Things to do in Istanbul

January 20, 2012

Need suggestions for travel to Istanbul in March. I hear it is going to be cold?< Going to Istanbul mid-March for about a week. Staying with friends in the city. Love food wine and art!
I'm based in NYC

World  •  Turkey  •  Istanbul
January 21, 2012


The past and present unite in the beautiful city of Istanbul. Ancient Byzantine architectures mingle with modern buildings here. The magical colors, sights and sounds here are unlike anywhere else in the world. Witness the spectacle of the whirling dervishes, the rejuvenating Hammam baths and the delicious cuisine. You're in for the experience of a lifetime.

Istanbul ....wonderful city (Source: ximenacab)

1. Dance of Colors

Do take time out to marvel at the hypnotic dance of the Whirling Dervishes, a spectacular spiritual performance that escalates one to another world altogether. Sema, is the religious Sufi ceremony which has made this dance famous world over.

What a spectacle of color and spirituality it is! You may not be able to understand the purpose behind sema - a Sufi ceremony aiming at a mystical union with God and religious purification - but you will certainly be hypnotized with the whirling fabric, communal recitation, controlled ecstasy, and spiritual fervor that's the inevitable part of the rite.

(Source: Whirling Dervishes Istanbul) 

(Source: Vladimer Shioshvili) 

Here are some reviews:

This popular two-part performance features a whirling dervish and Sufi music segment followed by dances from 10 different regions of Turkey. Colorful costumes and professional dancers make for a good evening's fun, with the added bonus that you don't have to fork out for an indifferent meal.

 (Source: Lonely Planet) 

We saw the ceremony of Dervishes at Dervish Dede Efendi House with some friends visiting Istanbul. After seeing many touristic and kitch things around Sultanahmet, this performance which is held there was very surprising. The musicians and dervishes are very professional, the place is totally ottoman and it is not difficult to find. What makes it original is you get the philosophy behind the dance of dervishes in this house. You feel the spirit of this great musician(Dede Efendi), and the poetry of Rumi. As being a local, i really appreciate this programme and i was happy to show it my guests and they enjoy it very much

 (Source: TripAdvisor)


Addess : Divanyolu Caddesi, Çemberlitaş Tram Stop (Column Constantine)

Phone : +90 554 797 26 46 

Fax: 00 90 212 516 41 08

Time : 7.30 pm

Days : Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday

Duration : 1 hr. 15 mins

Ticket price :

  • Adult -  $27.50 / 50 lira
  • Student - $ 22 / 40 lira

For more information, go here.

2. The Topkapi Palace,Istanbul

The Topkapi Palace is the home of the Ottoman dynasty who ruled for over 500 years ,Sultan Mehmet II had this palace constructed just after he conquered Constantinople in 1453.The Ottoman sultans resided in this palace till the 19th century. A great example of Turkish architecture, it is a museum today housing many of the artifacts of the Ottoman empire. Hiring a guide here is a must for a detailed account of the history.

Here's a snippet:

Topkapi Palace was the primary residence of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire for some 400 years. Construction began in 1459, and it was renovated many times over the years, eventually able to house some 4000 people, and becoming its own self-contained city with mosques, bakeries, hospital, and a library. When the Ottoman Empire ended, the Palace became a museum, which is very popular due to its amazing collection, including the Prophet Muhammad's cloak and sword.


 (Source: Patrick G) 

Some reviews:

We arrived quite late, after lunch, in December. Visited the harem first, then queued to see the relics (Moses' staff! Abraham's cooking pot!). The tilework and architecture of the Circumcision room was beautiful, and the views over the Bosphorus were stunning. By the time we visited the treasures, the queues had almost vanished, so I got to view the Spoonmaker's Diamond at close range for some time! Words cannot do justice to this amazing palace. Will have to go back to visit the kitchens and a number of other places that we didn't manage to visit in time!

 (Source: Lonely Planet)

This is one of the must-sees on any trip to Istanbul. You would need at least 3 hours on the most American-style whirlwind tour. The architecture is unique, and the complex is very interesting. Volumes have been written on the historical significance, so I will stick with logistics because it was a little confusing. You need two tickets to see the whole complex. But you must buy the palace ticket before you enter, and then wait in a separate line inside to buy a ticket for the Harem. You should not miss the Harem, it is the bulk of the more interesting rooms available to tour in the palace. A few warnings the lines for the religious icons like Moses's staff and Mohamed's footprint are very very long and crowded, as is the line to see the crown jewels. We were there in the middle of the day, so I'm guessing if you get in those lines very early they may be less crowded. Oh, and treat yourself to some fresh Pomegranate Juice- it is amazing!

 (Source: TripAdvisor)

Address : Binbirdirek Mh., Terzihane Sk 7, 34122 Istanbul Province, Turkey

Tel :+90 212 512 0480

Hours: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm. Closed on Tuesdays.

(During tourist season, calling ahead is recommended due to very busy schedule)

Entrance fees: Between $10 to $15 depending on the exchange rate.

Entrance fee for the Harem section:  Additional $10 (Only guided tours are allowed in Harem section.)

3. Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum

If you love art and are passionate about it, then the Turkish & Islamic Art Museum is a must visit when traveling to Istanbul. Conveniently located in Sultanahmet this art gallery offers a huge collection of Turkish and Islamic arts such as ceramics, miniatures, calligraphy, textiles, woodwork, stonework, metalwork, carpets etc. The place to go if you want to learn more about the Turkish art and culture.

 (Source: Patrick)

Some reviews:

The interesting history of the building aside, the museum is filled with beautiful examples of Turkish calligraphy, kilims, books, ceramics, metalwork, miniatures, textiles, and woodwork that provide insight into Turkey's fascinating history. In addition, the museum also houses a cultural wing that showcases typical Turkish homes throughout the centuries, from yurt dwellings to the Ottoman mansions of the early 20th century.

 (Source: IgoUgo)

We planned to spend only a morning in this museum and could not pull ouselves away in less than six hours. The carpets are absolutely incredible. So, too, the ceramics. Whether Istanbul is your only destination in Turkey or you are going elsewhere in the country, do yourself a favor and visit this museum. It will provide you with a perspective on the visual and functional arts that will serve you well. It is a wonderful, wonderful venue - close by the Blue Mosque and in in our experience, not at all crowded.

 (Source: TripAdvisor)

Address : Ibrahim Pasa Sarayi (Palace) ,At Meydani No.46, Sultanahmet

Phone : +90 212 5181805

Opening Hours : Open daily between 09:30 - 16:30 except Mondays.

Entry Fee : US$5.6 per person

4. Turkish Flavours

Food and cuisine is one of the most important and fascinating aspect of any new culture. Turkey famous for its unique and delicious palette is no different. Opt for the Turkish Flavours  tour for a mouthwatering experience.

Read more:

If you're a foodie visiting Istanbul, Selin Rozanes from Turkish Flavours can tailor tours highlighting the city's top food and wine destinations, including local markets, restaurants and specialist food shops. In the morning or late afternoon you can join Selin at her authentic 1940's home in Nisantas, experience a Turkish cooking class and taste what you have cooked! Turkish Flavours also coordinates culinary tours throughout Turkey delivering unforgettable experiences and an insight into the Turkish way of life.

 (Source: GetYourGuide.com)

 (Source: Christopher) 

Here's a review:

If you are a foodie you must take this tour. It was absolutely the best part of our time in Istanbul. Selin is an amazing guide and who takes you all over the markets and restaurants. As she says on her website, come hungry there is sooo much food to experience. The food was amazing and so different from what we are used to. We visited the spice market and she took us to a shop where they sell spices. I think that I broke the bank on all the goodies that they sold there. We also sampled Turkish apple tea which was wonderful. Selin took us by boat to the Asian part of Istanbul. It reminded me of the old part of Paris, the 6th Ar. There she took us to a store that makes the best Halwa or Halava that I have ever had. My husband bought a brick of halwa to bring home. It didn't last for more than one week! Finally we sat down for lunch in a restaurant whose chef is very famous in Istanbul. For over an hour, food was brought to the table and Selin explained everything to us. If I ever go back to Istanbul, I think we would take this tour again.


Address : Vali KonagI Caddesi Uğur Apt 14/3 Nisantai Istanbul 34365 Turkey

Contact : 00905322180653

Fax : 009021223133189

Email : selin@turkishflavours.com

Price : (Taste Istanbul Food Tour) from US$ 155.00 per person


As per your requests, here are some recommendation of restaurants serving great Turkish cuisine and ofcourse the wine.

1. Albura Kathisma

Albura Kathisma located in the busy Akbiyik Street in Sultanahmet, is a cosy and beautiful restaurant offering diners an eclectic food menu comprising both European and Turkish cuisine. Albura boasts of a classy decor and a wonderful location with the restaurant being built on top of ancient ruins. If you ask for it, the owner might even take for an insightful private tour!

Make sure you try their special platter 'The Harem's Charm'  (sliced lamb sautéed with onions, tomatoes, green peppers, mushrooms and thyme; rolled in slices of fried aubergine and topped with tomato sauce)

(Source: duygu)

Here's a review:

When I travel I make a point of not going to the same restaurant more than once. However, after we had our first meal here at Albura Kathisma we were hooked.

The atmosphere is laid back and the wait staffs are very friendly. They will always reserve you a warm welcome in a pleasant and convivial ambience offering you a professional and careful service in any time. We certainly did not expect this sort of service or hospitality when we arrived, but were obviously grateful for it.

Albura serves classic Turkish dishes with distinct Ottoman flavors. The food is delightful and surprising; flavors are combined in ways Non-Turks wouldn't expect with delicious results.
The dessert (souffle) is by far my favorite. You just cannot CANNOT, miss that one! It was utterly delicious! 

The place is nicely decorated; the music on the background is diverse and fits the ambience.

(Source: TripAdvisor)

Hours : 9 a.m. - 2 a.m.

Location : Cankurtaran Mah. Akbiyik Cad. No: 36-38, Sultanahmet.

Tel : +90-212-5179031, +90-212-5189710

Fax : +90-212-5179032

Price Range : $19 - $71;

Cuisine : Turkish

2. Asitane

Asitane located in Edirnekapi, the location is quite remote. However, if you are visiting Chora Church, one of the many attractions in Istanbul, and if you want to try the food of the Sultans, it is worth a trip to this amazing restaurant. The food that they serve here is created from the recipes dated back to 500 years ago including the recipes from the royal kitchen. 

(Source: Alpha) 

Here are the reviews on the restaurant:

If you're a foodie, and in Istanbul, you must go to the Chora Church (aka Kariye Camii or Mosque) to see the amazing mosaics (best in Turkey) and follow it by lunch at Asitane, right next door. Asitane's menu is from the Sultans' kitchens--take a look at their website--and delicious food, well presented in a lovely garden setting. We had almond soup, sour cherry dolmades (rolled grape leaves), apple stuffed with chicken, and saffron and rose milk puddings. Really made me appreciate Turkish cuisine. (At the other end of the spectrum, the big doner kabob twirling at the front of a tiny restaurant just across from the Cemberlitas Column was outstanding--served rolled into a burrito--may be the best in all Istanbul)

 (Source: TripAdvisor) 

We dined outdoors at this "suburban" restaurant. The cuisine was Ottoman Palace and was excellent. My Kavun Dolmasi (lamb stuffed melon) was from a 1539 recipe. Everyone raved about their dishes. The service was professional and yet friendly. Near the end of our feast, the chef came over to chat, and she advised us about desserts. It was a great evening. I highly recommend it. You will need a (cheap) taksi to get there and back.

 (Source: Asitane | Istanbul | Zagat) 

Price range: $0 - $40

Cuisine: Ottoman

Hours: Daily noon-midnight

Address: Kariye Camii Sokak No: 6 34240 Edirnekapi, Istanbul

Tel: +90 (212) 635 7997

Fax: +90 (212) 521 6631

E-mail: info@asitanerestaurant.com 


Regarding your concern about the weather in March, it will be quite cold so go prepared. In winter, that is December to March Istanbul is very cold, grey and windy. The city is generally buried under a thick blanket of snow, while sleet and snow showers are common. Add to it the humidity and wind chills make it seem even more cold.

Average temperature :  3 -11 ºC

Sultanahmet: Istanbul (Source: Ingsoc)

I hope you find the recommendations useful on your trip. Do let us know if you would like anymore help with your trip like say offbeat attractions in the city etc. We'll be glad to help you out.

Have a great time !


Answered by “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark Nidhi Minj

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