborhood, just a short walk down the hill from Istanbul’s busy İstiklal Caddesi, is an antique, vintage, and retro lover’s delight. Step onto Faik Paşa Street or Turnacıbaşı Street and you step back in time....
Şahkulu Mah., Kumbaracı Ykş. No:57, 34425 Tünel/Beyoğlu/Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Leb-i derya is one of those fabulous fancy restaurants perched high above the streets of Beyoğlu with amazing views of the Bosporus, Maiden’s Tower, Asia and old Istanbul’s peninsula. You could walk past the building so many times on its dimly lit...
Firuzağa Mahallesi, Dalgıç Çk. No:2, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Incurable romantics should visit the Museum of Innocence in Beyoglu, Istanbul. Read Orhan Pamuk’s novel The Museum of Innocence first, or visit the museum and then read the novel, or visit the museum while you are reading the novel. It really...
Şahkulu Mh., Galip Dede Cd. No:15, 34420 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Just off the busy pedestrian street, Istiklal Caddesi, and a few steps down Galip Dede Caddesi in the Galata area, is the quiet and inspirational museum of the Sufi Mevlevi Lodge (Divan Edebiyati Muzesi). The Sufis are one of the mystical branches...
Vişnezade Mahallesi, Dolmabahçe Cd., 34357 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey
The Grand Ballroom in Dolmabahce Palace is the most amazing single room I've ever been in. There is the largest chandelier in the world (weighing 4 tons), and grandeur everywhere. To top in off, there are wonderful gardens and fountains, and it's...
Harbiye Mahallesi, Mim Kemal Öke Cad. No:9, 34367 Şişli/Istanbul - Europe, Turkey
With its mix of the store's own brand, local Turkish designers, and some vintage, shopping at Fey is like browsing the well-edited closet of a very stylish friend. My personal favorites are great accessories fashioned out of vintage pieces and...
Harbiye Mahallesi, Mim Kemal Öke Cd. No:19, 34367 Nişantaşı/Şişli/Şişli/İstanbul, Turkey
Considerably more upscale than your average deli, Delicatessen is consistently packed with Turkish minor celebrities and society types in the fashionable neighborhood of Nişantaşı. While you might not appreciate who is sitting at the next table,...
Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Şehbender Sok. No:3, Ivy Masjid Quarter, 34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
In the neighborhood of Asmalımescit near Tünel, you’ll find Babylon, a popular club with a capacity for 450 people and pumping sounds. The club's state-of-the-art lighting and sound system, mixed with its rustic Byzantine-style backdrop, makes it...
Bebek Mh., İnşirah Sokağı No:13, 34342 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey
Chef Didem Senol's pioneering spirit and contemporary take on Turkish dishes make her one of the most interesting chefs in Istanbul, and she shares her culinary talents at Gram, a sort of upscale deli of slow and seasonal foods in the posh...
Yeniköy Mahallesi, Köybaşı Cd. No:93, 34464 Sarıyer/İstanbul, Turkey
The castles, bridges and palaces overlooking the Bosporus may be impressive, but it’s the smaller yalılar (waterfront mansions) that whip many people into a photo frenzy on a Bosporus cruise. These ornate multimillion-dollar Ottoman mansions are...
This beautiful 19th-century palace on the Asian shoreline near the First Bosphorus Bridge served as a summer retreat for sultans and visiting dignitaries. Designed in a French neo-Baroque style, the palace features six halls and 24 rooms adjacent...
Kuzguncuk Mahallesi, Kuzguncuk Çarşı Cd No:7, 34674 Üsküdar/İstanbul, Turkey
On the Asian side, south of the First Bosphorus Bridge, Kuzguncuk is a charming detour from the well-worn tourist trail and easily combined with a visit to nearby Beylerbeyi Palace. The neighborhood's multicultural past is very much present,...
Caferağa Mahallesi, Güneşli Bahçe Sk. No:43, 34710 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Turkey
One day, I dragged my travel companions—a German, a Turk, and two New Yorkers—to Kadıköy, a neighborhood on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, to dine at Çiya. Everyone was cranky and hungry by the time we found it, but I...
Caferağa Mh Moda Cd. &, Caferağa Mahallesi, Damacı Sk. No:4, 34710 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Turkey
Viktor Levi Wine House is a perfect getaway from the heat and madness of the Kadıköy streets. The garden is enveloped with greenery and if the timing is right there might be some kittens sleeping in a planter. The staff is pleasant, the wine...
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