Sultanahmet and Beyond by Foot
First Day. After breakfast go to Topkapi Palace (opens at 9 am, closed on Tuesdays). You need to buy an extra ticket after entering the Palace to visit its most interesting section – the Harem. As there are long queues at the Harem entrance, especially during high season, we recommend that you go there first and continue with the rest of the Palace afterwards. You can spend the whole morning in the Palace and then have lunch at Konyali Restaurant, located in the fourth courtyard of the Palace. (The Archaeological Museum, situated in the Palace gardens, is a possible stop on your way out of the Palace).
In the afternoon you can visit the 6th century Hagia Sophia Museum (closed on Mondays), the Byzantine Basilica Cistern opposite Hagia Sophia and the 17th century Blue Mosque, the biggest and the most famous Ottoman mosque in Istanbul. On your way back to the hotel through the Byzantine Hippodrome you can stop by at the Ibrahim Pasha Palace, housing the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum (closed on Mondays).
A 10-minute walk will take you to the Covered Bazaar (closed on Sundays). While strolling through its narrow streets we recommend that you stop for a rest in one of the traditional or newly opened trendy cafés. The one we recommend is Fes Café which has an adjacent concept store selling soaps and organic towels.). In late afternoon you can have a good rest in one of the historical Turkish baths Hurrem Sultan or Cemberlitas Hamams, both at 10-minute walk from the hotel. On the way to the Cemberlitas Hamam is the Corlulu Ali Pasa Medrese with one of the few remaining waterpipe cafes, a smokers haven
Second Day. After breakfast a walk in the direction of the Golden Horn will take you to the Spice Market (Egyptian Bazaar). Stroll in and around the market, after which you can visit the less popular Rüstem Pasha Mosque to see some of the most beautiful Ottoman tiles of the classical era.
Opposite the mosque is a pier from where Turyol boats depart for a 90 minute Bosphorus cruise (a timetable can be obtained from the hotel’s front desk). These boat trips are the shortest and simplest way to explore the Bosphorus.
Once back, cross Galata Bridge by foot to the opposite side of the Golden Horn and take the “Tunel” - a two-station subway which is one of the oldest in Europe. This takes you up to Tunel Square which is at one end of the pedestrian street “İstiklal Caddesi” (also called Beyoglu or Pera). Walk along the street to Taksim Square (considered to be the centre of Istanbul) and walk back, exploring as you do so side streets on both sides. Special points of interest are cafés and bars in the narrow streets of Asmalimescit area, orientalist paintings in Pera Museum, the art galleries Salt and Arter and the Misir Apartment building housing some of the best art galleries in the city (Galeri Nev, Galerist), the Flower Market , the Cukurcuma area with interesting art and antiquity shops, English-language bookstores (Robinson Crusoe, Homer, Pandora) and the tiny CD shop Lale Plak. The neighbourhood café Simdi is a good place to rest.
On the way back, walk through the old Galata neighbourhood surrounding the Galata Tower. The area is a trendy but rough-around-the-edges neighbourhood. During the last 10 years it is undergoing rapid gentrification and is becoming home to an increasing number of small designer and vintage stores and boutiques. Most of these shops are in the small streets around the tower (contemporary crafts shop Hic is especially recommended). Finally, you can take the elevator and go up the tower to enjoy spectacular views of Istanbul - breathtaking during sunset.
Return to the hotel either by taxi or by taking a tram at Karakoy station located not far from the tower, getting off at Sultanahmet station. For a glimpse of modern day Istanbul you might like to spend the rest of the evening in this lively area full of restaurants, cinemas and bars. For live music at the end of the evening check the programmes of music venues Babylon, Nardis and Salon at our front desk (all three are closed during the summer).