LUXE City Guides - Istanbul - - Activities -

Start early. Most of th­ese stun­ning sites open 9am-7pm (5pm in win­ter), and ideally should be viewed in peace and quiet. The re­al­ity, par­tic­u­larly at week­ends, is of­ten dif­fer­ent, when le­gions of scream­ing kids and kha­ki­clad tourists de­scend. Forgo that fourth marti at Mikla the night be­fore and ar­rive by taxi at the Ha­gia Sophia / Sul­tanah­met Sq. / 9.30am-4.30pm / closed Mon / be­fore open­ing time to dodge the crowds. (You will of­ten find English­s­peak­ing guides will­ing to re­lieve you of Euros, but bet­ter yet, hire a pro (See V. Use­ful/Su­per Sites). Zap into the icy cool Ha­gia Sophia with its mag­nif­i­cent dome and mo­saics. When you’re done, exit the main en­trance and cross di­ag­o­nally right to find Yere­batan Sar­nici (Basil­ica Cis­tern) / Yere­batan Cad. / yere­ The piped ‘at­mos’ mu­sic is slightly irk­some, but the wow fac­tor sure is high. Make sure to check out the huge Me­dusa heads. Exit right out of the cis­tern, and, if you fancy a trad scrub, carry on straight along Yere­batan Cad. – at the cor­ner with Kabasakal Cad., at the other end of the park, is fabby Aya­so­fya Ha­mami (see Ham­mam). If not, exit the cis­tern and walk up and right onto Mey­dani Sok. On your left you’ll spy the iconic Blue Mosque / Mey­dani Sok. 17. Pop in­side for a quick shufty, but bear in mind it has a strict dress code (you’ll be sup­plied with wraps for legs and shoul­ders and plas­tic bags for your shoes), and while it’s worth a look, it could def­i­nitely do with a quick whip round with the Shake n’ Vac. Again, the crowd can be off-putting, so if you’re seek­ing a qui­eter, more spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence check out nearby Sokullu Mehmet Pasa¸ Mosque (see Ac­tiv­i­ties/Tiny Treats). Exit the Blue Mosque and to your right is Mo­saic Mu­seum, or if you fancy a spot of retail fol­low the signs un­der the lit­tle bridge and turn right into the Arasta Bazaar. It’s touristy, but high-end, and there are some smart op­tions here. Parched? Re­trace back to the start of the bazaar, through the lit­tle café court­yard, up the steps by the loos and left, just past the carpark on the right, down cob­bled Kabasakal Cad. At #5 you’ll find the Ye­sil¸ Ev / 517 6785 / / with its natty sum­mer gar­den ter­race (and mildly an­noy­ing canned mu­sic), or head to the end of Kabasakal Cad. and turn right to find the Four Sea­sons Sul­tanah­met (see Lunch/ Sea­sons) for a peace­ful late af­ter­noon tea and tif­fin.

More? Well, there’s still the sub­lime Sü­ley­maniye Mosque / Tiryak­iler Çar­sisi¸ / off Prof Sid­dik Sami Onar Cad. / and Top­kapi Palace (see Act./Pal. Splen­dour), lo­cated be­hind Ha­gia Sophia. In the grounds of Top­kapi you’ll find the fab Ar­chae­ol­ogy Mu­seum Arke­oloji Müzesi with a col­lec­tion cov­er­ing al­most all eras of world his­tory / Os­man Hamdi Bey Yokusu¸ Sok. 520 7740 / 9am-7pm / closed Mon. Or, if the shop­ping fairy is tap­ping her foot, the Grand Bazaar awaits (see Shop./Grand Bazaar).

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