The best time to plan a city break in Istanbul is when you need an explosion of life and color – especially in the spring, if you want to open your appetite for Oriental experiences. Istanbul can be explored on a journey of three days and one of the first things you need to do to mingle along the city like a local, not a tourist, and that means using the public transport. Check if the hotel in Istanbul where will you accommodate is near the subway or ant bus lines that pass through the area. It’s good to know that taxis are quite expensive in Turkey.
Serve a delicious lunch among the Galleries on Istikal Street
If you like to walk around and observe people, but look for a special place where good things happen and at the same time enjoy the Turkish cuisine at its best, you must go on the pedestrianized Istiklal, where you will find everything you want, from cafes, to restaurants and traditional doner. So you can stay for more in the area for a delicious lunch. Anyway, the place is special in itself for its Art Nouveau architecture and 19th century European air – you will surely love it!
On Rue Francaise you can listen to live music, even in French, and if you want to flee two hours away from the crowds, you can invite your pair in a film, if you are both passionate about movies. You may walk on Istikal Street early morning after taking breakfast at the hotel.
From here you must not miss a ride on the nostalgic tram, where you can get down anywhere you want just to get lost together for a while. The Nostalgic Tram, as locals call it, begins its schedule on Istikal from early morning until late in the evening, at intervals of 15-20 minutes. In addition, the street is one of the liveliest places in Istanbul, so you will always encounter curious and friendly locals and tourists alike in this fascinating and lively area.
Buy a magic carpet from the Grand Bazaar
You will not see anywhere such an overwhelming explosion of color and diversity than during your vacation in Istanbul (maybe the Holi festival in India, when everyone is covered in vivid colors, but we will talk about it some other time). And one of the places where you could stop for a magical experience together with your partner is the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul itself. If you are lucky, you can find a magic carpet.
What could you buy? If you think about it, you could even purchase the engagement ring, wedding rings or gold jewelry at prices that are more than convenient, if you still choose a city break in Istanbul. And if you cannot find a magic carpet, handmade carpets though are absolutely gorgeous; you could opt for handmade souvenirs such as shoes, carpets and cashmere scarves. Whatever you buy, remember to negotiate for each product in order to preserve the local tradition. If you don’t have this innate talent and don’t know how to do that, you can buy anything at a price that will delight you.
Take a romantic walk on aristocratic roads of Princes’ Islands
If you thought that only means Istanbul oriental music and belly dancing, a day trip on the Princes’ Islands near Istanbul will change your opinion. The Princes’ or Princesses’ Islands (as they appear in other sources) will make you feel that you transported yourselves into a place in Europe of the last century, and almost nothing reminds you that you still are at the Gates of the Oriental world, where you arrived at first.
If you choose a city break in Istanbul together with your pair, you could opt for one of the less touristy islands of the nine islands in the Sea of Marmara. The largest and most popular is Buyukada Island, which seems to be a European colony, where moving carriages and Art Nouveau houses rise all over the area, giving the place an air of downright bourgeois. Conversely, if you want to go on a one day trip to enjoy a little more privacy, you can stroll along one of the smaller islands, such as Heybeliada, where you’ll find many restaurants and shops, or on the Burgazada Island. Weekends in Istanbul are quite busy, so you better choose a smaller island if you want to avoid crowds in Buyukada.
Photo source: Picture 1: lonelyplanet.com; Picture 2: tripadvisor.com; Picture 3: theguardian.com; Picture 4: atbholidays.com; Picture 5: oskartours.com; Picture 6: mayartravel.com; Picture 7: lonelyplanet.com