Istanbul, an unexpectedly perfect city break
For some time now Istanbul has been under the radar. Due to some unfortunate events, travellers have started avoiding this city. Honestly, it’s a shame. Istanbul has got to be one of the most incredible cities in the world with an overwhelming amount of history, architectural masterpieces and delicious food capable of seducing any of its visitors.
So we decided to bring it back to life with a quick itinerary for a weekend break that will certainly make you fall in love with this unique city.
How to get there?
Turkish Airlines flies from 8 destinations in Italy directly to Istanbul (Venice, Rome, Milan, Bologna, Bari, Napoli, Pisa and Catania). Flights start at 159€ return. An alternative is Pegasus Airlines, a Turkish low-cost, with flights from Milan, Rome and Bologna. Similar price range.
Where to stay?
Occidental Pera Istanbul has just opened in the lively and charming district of Beyoglu. The architecture is French and minimalistic and this 4 stars hotel has a full range of services that will make you enjoy Istanbul to the fullest. From its Mediterranean restaurant to the luxurious spa, the real gem of Occidental Pera is the “Vista Pera” Skybar, located on the rooftop of the hotel which offers a privileged view of Istanbul.
Prices start from 51€ per night per room. Breakfast included.
1st day: Welcome to Constantinople
On your first day you will want to head to the most historical and beautiful part of the city and that is Sultanahmet. Within a small area you will find more than enough attractions to fill out your day!
Start with the emblematic Topkapi Palace, home to the Ottoman Sultans and their courts for 400 years. This huge complex has gardens, harems and it’s a fine example of Turkish architecture. Here you will learn a lot about the history of Istanbul and start understanding its complexity.
Not much further than two steps away is Hagia Sophia, one of the most relevant constructions in the world. It was built has a church, then turned into a mosque and now it’s officially a museum where both Christianism and Islamism complement each other. A rare but fascinating sight.
Right across the courtyard there’s the Blue Mosque (or Sultanahmet Mosque) famous for its six minarets and beautifully decorated interior.
By this time it’s very likely that you will be starving and Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi is the solution! Köfte are delicious Turkish meatballs accompanied by bread, salad and rice if you wish.
In the afternoon, pay a visit to the underground Basilica Cistern, a mystical place that looks brought right out of a fantasy novel and stroll through the maze-like streets of the Grand Bazaar where lamps, bags and a lot of gold are awaiting you!
While the sun sets, Istanbul becomes particularly beautiful and there’s no better place to admire it than the Bosphorus. Hop on a ferry from Eminonu to Kadikoy and then from Kadikoy to Karakoy and relax to the sound of the waves and seagulls.
2nd day: Modern Istanbul
After a fulfilling breakfast (there’s nothing like a Turkish Breakfast!) head early to the Galata Tower to beat the crowds. Standing since 1348 AD, Galata has the best view you can ask for over the city.
Then, making your way down to Karakoy enjoy the small, narrow streets this area has to offer and you can visit Istambul Modern, the best contemporary art museum of the country. Very close to it there’s a fun photo stop in the so called “Rainbow Stairs”.
Always walking by the seaside, you will reach Dolmabahçe Palace, a more recent (XIX century) and very glamourous palace. Worth a visit!
And if you want to feel how’s the daily life in Istanbul, walk through the streets of Besiktas. Companies, stores, markets and great variety of Meze restaurants (Turkish tapas let’s say) are all here. One of the hearts of the city!
Right now you will be very close to Ortakoy, known for its baked potatoes and fantastic sea views. In its port, every day at 3pm, there’s a Bosphorus Cruise which will take you towards the Black Sea where all the most expensive and impressive villas are.
Your time in Istanbul will only be complete after walking the whole length of Istiklal Street. There are art exhibitions, shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, street art and so much more to see in the busiest street of the country.
And just like that your weekend in Istanbul has come to an end. You will be dying to return as soon as you sit in your plane!