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 fairly long and can accommodate several ships at once.
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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 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 may be able to find ATM's across the busy street from the port gates.
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 3 TL (Dec 2013). 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. A taxi from the pier shouldn't be too expensive though the rate needs to 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.
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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 25 TL (Dec 2013), closed Mondays.
- 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 25 TL (Dec 2013). Extra 15 TL to visit the harem. Closed Tuesdays. Local currency only.
- Basilica Cistern - A large underground cavern built to store water. Check out the Medusa statues inside. Entry is 10 TL, euros accepted (Dec 2013).
- 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, 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. Sultanahmet Koftecisi is a recommended restaurant on the main street near Hagia Sophia specializing in lamb kofte (meatball) and kebabs. Beware of the copycat restaurants beside it and nearby.
- 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.
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