Istanbul definitely deserves more time than just an extended weekend. Of course, the Blue Mosque (Sultanamet Camii), the Aya Sofya (Church of Divine Wisdom), the Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar are high on anybody’s list. These impressive sights could easily be visited in a few days, but there is much more to explore.
A must-do is the ferry ride along the Bosphorus waterway, which is twisting 30km north to the Black Sea. It represents more than anything this city’s unique character, where two continents unite, east & west, by two bridges. Here along the Bosphorus, the past neighbours contemporary Istanbul in the most obvious way.
The boat sails past huge palaces, picturesque mosques and ancient castles, built by the Ottomans to prevent support reaching the besieged Constantinople. But the further away the boat moves from the city, these historic monuments give way to splendid waterfront mansions and apartments This is were the great Ottoman families escaped from the summer heat, and now old and new money takes pleasure in the cool breeze and the breathtaking vista.
Kumkapi, the old fishing village, is packed with restaurants serving the catch of the day. At night this place comes alive with musicians ploughing the narrow lanes between countless eateries. Lunch is a more quiet, but nevertheless a tasty affair. Once you wander off the busy restaurants scene, the neighbourhood presents itself as one of quiet parks, crumbling facades, but fascinatingly alive.
The guidebooks’ definition of modern Istanbul – the area north of Galata Bridge and the shopping streets south of Taksim Square – amused us tremendously, because the REAL modern districts are on the Asian side. But tourists don’t ever set foot on this part of town…