Stamboul, Byzantium, Constantinople, Gate of the East. Countless cultural and historical monuments. Nations, languages, religion, colors, smells. Old and modern, change and persistence, happiness and melancholy, noise and silence. It’s all Istanbul. One of the places that everyone should see at least once. Because of my friends, and some Turkish knowledge that I have, I feel myself a bit as an insider and therefore endlessly lucky. I’ve been numerous times in Istanbul, but I never felt that a minute would be boring. On the contrary: the city that I call my second home is waiting me with a little surprise each and every time.
I don’t think that the most famous sights have to be introduced to anyone but in case please visit Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet for the ‘must sees’. Do not miss these attractions, however, if you are staying in the city for a longer time or it’s not your first visit, then you might find something that interests you in the following list:
1. Get lost in Karaköy
One of my favorite districts in Istanbul. If you have a free afternoon or evening and you love to explore on foot, or to get lost a bit in the city and to choose a random dinner place, give a few hours to this district. Turkish tea or coffee in the shade of a cozy, hundred-year-old house? Special meals? Live music with a glass of Tuborg or Efes? This is all Karaköy. Its youthful, sparkling and enthralling atmosphere makes it the perfect choice for both single and group travelers. An iconic symbol of Istanbul, the Galata Tower is situated in this quarter too.
2. Fish sandwiches of Eminönü (Balık ekmek)
If you like to eat fish and to have a delicious fast lunch, you should get your direction to Eminönü. The “quick buffets” on the boats, are providing a totally simple but extremely delicious food. The fish from the sea go straight to the grill, from there into crisp bread. Quick hot and fresh sandwiches with onion and salad. Enjoy your meal!
3. Breakfast at Çengelköy
4. Water pipe in the shade of the most famous mosques
Water pipe smoking is an inseparable part of Turkish culture. Like in case of all free time activities, they like to take the best out of it. Hot tea, friends, noisy conversations, or contemplating on their own, elder and young people are smoking in the city’s most diverse places for hours. If you ask me, you should choose one of the cozy cafés in the old town of Sultanahmet where you can relax after the sightseeing tour. Ask for Nargile or Sisha.
5. İstiklal in an other way
İstiklal Street strats from Taksim Square to Karaköy, one of the busiest and most popular streets in the city. Shopping street, tourist passage and similar names are given to it, since almost all brands are represented on there, with one or even more stores. It is crowded, it is often noisy, but somehow you have the feeling that all ways direct you there. I walk all the way through every time when I visit to Istanbul. But I do not go there for shopping. One of my favorite activities is to sit down at a calm place (in front of shops to the stairs, because you can do that in Istanbul) and I am watching the crowd: locals, tourists, couples in love, families, those who are in hurry, and others looking around slowly and the ones who are resting there like me. I am listening how the sellers offer their goods to curious tourists, the laughter of the kids when ice cream sellers are kidding with them , the squeak of the wheel of a simit carriage, the Ezan, the horns of the ships, and the scream of the seagulls. Sometimes I manage to capture a good moment.
6. Kumpir at Ortaköy
Kumpir is one of the most interesting and simplest meals I have ever tasted in Turkey. A huge boiled potato cut in half and filled with goodies, depending on your wish. For the best of it, you visit to Ortaköy, where you can choose the most convenient from the countless buffets next the harbor and enjoy the “stuffed potatoes” near the sea.
7. Football match or concert
Without exaggeration, I can assure you that the Turks are real sports fans. Especially if we are talking football. The team that they are support (Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş, etc.) belong as fans is decided when they are children, and this does not change over time. The sport events – apart from a few exceptions – have very cool atmosphere there, you should watch them live if you are in Istanbul and have a free night.
Turkish music typically a divisive thing. I personally like local pop and rock music. I find rap very funny, and the old classics are too much for me. Music is a matter of taste, they say, but one sure thing: Istanbul will not let us down if it is about evening entertainment and concerts. We can choose program from all musical styles.
8. Night time, photo time!
Istanbul is a truly photogenic city. Practical or professional photographers always find subject and hobby or beginner photographers are able to catch something very attractive even without professional machines or with less appropriate settings. My favorite pictures of Istanbul were made after sunset. Try it yourself, success is guaranteed!
Start the evening at the seaside of Üsküdar district, where you can watch how the sun goes down behind the Kız Kulesi until it disappears totally from the sky. Then get up to capture your favorite sights that are sparkling in the night light. Ready, steady, click!
9. Let’s go to the market, let’s go to Kadıköy!
Shopping at local markets is an indispensable part of sightseeing for me. If you like to get lost a little bit in the crowd and don’t mind the noise and so many people around you, then visit to Kadıköyi market. This part of city is also called the Asian center of Istanbul, which, with its special atmosphere, will surely be one of your favorites as well. If you are looking for good quality and cheap Turkish clothes I suggest you to visit the Market on Tuesday. (Kadıköy Salı Pazarı)
10. Excursion to the islands (İstanbul Adalar – Prens Adaları)
You can get to Istanbul’s nearby islands by ferry departs from many ports of the city. After the noisy crowded metropolis, you will find yourself in wonderland shortly. Old buildings, beautiful beaches and delicious meals await visitors there. Silence, peace, and the feeling that the time has stopped. It is forbidden to use car or motorbike, so if you do not like to walk, you will be forced to take a horse carriage tour or use a bike on the island. Sounds good, isn’t it? Regardless of the year I recommend to visit one of the islands. In winter time, after a long walk, warm up in a café with a large mug of home-made, delicious hot sahlep. During the summer, you better turn the beach! My personal favorite is Heybeliada. The house of İsmet İnönü‘s, the second president of Turkish Republic is situated here and functioning as a museum today. If you visit to Heybeliada, do not miss it.
These are my favorites from Istanbul. Are you in a discoverer mood? Get an Istabulkart and head for the city!