It’s said that if you’ve never tried a Turkish bath then you’ve never been really clean. The visitor moves through several hot rooms and finally arrives at the massage table for a real going over. Men and women bathe separately, exceptions are made at certain times for tourists. Here is one recommended bathhouse: Çemberlitas Hamam. Situated near the Bazaar, this is the oldest hamam in town and was reputedly built by the master architect Sinan.
The palace of the sultans with its many courtyards and gates brings on a nostalgia for times forgone. There are several special museums in the area; highlights include the Treasure Chamber, where the famous dagger and Spoonmaker's diamond are true stars of the collection, and the harem, where the sultan’s wives and children lived (the two are not included in the ticket price to the palace).
The Great bazaar attracts many people – far too many if you come at rush hour. It’s a good idea to arrive early in the morning and enjoy a cup of tea in one of the cafés whilst the bazaar comes to life. There are thousands of stalls, selling virtually everything, carpets, gold, cloth, spices. The bazaar is a world of its own and it’s easy, but fun, to get lost in the teeming alleyways.
Boats travel along the shores of the Bosporus from Eminönü, they chug quietly under the bridges that connect Europe and Asia. One hour away is Anadolukavagi, a little Asian fishing village with lots of pleasant restaurants. You can travel to the largest of the Prince Islands with a Seabus, departing from Kabatas below the Dolmabahçe Palace. If you want to visit more of these islands, you can take the ordinary boat from Eminönü.
A private mansion turned into a museum, a place where you can admire works from Turkish artists created between 1850 and 1950. There are also excellent collection of calligraphy and its history, classical Turkish furniture and a nice garden. The museum is beautifully located on a hilltop, overlooking the Bosphorus.
This is the first private museum to organize modern and contemporary art exhibitions in the city. It was founded in 2004 and is located in an old warehouse by the harbour. Istanbul Modern Museum offers two main exhibition halls; the museum’s permanent collection is displayed on the upper floor and the temporary exhibition hall and photography gallery on the lower floor.
For best local authentic events, head over to this Cultural Centre, housed in a old historical Turkish bath (over 500 years). It has two sections, first is an exhibition and foyer area, the other section is the performance area. This is a great place to enjoy belly dancing and other traditional dance performances with live music.
Eminonu Pier is a busy place but reflects the true Istanbul. This is a great place to take a stroll by the sea and see locals fishing every day. There are also plenty of fish restaurants that offers the traditional fish sandwiches. Eminonu Pier has the real Turkish atmosphere and claimed to be the heart of Old Istanbul.
This is a well organised aquarium with species from all over the world and is a great family attraction as well as a popular tourist sight. It offers approximately 1.500 species, 15.000 land and sea creatures in total. When you are feeling hungry or thirsty you will find a café inside.
On the way to the airport next to the Sea of Marmara lies Galleria, a large shopping centre - one of the first of its kind at the time of construction in 1988. The shopping center is hugely popular with visitors, and contains about 140 shops (most of which Turkish), 5 cinemas and a bowling alley.
The Spice Bazaar is at the base of the Galata Bridge in Eminönü, and is also called the Egyptian Bazaar because the imported spices originally came from Egypt. In the lanes around the bazaar you can buy cheese, honey, sausages and all sorts of edible delights and knick knacks.
The international airport, Atatürk Hava Limani, lies near the Sea of Marmara, around 25 km from the city centre. Buses run to Taksim Square every 30 minutes, journey time 45 min. The simplest and quickest journey is by Metro to Aksaray and takes around 35 minutes. +90 212 465 55 55 www.ataturkairport.com Istanbul’s other airport, Sabiha Gökçen, is on the Asiatic side and is used mostly by domestic flights and some smaller airlines. There is no direct transport between the airports - change at Taksim. +90 216 585 50 00 www.sgairport.com
There is one public and one private bus network, IETT and Halk Otobus, respectively. The underground, Tünel, runs from Karaköy till Istiklâl Cad in Beyoglu and takes a few minutes. There is also a museum tram up toward Taksim Square. Another tram route goes from Kabatas via Galata bridge and the Spice Bazaar to the south-western suburbs. The Metro goes from Taksim north to Levent and from Aksaray to Otogar in Esenler, where buses depart for other parts of Turkey and Europe and to the airport. Dolmuses are minibuses or large taxis that depart when they are full, and stop where you want them to. They are the cheapest form of transport. Ferries between Europe and Asia leave from Eminönü, Karaköy and Besiktas to Üsküdar, Kadiköy and Harem. Akbil is a type of payment card that can be loaded with various sums and used on buses, boats and trams. Can be bought at major junctions.
Taxis are yellow in the inner city and lilac in the suburbs. There are numerous taxi companies. Different hotels work with different companies and can book your transport to the airport. It’s best to hail a taxi on the street, or go to a taxi rank and ask for a business card. Istanbul Taxi Service +90 212 518 1518 City Transfer Istanbul +90 212 517 0090