One of the best things about visiting a new city is just wandering through different neighbourhoods. It is a fantastic way to witness everyday life. This was one of the reasons why I wanted to try one of Lonely Planet’s neighbourhood walks, one called Walk Along the Walls. The guidebook provides a little map and some description so theoretically, someone can just wander the route described. Theoretically.

When my sister and I went, we saw three other pairs of people attempting the same walk and we all had the same thing to say – the map sucks and the directions are too sparse. My sister and I found our way through the area mostly by luck and by asking for directions a couple times (finding English in this area is a bit trickier than in a neighbourhood like Sultanahmet). It was a much longer afternoon than expected and the hot sun was merciless, but it was still worth the trouble. Overall, I do recommend this walk but bring a real map; do not rely on the one in the LP guidebook. Here are the highlights from that afternoon:

Ferry Ride

The ride from the Galata Bridge area to the Ayvansaray stop is a lovely one. Relax, take in the view, and have a cup of cay or juice as you watch the city roll by.

Wander through Ayvansaray

When you disembark from the ferry, walk along the path towards the main road ahead of you and cross it. Once on the other side, take the street that is leading up into the neighbourhood. After that, attempt to follow the LP guide (I suggest cross-referencing with a real map). The bonus of using a real map is that you’d feel much more comfortable about wandering the side streets and not getting lost. The area is kind of rundown but people seem to be friendly and/or amused to see tourists this far off the beaten path.

Palace

There is not much left of this ancient palace and you may not feel totally comfortable wandering around the remaining grounds, as it seems to be a hangout stop for the less fortunate who will try to help you (in return for money) if you give the impression of looking lost.

Chora Church

This church, also known as Kariye Museum, is a feast for the eyes with all its frescoes, many of which contain gold tiles. It is a beautiful sight and is a masterpiece of workmanship. If you have any knowledge of Christianity, you’ll amuse yourself trying to identify all the stories that are represented. If you don’t have such a background, no worries – the frescoes are still beautiful and you’ll admire them in artistic appreciation!

City Walls

These walls are some of the last remaining defensive walls of Constantinople. Not for the faint of heart and if you’re unsteady on your feet, climbing the walls can be dangerous. You do this at your own risk. If you make it up there, then you’ll get a chance to admire one of the top free views of Istanbul.

Mihrimah Mosque

An absolutely beautiful mosque with plentiful windows and abundant light. It is not heavily visited so it is a nice tranquil spot to rest from the hot sun after the long walk you’ve just completed.

Upon leaving the mosque, find the city walls that are at the back – they’re kinda hard to miss. Follow the walls (away from the direction you’ve just walked the past few hours) until you reach the subway. Hop on and take it back to Sultanahmet. It’s a lot easier than retracing your steps back to the ferry!

Question: Have you done this particular Lonely Planet walk? What was your experience in doing any other LP walks?