One way to do Istanbul

Continuing in my series of ‘One way to do…’ this particular visit is to the vibrant city of Istanbul: a city which everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.

Istanbul is an enchanting blend of Eastern and Western culture, modern yet with a unique identity. Its rich past coexists alongside its youthful exuberance.

It is a city of contrasts and culture and, to repeat the opening line, a city which everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.

Our visit in October 2012 was while on board the P&O cruise ship Azura which berthed at the Istanbul Cruise Ship Terminal, just north of the Galata Bridge.

As with most modern vibrant and visitor intense cities, Istanbul has the usual Hop-on, Hop-off bus service and, as expected, the service was available from just outside the terminal building…


However, time can be saved by making use of Istanbul’s tram system, a breakdown of which can be found on another blog thread of mine…

All well and good to use either the Tram or the HoHo bus but,  if time is not short or restricted and there are no mobility issues,  to savour the full romance and flavour of Istanbul the visitor really needs to tackle it on foot: and as I hope to show here, it is relatively easy.

To all intents and purpose, most visitors will stick to the European side of Istanbul and the Bosphorous. This European side is subdivided by ‘The Golden Horn’ waterway and is crossed by the Galata Bridge…



The Galata Bridge  is in itself a fascinating visit. With its multitude of fishermen on the upper level and a myriad of seafood restaurants on the lower level. Crossing the Galata Bridge also gives some great photographic opportunities to those who delight in capturing fond memories.

Once across the bridge take a left turn and then the first underpass on the right,  ascend on the opposite side of the road to the bridge. Continue left and follow the tram lines, a right turn followed some 200 yards later by a left. You are now well on your way to the main sites of Istanbul.

At the crest of the hill  between the Gulhane and Sultanahmet tram stops are a number of attractions including…

The Basilica Cistern


The Hagia Sophia Mosque…


The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)…




and the Hagia Sophia Mausoleums…

Located virtually next door to the Hagia Sophia and accessed through a gated wall  are the tombs of the rulers of the Ottoman Empire.

Not many foreign visitors to Istanbul are aware that everyone is aware that these tombs of the rulers of the Ottoman Empire are open to visitors and the mausoleums of Ottoman Sultans takes on the aura of  a mysterious place.

There are 5 Mausoleums within the complex and entrance is free.

Sultan Mausoleums are beautifully decorated buildings of impressive size. They house the sarcophagi of five sultans and their family members. The oldest of these buildings was originally a baptistery of the church of the Holy Wisdom in the Byzantine era. The other four mausoleums were constructed during the Ottoman times.


Here, the exterior of the Mausoleum of Sultan II Salem…


…and the interior of the Sultan III, Mehmed Mausoleum…



The Topkapi Palace, which is also in this immediate  area, has been deliberately left out of this review. My wife and I have visited the Palace on a previous occasion but while on this visit we noticed that it had been closed to the general visitor and had been given over for the exclusive use of P&O excursions. For cruising visitors who really want to make a visit to the Topkapi Palace I would suggest serious thought be given to a ship’s excursion.

The area surrounding the attractions listed above is awash with cafes, refreshment stalls and some pretty good restaurants. My wife and I found one particularly interesting place sat comfortably between the Blue Mosque and the area known as The Hippodrome.


Very difficult to capture both the size and relative importance  of The Hippodrome but it is well worth spending some time to see the Egyptian Obelisk, Serpentine Column and the Column of Constantine Porphyrogenitus…



The Hippodrome was the venue that saw  ancient chariot races taking  place.

The restaurant we chose, and had an excellent meal at, was the Turkistan Asevi, exceptionally good Turkish regional food, good service  and very friendly staff…


Suitably refreshed we now headed for The Grand Bazaar. Once again we followed the tram lines from Hagia Sophia till we reached the Cemberlitas tram stop. A right turn here and start descending past the Constantine Column…

…with the Cemberlitas Turkish Bath…

on your left.


The entrance to The Grand Bazaar…

is a mere 200 metres away. Leave plenty of time for the Grand Bazaar, it is a fascinating bustling labyinthine Ottoman shopping centre. Not to be missed…



Heading back to  ship I would suggest that no visit to Istanbul would be complete without a quick look at the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, easily found after exiting the Grand Bazaar and continuing downhill, the Spice Bazaar is very close to The Galata Bridge.









Maybe one final interesting view before returning across the Galata Bridge is the Floating Seafood Restaurants


That covers what I would consider the main attractions though of course individuals have their own interests.  Azura was berthed in Istanbul overnight and we made great use of the evening to sample the best of live Turkish entertainment, as well as having a full second day as tourists in this great city.

Both our evening and adventures on the second day will be reviewed in the near future.


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Disclosure to potential conflict of interest:

It is common throughout the travel industry for travel journalists and many cruise bloggers to be provided with complimentary cruises for the purpose of their reviews.

Solent Richard has no ‘conflict of interest’ as he is not an accredited journalist, he pays for his cruises, and is happy to confirm that all his reviews are his own given without fear or favour.

3 responses to “One way to do Istanbul

  1. Brilliant information, Richard, thank you!
    One place to also visit -if time permits is very close to the cruise berth – towards the Europe-Bridge (oposite direction of Galata): the Dolmabahce-Palace where besides many other absolutely amazing views, Queen Victoria’s gift is presented. A tremendous huge crystal chandellier (4.5 tons heavy, 750 lamps). Sill wondering, how this piece is fixed in the ceiling of the huge hall (2000m2) without breaking the dome… We as cruising group had to wait for 2 hours though since some “unexpected” officials from abroad visited the palace and due to security reasons no other visitors were allowed in the area.

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