Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Istanbul is where Europe meets Asia and an ancient capital of the Roman Empire.
Where You're Docked
Cruise ships dock at Karakoy Yolcu Salonu across the Galata Bridge from the city's main attractions. The pier is vey long and can accommodate up to four large cruise ships at once. The port area is undergoing redevelopment under the Galataport project in 2015 with construction scheduled to take two and a half years.
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Money & Tipping
||Turkey's currency is the Turkish Lira (TRY) abbreviated TL unofficially. Euros may be accepted at tourist friendly places. A small tip at restaurants is appreciated. Currency exchange and ATM's can be found on the main street along the tram line by the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque. Depending on where you dock, you should be able to find banks with ATM's on the street along the tram line in the port area.
Istanbul has a good tram network though you need local currency. Tokens (coin or max 20TL bills) can be purchased from machines and a single trip is 4 TL (Feb 2016). To get to the main tourist areas, take the T1 tram. Nearest stops from the cruise terminal are either Karakoy by the Galata Bridge or Tophane the next stop east. The closest station would depend on where you are docked. Get off at Sultanhamet. You may want to walk back to the ship since it's all downhill from the main tourist area. Just follow the tram tracks down to the Galata bridge and you can easily spot your ship. http://www.metro.istanbul/
A taxi from the pier shouldn't be too expensive though the rate can be negotiated in advance. Drivers should take Euros.
Update Oct 2013 - A new underground rail tunnel opened linking Sirkeci station on the European side to Uskudar on the Asian side.
Istanbul Ataturk Airport (IST) is located approximately 24 km west of Istanbul. Transportation options to the city centre include taxi, airport bus or metro (requires changing to tram at Zeytinburnu station). http://www.ataturkairport.com
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Must See Sights
- Hagia Sophia - This building was previously a church, converted to a mosque and is now a museum. Be sure to head upstairs to explore the second level. Entry is 30 TL (Feb 2016), closed Mondays. http://ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr/en
- Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) - entry fee is not required but you will need to remove your shoes. Plastic bags are provided to carry your shoes in.
- Topaki Palace - This was the home to the Sultans. There are extra entry fees to visit some buildings inside. Entry is 30 TL (Feb 2016). Extra 15 TL to visit the harem. Closed Tuesdays. Local currency only. http://topkapisarayi.gov.tr/en
- Basilica Cistern - A large underground cavern originally built to store water. Check out the Medusa statues inside. Entry is 20 TL, euros accepted (Feb 2016). http://yerebatan.com/
- Galata Bridge - a lively area with vendors and restaurants on the lower deck and locals fishing from the sidewalk
Been Here Before or Second Day
You can explore modern Istanbul. Istanbul's town center is around Taksim square. You can take a funicular up the hill from the Kabatas tram stop which is the end of the T1 line heading east. Istiklal Street is the main pedestrian mall that heads west from the southern end of Taksim. To make it a round trip, take the funicular back down to Karakoy from Tunel at the end of Istiklal or walk down passing the Galata Tower. Head up the tower for nice views of the city and your ship.
Shopping & Restaurants
- Grand Bazaar - Considered the world's oldest mall, and not for the claustrophobic. Make note the name of the gate you entered from. Closed on Sundays
- Spice Market - A smaller version of the Grand Bazaar by the south end of the Galata Bridge. A good alternative if in Istanbul on a Sunday.
- Arasta Bazaar - A quieter but still popular market just east of the Blue Mosque.
- Try a doner kebab, turkish ice cream churned with a stick, or sample some fresh Turkish Delight (avoid the pre-packaged, boxed versions). Wash it down with some fresh squeezed juice.
- Kofte (grilled meatballs) is a Turkish specialty with three similar named restaurants along the main tram route by the blue mosque. These are Tarihi Sultanahmet Halkin Koftecisi (right by Sultanahmet tram stop), Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi Selim Usta (the 1920 original one block east) and Meshur Sultanahmet Koftecisi (copycat two doors down).
- The south end of Taksim Square has a few street eats including Kizilkayalar Hamburger serving a wet version of a hamburger and a few kebab places.
- Nevizade Street (near Galatasaray Square on Istiklal) is full of restaurants with outside dining and bars. This is the area to spend the evening and have dinner if you have an overnight.
- Karakoy Gulluoglu is considered to have the best baklava in Istanbul and is located quite close to the cruise piers near the north end of the Galata Bridge. https://goo.gl/maps/pz6dq9npZGu
Cafes and restaurants may provide free wifi for customers.
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