Visiting Istanbul just for the weekend or even just for one day is becoming more and more popular each year. Istanbul is definitely a city that you need at least a week to fully grasp and grow a feeling for. However, it also is one of the most exciting and satisfying cities in the world that can leave an ever-lasting effect on you in just a few days. So here is our post for Istanbul Short Breaks and what this magnificent city has to offer.
STEP 1: GETTING TO ISTANBUL
Most likely option is that you get a flight. For those who are taking buses or trains, here’s what I got to say: What UP?!
Turkish Airlines offers such great deals online that I often meet people who have changed their travel plans just so that they can benefit from these wonderful deals. Besides Turkish Airlines (the current number one company in the world in terms of how many destinations it flies to), we have many charter companies that also offer amazing promotional deals both domestically and internationally.
We have already written a bunch of posts about Istanbul’s accommodation options. This time, let’s keep it short: we would strongly recommend you NOT to stay in Sultanahmet area and maybe choose Taksim (aka Beyoglu) or Kadikoy area, for a more ‘real’ and interesting experience. OldTown (Sultanahmet) is very close to many historical highlights to Istanbul but it’s also very easy to get there from Taksim. Plus, Taksim is not as overwhelming as Sultanahmet when it comes to getting hassled by carpet guys and stuff. Taksim is simply the heart of Istanbul. We go there for fun, for chilling and sometimes for shopping. But the locals hang out there, unlike Sultanahmet. So we recommend that you stick to what really represents today’s Istanbul and her people.
Sultanahmet is rightfully generating fame not just because it offers a clear and unparalleled perspective into Turkey’s past, but because it serves as a microcosm of Christianity, Greek Orthodox Christianity, Islam, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire. There is simply no other place on the planet where you can see the influences of so many forces that have moved and shaped our world. So therefore, it definitely deserves a high spot on our Istanbul Short Breaks list.
Taksim, on the other hand, is Turkey’s beating heart. There are about a thousand different venues in this district alone, with the license to sell alcohol. I think that says a lot. Taksim is full of cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels and shops. It entertains and offers great fun. Istanbul short breaks can’t be uttered with spending some time in Taksim aka. Beyoglu area.
Here are some great places to stay in Taksim area (for Istanbul short breaks):
Anemon Galata: Right by the Galata Tower, really nice hotel with great rooms and services.
Witt Suites: Class and fantastic service emerge into one great experience. The neighborhood is Cihangir, the coolest part of Taksim.
World House Hostel: One of the best hostels in town, located right at the center of everything.
Flats in Istanbul: A special company providing apartment and condo rentals which I think is the best way to stay in any city.
AirBnb: Many people have listed their places on AirBnb to generate some extra cash and we think staying with a local (or staying at their place when they are not there) is one of the best decisions you can make in Istanbul.
STEP 3: EXPERIENCING THE CITY
Well this part is the most enjoyable AND the trickest. Whether you are a ‘tour person’ or not, getting around Istanbul is pretty easy and convenient. Some of the parts YOU CAN’T miss are the OldTown Sultanahmet, Taksim area and the Bosphorus. Since you are short on time, a half day guided tour of the OldTown might be a good idea, though it certainly is not a necessity.
Here are some great tour companies that might help:
In Taksim area, you really don’t need a tour. Just walk up and down the famous Istiklal Street and dive into every interesting side-street that catches your attention. The neighborhood is the most vibrant and interesting part of the whole country. Just have fun with it.
Often overlooked by visitors, this museum complex is one of the city’s finest treasures. Trace the history of Istanbul exhibit by exhibit; marvel at a tomb with carved reliefs depicting Alexander the Great in battle; see the world’s earliest peace treaty, Kadesh; and admire a superb collection of Ottoman-era tiles. –Source
Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami
The stunning 1580s hamam by Mimar Sinan, architect to Suleiman the Magnificent, has been raised from dereliction. Men and women, instead of having different areas, have different visiting times, which has helped to preserve the integrity of the building. After your cleansing and re-vitalising session, you emerge renewed into the beautiful public space, to drink sherbet, or apple tea. • From £28 a session, women 8am-4pm, men 4.30pm-11.30pm –Source
For Bosphorus (which is a 19 mile-long strait that runs through the city and connects Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara), you should definitely take a cruise and enjoy this very special part of our planet extensively. You may take a half day guided cruise or just hop on one of those public ferries from Eminönü or Kabataş. Or as it’s mentioned below, join The Other Tour.
Of course, I must mention another fantastic option for your Istanbul short breaks which is called The Other Tour, Istanbul’s best alternative city tour that helps you experience this city fully. By pulling you out of typical touristy parts of the town and diving deep into today’s real Istanbul, we make sure that you really understand today’s Istanbul and her culture.
We engage in unique activities like having lunch at my mother’s house, visiting a local school and interacting with students, playing boardgames in local cafes and getting a massage in an ancient Turkish bath. Check it out, maybe you’ll like it.
STEP 4: SHOPPING IN ISTANBUL
Alright ladies… We know! We know that Istanbul shorts breaks can’t be fully enjoyed without a shopping spree. Good news: Istanbul is rich in choices and exotic in nature for shopping at all price points. High quality textiles, organic cottons, fashion, top quality blue jeans,, jewelry, leather goods, silver, gold, magnificent silk scarves, rugs and kilims, housewares, food gifts, hand painted ceramics, tiles and on and on.
But there’s more besides: the chic boutiques, vintage and “concept” stores of modern Istanbul give London and Paris a run for their money in terms of inventiveness and edge; and there are plenty of designer malls and streets to keep the label-hungry sated. But as ever, in this sprawling, car-choked metropolis, you need to know where to go. –Telepragh
Shopping centers can be considered as a very young concept in Turkey, since the history goes back only to the late 80s. However, once the malls appeared on the shopping scene, the Turks embraced them. Almost every neighborhood has at least one. Following you can find some of the biggest and fanciest shopping centers in Istanbul. They are mostly close to the Taksim area, thus very easy to reach by bus, subway, or taxi. Oh yes, as a rule of thumb, we can say that they are open between 10 am and 10 pm. –See the full list of best shopping malls in Istanbul
STEP 5: NIGHTLIFE
Istanbul short breaks wouldn’t be complete without going out and observing the Turkish way of having fun. People here love going out. Not necessarily ‘out‘ out but we go in the evening to some other place than their home. However their choice is usually another home; most likely their friends or relatives. Maybe, and maybe %30 of Turkish population (and/or Turkish youth) go out regularly. There are a handful of district that are quite vibrant.
Istanbul is famous for its buzzing nightlife that starts as early as 9pm with a bottle of a hangover-inducing spirit and lasts all the way to the işkembe çorbası (tripe soup) that is savored with the sun’s first rays. That being said, the amount of options that Istanbul offers may sometimes feel overwhelming. So we’ve boiled it all down for you: here is a handy nightlife guide for Beyoğlu, covering the different areas of the neighborhood. –The Guide Istanbul