36 hours in Istanbul

A weekend travel guide

36 hours in Istanbul

Having been the capital city of some of history’s most powerful and influential empires, Istanbul remains - to this day - the beating heart of Turkey, with an incredible bloodline of culture and entertainment to keep you spellbound throughout your visit.

Dive right in

Have your senses aroused and tantalised by the rich tapestry of aromas, flavours and colours that Istanbul has to offer by heading straight to the Fatih District. Here you can immerse yourself in the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world enjoyed by more than 90 million people every year.

Evolving and growing since Sultan Mehmet II’s original Ottoman design in the 15th century, the Grand Bazaar is sprawled over 61 streets crammed with more than 3,000 shops. Watch out for the street sellers all fighting to bewitch you with their finely patterned carpets and curiosities glowing in the dimmed light of the vaults.

Once the browsing and haggling becomes too much for you, stop in one of the many shops offering traditional Turkish coffee to rejuvenate yourself. With so much on offer, be sure to get back on your feet afterwards to amble your way through the labyrinthine paths once more.

The bazaar opens it doors from 9am to 7pm throughout the week (excluding Sundays and holidays), so allow yourself a whole morning or afternoon for this delightful experience.

Getting to the roots

Istanbul’s heritage is even richer than their coffee, so get ready to explore the countless mosques and museums that the city has to offer.

Topkapı Palace

Turn back through the pages of history by visiting the Topkapı Palace, the home of the Sultans of the Ottoman empire for over 400 years, stretching back to the 15th century.

Nowadays functioning as a museum but maintaining its authenticity it is easy to envisage the concubines, eunuchs and aspiring noblemen as you walk through the jewel-filled chambers and expansive courts.

Aya Sofia

To really understand the winding road that Istanbul has taken over the centuries, the Aya Sofia is second to none.

Witness the rise and fall of the Byzantine empire by visiting this architectural wonder, originally built by emperor Justinian in 537 as a church. Almost a millennium later the empire fell to the Ottoman ruler Mehmet the Conqueror, the long standing monument to the Christian God was converted to a mosque.

For an alternative experience, choose Elizabeth Kostova’s “The Historian” as your travel companion as you traverse Istanbul from Palace to Mosque and find yourself deep in the setting of the dark vampiric tale of Vlad and Sultan Mehmet.

Eating in Istanbul

Now that your hunger for culture and history has been amply satisfied, it’s time to turn our attention to the rumblings in your stomach -  and after two days of exploration you’ve earned it.

The most famous eatery in Istanbul is ‘Zübeyir Ocakbaşi’, an excellent grill house open from noon til 1am. The skilled chefs awaken early every morning to prepare a smorgasbord of meats, from the regionally typical lamb kebabs to chicken wings, all excellently seasoned with eastern spices.

Be sure to book a table as everyone clamors to get a seat at this fine establishment!

Further reading

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