With its unique setting straddling Europe and Asia, vibrant bazaars and myriad of important historical and religious sights, it’s no surprise that Istanbul is one of the most popular Mediterranean cruise destinations and there’s so much to see that many itineraries offer a 2-day stay in Istanbul for cruise visitors.
Most cruise ships dock at the Karkoy Yolcu Salonu terminal, centrally located close to the Galata Bridge and the Karaköy tram terminal. From here, you can take the tram north to the modern shopping district surrounding Taksim Square and wander down into the old Jewish district of Galata where the Galata Tower offers expansive views along the coastline.
The majority of the city’s historic attractions are in the old town districts of Eminönü and Sultanahmet for which you’ll need to walk or take the tram south across the Galata Bridge. The glorious one-time residence of Ottoman Sultans, Topkapi Palace; the vast Hagia Sophia, originally built in 359AD as the world’s biggest Christian church and now a museum; and the iconic 17th century Blue Mosque, are all within easy walking distance of each other. A shopping trip to the Grand Bazaar – a sprawling labyrinth of stalls housed inside a giant 15th-century market hall – is a surefire way to soak up the city’s middle eastern vibe, with an eclectic array of clothing, furnishings, handicrafts and carpets. Get involved in the animated haggling and you’ll surely be invited to drink tea with the stallholders – an essential Turkish custom. Don’t miss a wander to the nearby Spice Bazaar too, where you’ll find a rainbow of pungent spices and local specialty Turkish delight in every imaginable flavor.
Finally, after a hectic day of sightseeing, spare an hour to relax and unwind in a hamam – a traditional Turkish bath – where you’ll be treated to a vigorous soap-sud massage and return to sea with baby soft skin.
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