As Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul has a vast history that spans across two continents. Having been capital of three empires; namely the Roman / Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman empires, Istanbul is a city of historical fusion that sprawls across the Bosphorous. Though it’s historic centre is a priceless gem, partially listed as a World Heritage Site making it perfect for sight-seers, Istanbul has also become a modern shopper’s paradise in recent years with many of it’s malls, galleries and bazaar’s being recognised world-wide for their prestigious shopping. From a culinary perspective, Istanbul offers all the staples of traditional Turkish cuisine with the added bonus of superior seafood along it’s ports and harbours. Taking all this into consideration, here are 5 excursions you can make from Istanbul that will showcase all there is on offer.
Walking Bazaar Tours:
The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest covered markets in the world and as you can tell by it’s name, one of the largest. It’s easy to get caught up in this sprawling shopping haven which has retained authenticity by the eclectic blend of both locals and tourists. Its stalls offer traditional wares such as carpets, pottery, metalwork and textiles such as leather, wool and cotton. If you can ever find your way to an exit, it’s time to head downhill through the Tahtakale market district and along Uzuncarși Caddesi (Longmarket street) which is lined with shops and cafes towards the Egyptian Bazaar which can be found in the Eminönü quarter in the Fatih district. The Egyptian Bazaar houses a rich quantity of spices and is the second best-known Bazaar after the Grand Bazaar. The walk itself takes around half an hour, not including time spent shopping. Pro-Tip: Haggle like your new leather hand-bag depends on it and be aware that the Grand Bazaar and most shops will close on a Sunday (the Egyptian Bazaar stays open).
Bosphorous Ferry Rides & Cruises:
Travel like a local and escape the congested city traffic; Intercontinental Ferry boats are commonly used by commuters. For a few Turkish Liras you can be transported from Europe to Asian in under an hour, taking in the sights along the banks of the Bosphorous.
For a more tourist orientated option, you can take a hop-on, hop-off tour of varying lengths. The Dentur Avrasya group offer tours from 2 – 6 hours in the summer months starting at around 20TL. Generally, they will depart from Kabataș or Beșiktaș and there are options to either stay on the boat or depart for a bit of sight-seeing of the Ottoman Palaces for example, before hopping back onto the next boat returning to your destination.
For perhaps the more feminine of tourists, a trip to nearby Bursa offers a taste of relaxation and luxury. Accessible from Istanbul by fast, passenger only ferry boats departing from the Kabataș docks and arriving at Bursa docks, this service is offered by two companies: BUDO ferries and İDO ferries. Once at the Bursa Docks, you can reach the city centre by taxi or city bus in under an hour (the bus is the most frugal method, with a ticket costing 2.50TL). First, make your way to the ‘Kozi Hani’ or the Silk Bazaar. This bustling bazaar is most commonly frequented by locals and offers little luxuries from silk to specially blended tea and coffee. Ample cafes and restaurants are located outside, giving you respite from the busy bazaar.
Once you’ve shopped and are ready to drop, make your way to Kervansaray Termal Hotel. It houses a 700 year old thermal bath which is fed from the Eski Kaplica Thermal Spring. Bathe away the stresses of shopping and soak yourself in the ailment improving waters.
Revel in the ancient atmosphere of Troy. One day bus tours are available from Istanbul that take you through the rambling Thracian country-side and on a short Ferry ride from Eceabat to Canakkale. Though it is a long trip which will take up a full day, there are frequent stops along the way for traditional Turkish food and drink as well as an excellent guided tour once you reach the infamous home of the Trojan War.
Like Troy, Ephesus is also a trek from Istanbul. However as an ancient Greek city which was home to the Temple of Artemis (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world), it is not to be missed. To reach the site by coach it takes a laborious 10 hours and so the best way to reach it is by air. Airfares in Turkey are famously low, making a one hour plane ride from Istanbul to Izmir, which is the closest airport to Ephesus, an attractive, time saving option.