Book your preferred restaurant for a Friday or a Saturday night – even in the low season. The best places serving mehanes (a kind of Turkish tapas) fill up fast.
The Grand Bazaar is big, busy and bewildering: try the smaller Spice Market also known as the Egyptian Bazaar instead.
The Fish Market down by Galata Bridge is fascinating, smells of the sea and is full of free entertainment.
Istiklal Caddesi is long, and full of life. Every evening there is a procession of people; you might see a Balkan band dressed like the Mafia, a political protest or the crowds parting like the Red Sea for the Nostalgic Tram. If it gets too much, seek solace in the fabulous Denizler Kitabevi bookshop.
Need a healthy pick-me-up? Look out for a Vitamin Centre – fresh fruit juices squeezed on the spot. They seem to be on every thoroughfare of any size. Some markets have men with handcarts who put on quite a performance at it.
Fancy a sticky cake instead? Find Hafiz Mustafa in Sirkeci and try the konefe, halva or one of the countless other sweet treats whilst looking out past the Orient Express Terminal to the Bosphorus.
If you want to see the Harem in the Topkapi Palace at its best , get there early ( 9 a.m) You need to take a left after you have gone through the Topkapi entrance ( past the Executioners’ Fountain) and get your ticket as soon as you can. Look out for the Valide Sultan’s appartments – especially all you Jason Goodwin fans out there.
A tip from Jason well worth passing on – the Rustem Pasha mosque is small, calm and spiritually refreshing. It sits above Hasırcılar Çarşısı (Strawmat Weavers Market) in Eminönü.
For a taste of Stambouliot flavours, locate Haci Abdullah on Sakızagacı Caddesi (a side treet off Istiklal in Beyoğlu) or Sumerhan Lokantasi on Büyük Postane Caddesi in Eminönü.
And if your feet are aching after all that, use public transport. The trams are cheap and cheerful – you need a little red jeton( one price for any journey) which you can buy from a Jetonmatik machine. There is cute little funicular at Tunel and the Metro is good for the airport. The ferries are fun too.
Great tips, bookmarked in case I get to go.
Thanks for commenting – more to come.
My pleasure – I hope you get the chance.
But did you love it? And did you get to dive? And was the birthday magic?
I loved Istanbul – a great birthday trip. Way too busy experiencing life on the Bosphorus to dive. See my blog for details.