8 romantic things to do in Istanbul

8 romantic things to do in Istanbul

Add some Turkish delight to your honeymoon with these romantic things to do in Istanbul

1. Lose yourselves in the bazaars

Istanbul has many markets - chances are you've heard of the Grand Bazaar as it's one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world, but for more romance try one of these alternatives:

The Arasta Bazaar, behind the Blue Mosque and next to the Mosaics Museum, is much smaller, more traditional and less intimidating than its gargantuan neighbour. The historic arcade was once part of the Blue Mosque complex and the streets around the bazaar are home to some of Istanbul's best rug and ceramic merchants.

The Spice Market (also known as the Egyptian Bazaar) is somewhere between the Grand Bazaar and the Arasta Bazaar size-wise. It was once the place to buy herbs, spices, medicinal plants and drugs from Egyptian merchants. Nowadays there's more on offer but you can still see, smell and buy fragrant produce from spices, teas, oils and essences to sweets, honeycombs, and aphrodisiacs.

2. Take in the view on a rooftop terrace

It's tough at the top - but only deciding which direction has the best view. Istanbul's skyline is truly incredible, and there are many hotels and restaurants with rooftop terraces where you can take in the views. Do it over breakfast, morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, sunset drinks, and dinner - there's a vista (and a terrace) for every meal! 

Our favourite roof-top terraces are at the Ararat Hotel and 5kat, a bar on the Asian side of the Bosphorus.

3. Scrub up in a hamam

Ok, so this isn't necessarily one you can do together (unless you're a same-sex couple) as Turkish baths tend to be divided by gender. But it's always nice to have a little 'me' time - and to be able to compare notes when you meet up afterwards!

Sweat the grime out of your pores then be buffed and bathed by an attendant - add an oil massage if you want an extra level of decadence and are willing to brave the strong hands of the attendants. Istanbul's two most historic hamams are the Cağaloğlu Hamamı - the most spectacular of Istanbul's hamams with tulip tiles and lavish domes and arches; and Çemberlitaş Hamamı, built in 1584 by the famous architect Sinan in 1584.

4. Cross continents at sunset

Watching the sunset over the Bosphorus (from the Asian side) is one of the world's greatest - and it doesn't get more romantic than seeing it from the water. Hop on a local ferry across the Bosphorus from Karaköy, (or the shorter route from Eminönü to Üsküdar) or stroll hand in hand across the Galata Bridge.

5. Walk through history

The historic heart of Istanbul, the Sultanahmet (on the European side of the Bosphorus) is crammed so full of incredible buildings and monuments, that some visitors to Istanbul concentrate here and never leave! Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman history sit alongside each other - walk through history and admire the romance of every age.

One of the most striking features on Istanbul's skyline, the Blue Mosque is open daily (admission limited at prayer times). The lesser known but equally magnificent Suleymaniye Mosque is also open daily. There's also the Hagia Sophia - which has been both a church and mosque through its history. There's also the Hippodrome, the Basilica Cistern, Constantine's monument and the incredible Topkapi Palace.

6. Live like a Prince (or Princess)

The Princes' Islands are a short ferry ride outside Istanbul - about 20km south-east in the Sea of Marmara. There are nine islands in the Princes' Islands group and the ferry stops at four of these - Heybeliada (Heybeli for short) and Büyükada (Great Island), the largest island in the group, are the most worthwhile exploring. The islands are vehicle free, so explore on foot, by bike or a romantic horse-drawn carriage.

Grab a picnic from the bakeries and delicatessens on Heybeli, walk in the pine groves and swim from the tiny beaches. Büyükada is a lovely place to spend an afternoon - and lots to explore from the Greek Monastery of St George to the Luna Park reserve. Hire a bike and avoid visiting on weekends or you'll be stuck with the world and his wife. Ferries depart from Kabataş' 'Adalar İskelesi' dock - it's about an hour and 20 minutes to Heybeliada.

7. Take tea

For a moment of peace in among the bustle of the 'Bul, find yourselves a quiet Çay Bahçesi (tea garden) and relax with a tulip shaped glass of Turkish tea. Set Üstü Çay Bahçesi at Gülhane Park is a gorgeous terraced tea garden overlooking Seraglio Point. Watch ferries criss-cross the Golden Horn, and stroll through the park.

Türk Ocağı Kültür Ve Sanat Merkezı Iktisadi Işletmesı Çay Bahçesi (say that three times fast if you can!) is tucked into a shady courtyard filled with Ottoman tombs right near the Çemberlitaş Hamamı. Tuck into cheap and tasty gözleme (Turkish crepe filled with cheese, spinach or potato), sip your çay and nargileh water pipe.

8. Walk in the park

Once part of Yildiz Palace, the Palace grounds are now a park - and one of Istanbul's nicest green spaces. Smell the flowers, wander round the lakes and explore the pavilions that make up the complex. And if it's chilly, warm up on the park's free exercise equipment.

 

Want to book your unique honeymoon to Turkey? Check out our Honeymoon Finder to plan your perfect trip

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