Istanbul may be in Europe, but it has the greatest Mosque you may ever see. It is split by huge expanses of the Bosphorus where Asia and Europe meet, and it isn’t expensive so is ideal for a cheap getaway.
It is important to see all the sights in Istanbul, and so your weekend Istanbul vacation needs careful planning, and you should plan to arrive in Istanbul as early as you can on a Friday, leaving as late as possible on a Monday, because you really need four days to see the sights whether it is for a weekend getaway or a romantic city break.
On day one of your weekend getaway to Istanbul should take in the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Hippodrome after checking into your Istanbul accommodation, and your Istanbul hotel need not be expensive. There is a great deal of sense in booking a hotel in the heart of historic old Istanbul, called the Sultanahmet, so when you are planning your weekend getaway then this is where you should look for your accommodation. The Four Seasons would be a top class Istanbul Hotel especially for a weekend break.
Your first afternoon after lunching in one of the many restaurants in this part of Istanbul, should be on foot, with a walking tour of Sultanahmet, but restricting yourself to the above mentioned Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Hippodrome, and possibly the Sunken Palace Cistern, which are all within close walking distance, or at worst a two or three stop tram ride.
Your second day of your weekend city break should include Topkapi Palace which is right on your doorstep, and the Grand Bazaar. Turkeys largest covered market, the Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi) in Istanbul, offers excellent shopping and great bargains. The range of beautiful objects available is quite breath-taking, including silky Turkish carpets and kelim’s, colorful and pungent herbs and spices, sparkling crystal, glazed tiles and pottery, copper and brassware, Turkish lamps, everything you can think of made from leather, brightly colored cotton and wool products, an array of Turkish costumes including authentic belly dancing outfits, and many types of handmade musical instruments. If you show any inclination to playing any of the instruments, you will doubtless be dragged into the store and offered an impromptu rendition of some obscure Turkish folk tune. Bear in mind this is not purely a tourist area and plenty of local people shop here too, giving the atmosphere a big dose of warm and friendly authenticity.
You need to be at the Topkapi Palace before it opens and go to the Harem to book your place on the escorted tour, before exploring the rest of the Palace. Lunch in the Konyali Restaurant overlooking the Bosphorous and the Sea of Marmara is the ideal mid day break, after which you can take the short tram trip to the Grand Bazaar for an unforgettable shopping experience. A firm no thank you does work, but be fair to the traders by not pretending interest when no interest is there.
You could take a taxi to the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, the Kariye Muzesi, where there are outstanding Byzantine mosaics.
Walk drink and dine in the evening along the Istiklal Caddesi otherwise known as La Grande Rue de Pera, provoding it is a Friday or Saturday and you will find plenty of small family run Tavernas, Cafes, and Bars.
Your third day could be a Cruise on the Bosphorous assuming it is a Saturday or a Sunday, and on your last day visit the Archaelogical Museums, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, the Egyptian market or take the ferry over the Bosphorous and back again allowing you to say you have been on two different continents on the same day!!
Istanbul is like that, being two quite different continents in one, and just a perfect choice for a romantic weekend city break getaway.
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