My Christmas present from Mark was tickets to a performance of West Side Story at the Zorlu Centre in the Besiktas area of Istanbul (March 2017). As the date conveniently coincided with my birthday we decided to enjoy a weekend in the city. We had collected enough air miles with Turkish Airlines to travel very cheaply from Dalaman to Ataturk Airport.
On arrival in Istanbul we took a taxi and arrived at our hotel in Besiktas within 20 minutes. We chose Besiktas area for its proximity to the Theatre & the Bosphorus, which allowed us to walk to most of the places we wanted to see.
We had clear blue skies and the sun was shining but there was a cold wind so we wrapped up in coats and gloves and set off in the direction of the Bosphorus sea front. After living in Marmaris we were quite shocked to see so many people out enjoying the fabulous views and cafes.
We walked as far as we could until we reached the luxury Hotels on the waters edge: Ciragan Palace Kempinski & Four Seasons Hotel to name a couple, very nice if you do not have a budget.
Mark had researched the area and he took us to Yildiz Park, one of the largest public parks in the Besiktas district in Istanbul.
Yıldız Park was once part of the imperial garden of Yildiz Palace, meaning ‘Star’ Palace built in 1880 . Extending down the slopes from the palace, this walled park was reserved only for palace dwellers during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II. Today it is a beautiful garden of flowers, plants, trees & walkways with panoramic views of the Bosphorus. We were amused to see several parties of bride(s) & groom(s) in Yildiz Park having chosen it as the setting for their wedding album.
Next we headed for the Zorlu Centre for a late lunch. We also wanted to check where we needed to be that evening. The Zorlu Centre is a huge shopping mall with everything from a department store to designer shops, theatre, cinema, cafes and restaurants. There are so many good restaurants in that area, its hard to choose one. We had pre-show drinks in a bar with a great ambience, seats inside or out and plenty of heaters and blankets, true Turkish style.
What a show!! We had seats on the balcony centre stage, it was brilliant. Mark & I were very surprised at just how many of the songs we knew but had never realised they were from this musical. The dancers were incredibly talented.
After the show we headed for Ulus 29 Club for drinks, a short taxi ride away. Ulus 29 is a cool place with amazing views over looking the Bosphorus, and a lively atmosphere. Very trendy, popular night spot, we were lucky to have a space at the bar!! After a fabulous day we decided to head back to our hotel around 1am – just as the serious party people were arriving!!!
Our destination, Kurucesme Kahvesi a Hookah Lounge for Turkish breakfast. And what a feast: selection of cheeses, selections of hot & cold salami, eggs, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, chillies, various breads, cheese rolls, strawberries, figs, apricots, jam, honey, walnuts…. delicious! We definitely needed to go for a walk after that banquet so headed off along the Bosphorus. To Marks’ delight we passed several car garages including Rolls Royce, Porche and Ferrari along with some beautiful old houses and stunning views over the water.
Mark had found a Thai restaurant in Beyoglu. We took a taxi to Taksim, passing by the Dolmabache Palace and Besiktas Football Stadium. Cok Cok Restaurat is a small and friendly restaurant a few minutes walk from Taksim Square. The food was not quite up to the standard we have enjoyed in Thailand however we did have a lovely evening.
We decided to go to the cinema as the one in Marmaris is really not that great. The VIP salon was empty so we had acres of space, film was good too!! As we knew there was no food at home we had a massive lunch at Iskender kebab restaurant. We can highly recommend this restaurant, delicious food and good prices.
A great weekend in an amazing city. We saw a different side to Istanbul and thoroughly enjoyed it. The scenery was beautiful, we were lucky with sunshine and blue skies for the majority of the time. We felt safe and secure at all times and enjoyed the hospitality offered to us by the Turkish people.
If you are combining a city tour with a sailing holiday we can assist you with plenty of ideas of where to go.
We cant wait to go back again!
More ideas …….
Boat Cruise along the Bosphorus (highly recommend)
Grand Bazaar & Spice Market
If you are thinking of visiting Istanbul tell us what you like and we can give some ideas and advice.