Day 2: Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Hagia Irene, and the evening Bosphorus cruise.
Actually, the first thing we decided to do in the morning is go to Blue Mosque again hoping there won’t be as many people this time. It turned out we were wrong, and at 10AM they were just as many as the previous day. Waiting time was roughly 20 minutes, so it wasn’t that bad. Conclusion was, that no matter when you decide to go, it will always involve some waiting time.
After that we went to Topkapi Palace. Like I said previously, having a museum pass is certainly beneficial. There were quite a lot of people in line waiting to buy tickets, but we went in without worrying about that. While the palace is open until 7pm, the harem closes earlier, so keep that in mind. The entry to there is another 15 lira, but entry is included with the museum pass.
There are plenty of things to see, and unfortunately they don’t provide a map of the palace unless you rent an audio guide. Turkey is also the first country in my experience where I go to a museum, and couldn’t find any information about the place unless I pay extra for it. That would be understandable if they didn’t already charge as much for the entry. I doubt paper is such a rare commodity in there, but unless you’re really in a hurry, you should be able to see everything anyway if you search around. Don’t skip on exhibits, because they’re all worth it. Nothing inside the palace falls in the “boring” category.
This was the second biggest attraction for day 2. It’s not as time consuming as Topkapi Palace, but there’s plenty to see inside, and doesn’t involve as much walking. I can’t describe much here, but I can say that the size of this monument really struck me. Unfortunately, as usual there’s absolutely no information available freely around.
If you like Islamic calligraphy(not sure if I’m calling it the right name), you might spend even longer exploring inside. There was a nice exhibit on the ground level.
You can also climb on the second level and see the restorations of the original Christian wall paintings from up close.
I almost forgot to mention this one. Compared to everything else, this is probably the least exciting place to visit. The church had no drawings inside(they might be restoring them, but at the moment of our visit there was only a giant cross), and no information whatsoever on the history and its significance. It costs 15 Lira if you buy tickets, so my suggestions is, if you don’t have a pass don’t bother going there.
Alternatively you can hide inside from the heat outside and relax for a bit. There’s hardly anyone inside.
Bosphorus Scenic Trip
Now this one is a bit tricky. You can’t buy tickets online, so you have to go on the spot and buy them. It’s not as busy as I thought so going at least 15 minutes prior to boarding will guarantee you a good seat on the boat. Make sure you buy tickets in advance, otherwise the counter might be closed.
http://www.sehirhatlari.com.tr/en/ – that’s their website for more info.
*There are many people who stay around the city and try to sell you a tour of the bosphorus. I can’t comment on their quality, but you’ll definitely pay more. The one I got is like the regular ferry and for 20 lira both ways per person you couldn’t possibly go wrong.
You have two options. You can take the long or short tour during the day(25 and 10 liras), or you can take the sunset cruise(20 lira, and that’s the best deal in my opinion)
http://www.sehirhatlari.com.tr/en/timetable/sunset-cruises-415.html – that’s the link to the sunset tour schedule
As you can see the ferry leaves at 18:25 from Eminönü
The boat itself stops at different parts of the city and goes to A. Kavagi as a final stop. You can get off at any place. During daytime you could probably take the bus back or wait for the same ferry to come back. I’m not sure how that would work out during the evening cruise. We got off at the last stop and got back on at the same spot.
The boat arrives at around 8:30PM and you have around an hour and a half to grab dinner somewhere. There are plenty of restaurants along the coast. The more scenic ones are more expensive. There will also be plenty of people trying to grab your attention so you buy something from them. Just ignore them if you want and pick the place you like the most. All restaurants serve fish, so if you don’t feel like spending much you should go for the restaurants in the back which are probably twice as cheap. Just a suggestion, if the restaurant is too busy with locals, it probably means the food is good, but it also means you’ll wait very long time to get anything. That’s what happened to us at least.
Other than food there’s not much to see in the village. It’s small, and once it gets dark you don’t have much choice other than to go back on board. Make sure you get that last ferry, otherwise you’d be stuck in there for the night.
We arrived back around 11:50 pm, and the trams were still running, but if you live farther you might want to check just in case, because I think public transport runs until around midnight in Istanbul. Eventually you can grab a taxi if there’s nothing else.
That concluded day 2 for us.