Top tips for a city break in Istanbul.

Whilst there are many many guides for those who spend their weekends adventuring, it's often a great feat to absorb all the information/tips that are available, without taking the fun out of your holiday. Many a time have Mr Biscuit and I devised a to-do list of cultural excursions, only to arrive on holiday, trying to relax, and instead either spent the whole time trying to see every possible thing, or perhaps even been slightly disappointed if we haven't managed to tick off every stop. Its only the more we travel, do we realise that yes, of course there are key things to do in every city that you just shouldn't miss, but often you miss out on the atmosphere, the ambience, and the absorption of the culture itself. Sometimes you try too much to find 'that quirky tea room that everyone raved about on trip advisor that all the locals say is their favourite' (I'm sorry trip advisor, please forgive me, I still love you) that you pass by what could have been the most wonderful cafe. Being knackered when you get home instead of being refreshed takes a lot of your holiday, and whilst you have the pics as memories, you were so busy thinking of the next place on your itinerary that you forget to enjoy where you are already.

So in our own take of travel guides, whenever we highlight our city break excursions, we will provide a simple top-tips list of advice, that aren't the obvious.

So here it is, the first in the series.


1) Stay slightly outside the centre.

When we visited, it was a veritable conundrum as to what area of the city we should stay in. Istanbul is already set into x2 parts, reflecting the x2 continents it falls in- the European and Asian. These more or less sit either side of the Bosphorus river that runs down the middle. Within those halves, are many areas in itself. We chose to go for a mix of staying in the central area of the European side, just 30-mins away from all the popular tourist attractions, in a more local spot called Ortakoy. We were told it was 'near everything without being tourist-y'. For what it lacked in not being directly opposite a museum, it made up with, with quaint stretches of restaurants overlooking the sea, and homely guesthouses with really helpful owners who will shut their business just to walk you to the nearest bus stop when you and your husband are gawping at an upside-down map.

2) Get an Istanbul-kart (roughly translated apparently, this is literally Istanbul-card).

Totally useful when you are staying slightly out of the centre, this is so useful, as it's like the city's very own oyster card. You top it up at local shops, and it discounts bus/tram etc fares around the whole place. It saves on haggling with taxi's (agree a price in advance if you do). Plus trams are fun right?

3) Stay for about x5 days if you wish to do/see everything and not feel like you need a holiday to get over your holiday.

Sure, most of the major tourist attractions are situated around the same area, but there are like a lot of them, and there will be queues, and there certainly isn't any point in rushing. You'll note that most guides give you a 'weekend in Istanbul' list, but this is very limited in it's choices, and leave you no time to just explore, or absorb the culture. If in doubt, trip advisor is just fantastic for deciding where to go, from museums to restaurants, and palaces to tea-rooms.

4) Cruise the Bosphorus.

At the side of the river in an area called Eminonu, you will find boats that, for a very reasonable price, will take you on a tour of the beautiful Bosphorus. On a short break, it's the ideal way to discover the coast of Istanbul, and all the wonderful architecture and hidden castles you might not have found otherwise. We opted for a short cruise, however there are several options from half day, to full day trips that stop off for lunch in quaint fisherman's villages. Get there early though and board the ship with plenty of time as seats fill up fast on the decks, leaving only below available, and the best seats are on the west side of the boat, as you'll get unobscured views of the European side as you go out, and the Aisan side as you return.

To visit Turkey, and find out more about other resorts, tips, and 'at a glance' guides, First Choice have some great info on their site, and often have some fabulous offers. 

(Pics our own- Cafes and quaint streets of Ortakoy, Breakfast overlooking the sea in Ortakoy, Bosphorus cruise.)