Arriving at Istanbul, Turkey, on board a ship is an unforgettable experience. The Bosphorus, dividing Europe and Asia, welcomes passengers and on deck are where the views of Istanbul’s best attractions await. The shores of Asia to the east, the first Bosphorus Bridge to the north and the “old Istanbul” peninsula in the south — home to Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia — give a glimpse of what’s to come on your visit.
With so much to see and do ashore, several calls at this incredible city offer an overnight stay. Having 24 hours give our guests more time to explore the magical locale, and the nightlife of Istanbul is not to be missed. So, how can you make the most of your time in Istanbul? Read on to see some possible ways to spend your 24-hour call.
START YOUR DAY WITH:
Istanbul City Walls & Spice Bazaar
Tour through Old Istanbul, crossing the Galata Bridge. View the Suleymaniye Mosque, one of the most important mosques of the Ottoman Empire, before you drive along the city walls surrounding the ancient city. Pass under the age-old Roman aqueduct on your way to the Spice Market. The Spice Market — or Egyptian Bazaar — was constructed in 1663 as a part of the adjacent Yeni Mosque complex in order to generate funds for the upkeep of the mosque. This was an avant-garde concept at the time – light years ahead of the not-for-profit fundraising game.
Have a look around – the Spice Market is the best place to purchase spices both familiar and exotic. Their pungent aromas often bear little resemblance to the supermarket variety. Fresh Turkish Delight is a hard-to-beat treat, and caviar and a fascinating array of teas can also be found here.
Istanbul Deluxe Part I
Istanbul is the only city in the world that is located on two continents, and you will experience both sides of the city. Head to the Old Town and visit the Spice Market where you will walk past a myriad of stalls selling ancient spices such as frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, cumin and rice spice. Take a moment to watch the trading, which occurs the same way today as it has been done for centuries.
Don’t miss the magnificent Underground Cistern, built during the reign of Justinian. This 6th-century subterranean water reservoir features a ceiling supported by 336 Corinthian columns and is known as the Underground Palace.
After a short drive to the pier, you will board a private motorboat for a one-hour cruise on the Bosphorus Strait — without a doubt one of the most beautiful waterways in the world. During the cruise you will notice that the Bosphorus shoreline is bedecked with numerous traditional, wooden Turkish villas, 19th-century Ottoman palaces, fishing villages and green hills on both sides.
Watch for Rumeli Fortress — the castle built by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror as a part of the preparations for siege of Constantinople.
THEN SPEND YOUR EVENING:
A Taste of Istanbul: Dinner Cruise on the Scenic Bosphorus
Tonight you will have an opportunity to view the Europe and Asia sides of this marvelous city from a private boat. Take in the sights of the stunning Bosphorus Strait as you enjoy refreshments. On the European side, you will view many palaces, old mansions and modern villas. Watch for the first intercontinental bridge that connects Europe and Asia. Spot Dolmabahce Palace, formerly an opulent 19th-century Rococo palace, and now a museum. The boat will turn around at Sariyer fishing village to cruise back along the Asian side. On your left is gorgeous Beylerbeyi Palace — one of the finest summer palaces of the Sultans.
Dinner will be served on board during the cruise. At the end of the evening, return to the ship, viewing the magnificent city of Istanbul by night with all the famous monuments lit up.
OR HEAD TO DINNER HERE:
A Taste of Istanbul: Turkish Kebab Dining Experience
In the epicurean world, nothing says Turkey like a fabulous kebab experience. Kosebasi Kebab Restaurant offers kebabs that adhere to the traditional recipes of South Anatolia and, as a result, is quite famous. Kosebasi not only captures traditional taste, but dining here also becomes something of a cultural event and an introduction to Anatolian lifestyle. At the end of the evening, return to the ship, viewing the magnificent city of Istanbul by night with all the famous monuments lit up.
START YOUR DAY:
Istanbul Deluxe Part II
After a short panoramic drive through the Old Town of Istanbul you will arrive at the ancient Hippodrome, once the largest chariot racetrack of the Roman Byzantine Empire. It is a short walk to the Blue Mosque. This incredible monument to Islam was completed in 1616 and is a triumph of harmony, proportion and elegance. The blue Iznik tiles covering the walls give the mosque its name.
Inside the Blue Mosque.
Nearby is the Topkapi Palace, the official residence of the Ottoman Sultans. The palace consists of courts, pavilions, mosques, fountains and a rich Treasury section. The Harem was the home of the sultan and is an exceptional insight into how the rulers lived. Enjoy some free time here to browse on your own.
Stop for a spectacular lunch at one of the authentic Ottoman style restaurants located in the Old Town. You will taste delicious Turkish cuisine cooked in Ottoman and Turkish styles, lovingly prepared by the chef.
Step inside the famous St Sophia Church, built during Emperor Justinian’s reign in AD 537. St Sophia’s dome was then the largest in the world and it remained the greatest church in Christendom for centuries. After several conquests and pillages, the building was converted into a mosque, but fell into disrepair as the centuries passed. Its magnificent mosaics were uncovered in the 1900s and the church was later dedicated as a Byzantine-Ottoman museum.
At the end of your tour, you will return to the port, stopping en route for a carpet demonstration at and the Grand Bazaar for some shopping.
OR SPEND THE DAY:
The Best of Istanbul
View the best of Istanbul’s stunning architecture and attractions. Visit the impressive Blue Mosque, named for the vivid Iznik tiles which line its interior, and take a short walk to the ancient Hippodrome — once the largest chariot racetrack of the Byzantine Empire.
Browse on your own at the amazing Topkapi Palace — official residence of the Ottoman Sultans — with courts, pavilions, mosques. After lunch at a city hotel, you will stop at the jewel in Turkey’s Byzantine crown — the Museum of St Sophia. This splendid Church of Divine Wisdom was originally built in the 6th century, and was lovingly restored in the 1900s, reflecting the true history of the glorious city of Istanbul. Pause at the Grand Bazaar for a little shopping and a demonstration of carpet weaving.
How would you spend your time in Istanbul? What are your must-see sights?