Extra Time in… Istanbul

(Last Updated On: April 16, 2019)

On The Go Tours team member Cherylyn Antao went to Turkey recently and has a treasure chest of great tips for anyone with a bit of time to kill. Whether you’re having a short stopover in Istanbul or spending a few extra days before or after your group tour to Turkey – why not consider the following places?

View of Rumeli Fortress from Bosphorus Cruise

Bosphorus Cruise – This is not a fancy cruise, just a basic sightseeing cruise which sails up and down the Bosphorus. But it’s a great way to see different houses/areas without any walking required. Most cruisers go for a half day, but you can book full day tours that also include Rumeli Fortress/Beylerbeyi Palace. (While I didn’t get the chance to visit Rumeli Fortress, apparently it is a bit of a long climb to the top but with a good view). The majority of cruisers leave at 9 or 10am.

Beylerbeyi Palace – a great traditional summer palace on the river. Please note it is closed Monday and Thursdays. Time needed here would be at least 1 hour. If you would like to visit this Palace I would suggest booking a full day tour with the Bosphorus Cruise in the morning so it includes the transfers as the Palace is on the Asia side of the Bosphorus.

Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace – also on the river, this is the main palace and bigger than the Beylerbeyi Palace (I love palaces so visited both, but if you were short on time and had to pick one, I would recommend Dolmabahce). Be aware, it is closed on Mondays and Thursdays. Set aside at least two hours to see the amazing palace. To get there, catch the tram to Kabatas and then walk up river for about 5-10 minutes.

Galata Tower – The Tower has a really good viewpoint with a 360-degree view of the city. There are a few wooden stairs to climb up after taking the elevator, but it was definitely worth it. Time needed here would be at least 15 minutes. There is a restaurant at the top, but it’s definitely on the pricey side. To get here, catch the tram to Beyoglu. It is a bit of a long walk from the station, but the tower is clearly visible so you shouldn’t get lost. Other good viewpoints are Camlica Hill and Pierre Loti Hill, but I think a view from the Galata Tower would suffice (it is a case of how many times you can take a picture of the same thing – I know I must have 10 photo’s of the same part of the city from taking too many photos at each view point!)

Underground Cistern

Underground Cistern – The Cistern is an ancient underground water tank, complete with carved and fluted Corinthian columns and a somewhat puzzling head of Medusa. This is a good to visit especially on a hot day, as it is nice and cool inside. Time needed here would be at least 15 minutes. It is located near Topkapi Palace.


Miniaturk – this is a place that left me wanting to see more of Turkey – I went there on the day I arrived and I guess it made me look forward to all the places I was going to see. It is basically a miniature version of all the main attractions of Turkey. I guess it would appeal mostly to kids, but the kid in me enjoyed it too. Time needed here would be at least an hour. Catching a cab from your hotel costs approx. 20TL each way (make sure the taxi is metered) and don’t forget to take a hotel card to give the taxi driver for your return journey.

The tram system is cheap, costing 1.75-2TL for each journey. Frequently run, they’re a great way to get about and see the place.

If Museums are more your type of thing I would recommend the Modern Art Museum and the Mosaic Museum. I mistakenly forgot they were closed on Mondays and Thursday and left them to visit on the last day I was there so did not actually get to see them myself, but have been given good feedback about them. If you were more of a hands on person – perhaps a cooking course would be more your thing – I did not have time to do one myself but reviews of the classes at the Sarnic Hotel seem to be best. If you have already been to Istanbul previously and seen all the above mentioned attractions or if you are travelling with young children, why not visit Jurassic Land which opened in Oct 2011 in the Forum shopping centre for something different?

– Cherylyn Antao

One comment on “Extra Time in… Istanbul

  1. Thanks Cherylyn. I was in Istanbul in April for Anzac day. I also addes some extra time onto the end of my trip, and like you, got to see more of this fascinating city which spans 2 continents. Unfortunately, I didn’t pre plan what I wanted to see and do in that additional time, and I regret that now. The OTG anzac tour provided in depth and essential sightseeing to the Blue Mosque, the Bascilica Cistern, the Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar and Spice Markets, the Amazing Topkapi palace (I really loved this original Ottoman palace with wonderful architecture and all the riches it contained) and the lovely 2 hour Bosphorus cruise, however I also agree that additional sightseeing and extra time in Istanbul is such a bonus if you can spare the time. My travel buddy and I thought we would just decide on what to do as we went, so that we could enjoy soaking up the city, but we didn’t count on queuing up at the Dolmabiche palaces for 2 hours, or afternoon rain which stopped us from hitting up Minaturk.(I really am jealous you got to go there). If I could give any advice it would be – don’t under estimate Istanbul, plan extra time well and take the advice of the experts. This is such a fascinating place. I also would additionally recommend seeking out and soaking away in a traditional turkish bath! Pure bliss!! Thanks for your insight! I wish I had of chatted with you before I went!

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