Weekend Breaks in Istanbul

New arrivals will find that their first few months in Istanbul will fly by, especially as they're caught up in discovering the city's intricacies. However, after a few months, the thrill of discovery can subside as newcomers settle into “real life” and find themselves needing to escape from the big city.

Here are some options for weekend adventures, most of which are only a few hours drive away from Istanbul.

Edirne

Edirne is a two-hour drive to the west of Istanbul, close to the border with Greece and Bulgaria. The city can be visited for a day trip or weekend getaway from Istanbul. It was the capital of the early Ottoman empire and has some wonderful Ottoman architecture ande mosques. The easiest way to reach Edirne from Istanbul is to take a bus, although there are daily trains from Istanbul.

Gallipoli and Troy

Gallipoli is an elongated peninsula stretching from the Thracian mainland, between the Gulf of Saros and the Dardanelles. It is about a four-hour drive southwest of Istanbul, and there are a number of coach tours which travel directly from Istanbul. Thousands of people come here on ANZAC day to pay their respects and visit the First World War battlefields and memorials. Nearby is the ancient city of Troy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and national park, where you can see a replica of the Trojan horse.

Polonezköy 

Polonezkoy means ‘Polish village’, which is exactly what it once was. It is a thickly forested area on the eastern side of Istanbul. Polonezköy makes a good day trip, especially in the summer. There are numerous restaurants in the village, some serving traditional Polish meals. There are also a few guesthouses and hotels for those wishing to make a weekend of it.

Sapanca Lake

Sapanca Lake (Sapanca Gölü) is situated east of Istanbul and offers beautiful scenery, about a couple of hours’ drive from the Asian side. The area has become popular for day trips and weekend breaks from Istanbul. 

Skiing in winter

The closest ski slope to Istanbul is Kartepe. It is only a couple of hours drive and makes for an ideal day trip. It is a small slope and serious skiers might feel dissatisfied. It also gets crowded at weekends. For more serious skiing, Uludağ is a good option. However, this is further east and might necessitate a two- or three-day trip at least.

Bursa and Iznik

Bursa is a four-hour bus ride from Istanbul and is about 20km inland from the Sea of Marmara. The city was the first capital city of the Ottoman Empire. The fastest way to get to Bursa from Istanbul is by boat. The historical city of Iznik, located on the eastern shore of Lake Iznik, is nearby. This region offers an ideal two- or three-day trip from Istanbul. Bursa has many examples of stunning Ottoman architecture, particularly the Grand Mosque, while Iznik is famous for its glazed tiles.

The Princes' Islands (Adaları)

The Princes' Islands are a collection of islands in the Sea of Marmara just to the southeast of Istanbul. They are a short ferry trip away from Istanbul and they can easily be visited either for a day-trip or as a weekend getaway. Cycling around the island is popular, as is meandering through the island's quaint, villa-lined roads.