Istanbulites are water people and life in the city revolves around the Bosphorus. Its many attractions deserve more than one day to explore, but this itinerary will help you take advantage of its many free and inexpensive activities to get the most out of the city and your budget.
Start with a traditional breakfast at Café Mese. Less than $10 will get a full spread of cheese, meat, olives, vegetables, bread and tea.
Spend the morning exploring the Sultanahmet district. Visit the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar for free. Let yourself be talked into having tea with a carpet salesman. The Hagia Sofia, Topkapı Palace and the Basilica Cistern are all in the same district.
For lunch ,grab a çiğköfte wrap and a yogurt ayran drink ($5) and walk to the Galata Bridge, where you can eat overlooking the Golden Horn.
Catch a ferryboat ($2.50) from Eminönü to Ortaköy. Sit outside as you cruise past beautiful cityscapes. On the European shore, look for Topkapı Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace, Galata Tower and the Nusretiye Mosque. On the Asian side, Maiden’s Tower Beylerbeyi Palace is a highlight.
Enjoy strolling through quaint Ortaköy and have a Turkish coffee and baklava on the rooftop of Mado ($8).
Ask a local how to catch a shared bus to Taksim ($3). Find your way through the crowded heart of Istanbul to Zafiri. Enjoy dinner, belly-dancing and traditional music and join the locals on the dance floor for less than $35.
After eating, stroll down Istanbul’s main artery, Istiklal Avenue, where you can find bars, clubs and cafés for all tastes. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you finish the night with stuffed mussels from the street vendors that appear after dark ($3).
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