50 Ways to Experience ISTANBUL

by Audrey on December 9, 2013 · 50 comments

50 things to do in Istanbul, Turkey!

So you’re travelling to Istanbul and you have no idea where to begin. That’s understandable, the city is massive (it spans two continents!) and it has so much to offer in terms of mosques, markets, museums and foreign culinary delights!

Here are 50 THINGS TO DO IN ISTANBUL to get your travel planning started:

 

Loose leaf tea at the Spice Market in Istanbul, Turkey.

(1) Visit the Spice Bazaar. This is the second largest covered market after the Grand Bazaar. Here you’ll be able to pick up spices, nuts, dried fruit, Turkish coffee, loose leaf tea, and even Turkish delight!

(2) Go to a whirling dervish show. Turkey is home to the Mevlevi Order of Sufi whirling dervishes. The dervishes spin themselves into a trance-like state that brings them closer to God, and it’s a unique religious ceremony to witness.

(3) Listen to the call of prayer between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The most beautiful call of prayer I listened to took place between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia (which although is no longer a mosque, still keeps a prayer room). One muezzin would sing out part of the prayer and then the second muezzin would respond from the other minaret. It was a magical thing to experience, so if you find yourself in the area during prayer time, I suggest you grab a seat at one of the park benches and just listen.

Kumpir, a loaded baked potato that is a popular dish in Turkey.

(4) Eat a kumpir. A kumpir is a loaded baked potato. The server will mix the potato with cheese and butter until it’s light and fluffy, and then you can choose from an assortment of toppings including olives, hot dogs, pickles, corn, peas, bulgur and more. It’s the perfect snack to go.

(5) Get naked at a hamam. If you’re ready to shed your inhibitions, then head over to the Turkish bath. For the full experience you’ll want to opt in for the body scrub and massage. Don’t worry, the hamam is segregated into male and female only areas.

(6) Ride the red street car. One way to see Istiklal Avenue without having to weave your way through the crowds is to ride the streetcar from one end of the strip to another. The streetcar has a decidedly vintage feel and it makes for a pleasant journey through Istanbul’s shopping hub.

Fishermen on Galata Bridge with Galata Tower in the background.

(7) Walk across Galata Bridge. Yes, you could very well ride the light rail across, but if you choose to walk, you’ll get to see all the locals fishing from the bridge, the vendors selling sesame covered pretzels, and the boats carrying passengers down the Bosphorus.

(8) Eat a sesame seed covered pretzel. You can pick up one of these tasty pretzels at any bakery in town, but I suggest you grab one from the little red stands along Istiklal Avenue. It just adds to the experience.

(9) Take a boat tour down the Bosphorus. If you only have a few brief days in the city and you know you won’t be able to cover all of the main attractions, taking a cruise down the Bosphorus is a great way to get a glimpse of Istanbul’s main points of interest. You’ll ride past Dolmabahçe Palace, the Rumeli Ruins, the Maiden’s Tower, and many mosques, mansions, and gardens along the way.

(10) Order Turkish chicken breast pudding. There is nothing appetizing about the thought of this dish. Chicken for dessert? Well…yes, but before you protest, let me tell you that you can’t actually taste the chicken. Tavuk Göğsü, as the dish is known, is prepared by boiling chicken breast in water and then shredding the meat into small fibrous pieces. The meat is then boiled again, this time with milk, sugar, vanilla, cornstarch and rice flour. The end result is a sweet pudding which you can top off with a sprinkling of cinnamon.

A tulip-shaped glass for Turkish tea.

(11) Drink Turkish tea.  If you come to Istanbul you have to drink tea out of a tulip-shaped glass. Turkish tea is prepared in a rather unique way using a teapot that has two level: one to boil the water, and the other to brew the tea. You then pour the tea into the glass and dilute it with the hot water so that it’s made to your taste.

(12) Eat börek. Börek is a traditional Turkish pastry made of flaky dough. It can be stuffed with feta cheese or minced meat as a savoury treat, or if you prefer something sweeter, you can eat it plain with a little bit of icing sugar sprinkled overtop.

(13) Marvel at Hagia Sophia. This architectural wonder has a long history which has seen it go from Eastern Orthodox cathedral, to Roman Cathedral, back to Eastern Orthodox cathedral, to mosque, and now it’s a museum. The exterior may not seem too impressive, but once you’re inside and you catch a glimpse of the heavenly domes and ancient mosaics, you will be in awe.

(14) Visit Little Hagia Sophia. The Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus, also known as Little Hagia Sophia, is a former Eastern Orthodox church. It is believed that this church was built as an architectural experiment by the same architects who would go on to build Hagia Sophia shortly after. Better test things out on a smaller scale before committing to the main project, right?

The tear drop column inside the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, Turkey.

(15) Go underground at the Basilica Cistern. The Basilica Cistern is the largest of the ancient underground water cisterns found across Istanbul. Most of the columns in the cistern appear to have been recycled from the ruins of other buildings, and among them you’ll find two carvings of Medusa’s head used as column bases, as well as a column with tear shaped engravings believed to have the power to make your wishes come true.

(16) Sample Turkish delight. Also known as lokum to locals, Turkish delight is a popular gummy treat. The best place to sample Turkish delight is at Hafiz Mustafa, where you can choose from flavours that include rose, cinnamon, mint, strawberry, lemon, orange, kiwi, pomegranate and apple. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!

(17) Indulge your sweet tooth with baklava. The Turks really know what they are doing when it comes to sweets. Baklava is made with layers of phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. Forget the scones and clotted cream; this is what you need at tea time!

(18) Drink a glass of Ayran. This is one of those drinks that you either love or hate. Ayran is considered the national drink in Turkey and it is a cold yogurt beverage mixed with salt. It’s especially popular during the summer months.

Turkish flags inside the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey.

(19) Test your bargaining skills at the Grand Bazaar. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is a place for serious shoppers. With more than 3,000 shops and covering an estimated 61 streets, this place is dizzying yet so worth a visit. You’ll notice that some streets specialize in certain goods with those shops selling nothing but leather, silverware, carpets, ceramics or spices. There will be lots of glittery things to catch your eye, so you may want to come prepared to spend.

(20) Smoke hookah. Argilah, nargile, sheesha, hubbly bubbly – whatever you call it, there is an ample supply of hookah bars in Istanbul where you can lounge around while you smoke the water pipe and sip on a class of tea or coffee.

(21) Eat a doner. Doner is a Turkish dish made with meat cooked on a spinning vertical rotisserie. The meat can be lamb, beef, or chicken, and it’s served in a pita with vegetables and a few toppings. It’s a tasty and affordable lunch which you can find in any part of the city.

(22) Enjoy the view from Galata Tower. Located in Beyoğlu, this tower looks like it would be better suited as Rapunzel’s home in a fairy tale. There is something magical about the pointed cylindrical roof, and the views from the outer balcony are breathtaking.

Glass mosaic lamps - the perfect souvenir from your visit to Istanbul!

(23) Buy yourself a glass lamp. The colourful glass lamps you’ll see hanging in almost every establishment in the city make a great souvenir to take back home. If you are looking for a bargain on these, I suggest you try purchasing them outside the Grand Bazaar and away from the main touristy areas; you’d be surprised at how drastically the prices drop. A medium sized lamp should run you $15-20 USD.

(24) Dine with the best view of Istanbul. If you want a restaurant with a great view that won’t break your wallet, I recommend Hamdi Restorant. The 180-degree views showcase the Süleymaniye Mosque, Rüstempaşa Mosque, Galata Tower, and the Bosphorus. Not only that, but they make a delicious köfte and roasted eggplant.

(25) Go to a belly-dancing show. If you’re after a performance with more of an entertainment factor, then you’re in luck because Hodjapasha Dance Theatre (the same venue that puts of the Whirling Dervish performance), also has folkloric and belly-dancing performances. Prepare to be whisked back into 1001 Arabian Nights.

(26) Visit Istanbul Archaeological Museums. The Istanbul Archaeological Museums actually consists of 3 different museums which are located near Topkapi Palace. These are the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Museum of Islamic Art. If you enjoy getting up close with history, you’ll enjoy a visit here.

A friendly stray cat in Istanbul.

(27) Pet the stray cats. Istanbul is a city were cats reign supreme. The strays are well taken care of by locals who leave out food, water, and even pillows for these cats to sleep on.

(28) Visit the Chora Church. The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora may not be the largest of the Byzantine churches, but it’s certainly known for being one of the most beautiful. The highlight are the various mosaic panels which recreate biblical scenes and still dazzle centuries later.

(29) See the Valens Aqueducts. When the Romans passed through Istanbul, they began construction of a water system that would supply the city’s growing needs for fresh water. The water that travelled down these aqueducts was stored in open reservoirs and underground cisterns across the city.  Today, the surviving section of the Valens Aqueduct is 921 metres long.

(30) Visit Beylerbeyi Palace. This palace, whose name means Lord of Lords, is situated on the Asian side of Istanbul. The palace was built along the banks of the Bosphorus and it was used as the summer residence by the Ottomans.

A typical Turkish feast.

(31) Take a cooking class. Taking a cooking class in a new city is a fun way to be introduced to new dishes, but also a way to bring the city’s flavour back to your own kitchen. If you can’t get enough of the köfte, lahmacun, and pide, then learning how to cook these dishes is a must.

(32) Feel like a giant at Miniatürk. This rather unique miniature park is home to small-scale recreations of structures found in Istanbul, Anatolia, and other Ottoman territories that today lie outside of Turkish borders.

(33) Have Sütlaç for dessert. This is the Turkish version of rice pudding. It is said that the recipe made in Topkapi Palace contained rose water. You can also get this dish with chopped walnuts and raisins, which I think adds a nice flavour.

(34) Take a day trip to the Princes’ Islands. The Princes’ Islands is a cluster of 9 islands which lie off the Asian shores of Istanbul. The islands get this name because during the Byzantine and early Ottoman period, members of dynasties who fell out of favour were often sent to exile there. Today it is a popular place for families and couples to visit on the weekends, and the only form of transportation is horse and cart – very romantic.

The Blue Mosque and blue skies in Istanbul, Turkey.

(35) Visit the Blue Mosque. Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Blue Mosque’s two most striking features are its 6 minarets and blue domed exterior. You’ll want to dress modestly and if you’re a woman you’ll need to wear a scarf over your head as this is still a functioning mosque.

(36) Eat Turkish pizza. Lahmacun is considered to be the Turkish equivalent of pizza. This thin dough is topped with minced meat, vegetables and herbs.

(37) Go to the Maiden’s Tower. There is much debate about the story behind this tower which sits on a small islet located at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus. Local tale says that the tower was built by a wealthy man who was trying to protect his daughter from a prophecy spoken by an oracle – a prophecy foretelling the death of the man’s daughter by a snake bite. To prevent these words from coming true, the father built a tower to keep his daughter safe in the water. Of course a snake would eventually find it’s way to the tower when the father came to visit with a basket full of fruit.

(38) Stroll along Emirgan Park. This is one of the largest public parks in Istanbul and it is located along the banks of the Bosphorus. Emirgan Park also plays host to the annual Tulip Festival, so you’ll want to check that out if you are in town in the spring.

Prayer time in Istanbul.

(39) Hop over to the Asian continent. Most visitors tend to stick to the European side, but if you venture over to the Asian side via ferry, you’ll find that the city has more of a local feel. The pace of life seems a bit slower and there are hardly any tourists around.

(40) Eat Turkish ice cream. Turkish ice cream is called dondurma which literally means freezing. What makes Turkish ice cream different from other types of ice cream is that it has a rather sticky texture and it is a bit more resistant to melting. Don’t believe me? Take a bite and try not to get the stringy ice cream all over your face.

(41) Catch a football match. Istanbul has an extensive list of football clubs, so if you’re in town during the football season, you can catch a live game of footy.

(42) Ride the funicular. If you need to give your legs a little rest, then riding the funicular is the easiest way to deal with Istanbul’s hills. The Tünel line is the oldest underground metro line in continental Europe, and the second oldest in the world after London.

Pomegranates for freshly squeezed pomegranate juice.

(43) Drink pomegranate juice. Stop at one of the many street stands and order yourself a cup of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. It’s both tart and sweet, and the antioxidants offer great health benefits.

(44) Visit the Süleymaniye Mosque. The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia may be better known, but the Süleymaniye Mosque is the largest mosque in Istanbul. For that it is worth the visit.

(45) Race around the Hippodrome. Today a public square, the Hippodrome of Constantinople was a place for horse racing and chariot racing. During the Byzantine empire, this place would have been the beating heart of social activity.

(46) Go to the Ortaköy Mosque. This mosque stands along the waterfront of Ortaköy pier square. While it is much smaller than many of the mosques in the city, Ortaköy Mosque is unique in the sense that it is a perfect example of Baroque architecture.

Strolling the royal grounds at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.
(47) Get a taste of royal life at Topkapi Palace. Topkapi Palace is the largest royal residence in Istanbul and it served as the main residence to the Ottoman Sultans for almost 400 years. The grounds are massive, but perhaps the most impressive part of it all are the Harem Apartments – a place with more than 400 rooms for the Sultan’s many concubines, wives, children, and extended family members.

(48) Pretend you’re a sultan at Dolmabahçe Palace. This palace was home to 6 different sultans towards the end of the Ottoman period. While in the past the Sultan and his family had lived in Topkapi Palace, times were changing and the Ottoman’s felt Topkapi was lacking the luxury and style of the new era. Naturally, a new palace had to be built. And what’s a new palace without the world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier? (Courtesy of Queen Victoria.)

(49) Walk along the Walls of Constantinople. When Constantinople became the new capital of the Roman Empire, defensive walls were erected to fortify the city. The 7 kilometre walk along the remaining portions of the wall offers a window into the past.

(50) Get lost and see what surprises the city throws your way. Istanbul is a great city to get lost in. So if you’re feeling rather adventurous, why not leave the guidebook behind and just head out on foot to see what you can discover for yourself.

The Turkish flag proudly hangs over a building in Istanbul, Turkey.

Where to stay in Istanbul

Sultanahmet - If you want to be in the heart of the Old City, then Sultanahmet is an excellent choice. You’ll be within walking distance to Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Underground Cistern, the Grand Bazaar, and countless other attractions. The only downside to this neighbourhood is that it can be a little bit pricey – you are paying for the location.

Beyoglu - What I like about this neighbourhood is that it has a local feel while still catering to visitors with shops, restaurants, and bars. If you want to be in a very lively area, then stick close to Istiklal Avenue, and if you’re looking for a quieter area, you’ll also find it here – there are plenty of apartment rentals and small boutique hotels in the back streets. Beyoglu has great transportation options and you can be in the Old City in a matter of 20-30 minutes.

Kadikoy - This neighbourhood is located on the Asian side of Istanbul and it feels very local. I found it to be a lot more relaxed than the European side, and the prices were also much lower. Getting to the Old City from here is also easy – you just have to hop on a ferry and you’re there!

Have you been to Istanbul?

What’s your favourite thing about the city?

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Grace @ Sandier Pastures December 9, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I knew the (stray) cats were special in Istanbul! I was there just a couple of weeks ago and absolutely love it! http://sandierpastures.com/travel/europe/memories-of-istanbul.html
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Audrey December 10, 2013 at 8:44 am

I can’t think of a better city for cat lovers ;)

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Rachel of hippie in heels December 9, 2013 at 4:27 pm

awesome, that is a lot of info to take in. bookmarked for that date who knows when in the future that i make it to turkey! :)
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Audrey December 10, 2013 at 8:46 am

I hope you get to visit soon! There is so much to do there, you’ll need at least one week to cover the main sights. :)

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Henry | @fotoeins December 9, 2013 at 11:21 pm

SOLD! There were plans to go with Turkish-German friends to Istanbul, but that’ll have to wait. This post isn’t “helping” with that all important gravitational pull: to know, to see, to taste, to smell, to experience the “hot chaotic mess” that is Istanbul. Thanks for your post, Audrey!
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Audrey December 10, 2013 at 8:47 am

Glad you enjoyed the post, Henry. Hopefully you’re able to reschedule the trip soon. It really is a great city to be in.

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Mary @ Green Global Travel December 10, 2013 at 2:55 am

This is a truly amazing and incredibly tempting list of opportunities to explore this incredible city! You have the gamut and offer something to delight everyone – and every sense!
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Corinne December 10, 2013 at 10:45 am

Istanbul is one of most interesting, exotic, beautiful cities in the world. Add to that great Turkish food and the friendliest people…what more can you ask for? BTW the “pretzel with a sesame seeds” is called a simit. You can buy them from bakeries or stands, but you will also see boys carrying them on a wooden board on their heads, especially by the Galata Bridge…buy one from them!
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Beth December 10, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I am so excited to finally be traveling to Istanbul this summer (and Europe in general as I’ve never been). This list will totally come in handy as I begin planning my trip!
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Shaun December 10, 2013 at 5:30 pm

This is a great list thanks Audrey! I will be heading to Turkey for the first time in a couple months so this will definitely come in handy.

Cheers

Shaun
http://www.thislifeintrips.com

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Leif December 10, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Great list! You guys really did a lot. If I were to add anything it would be to learn to swing the tespe (prayer beads) Love the Kumpir, love it!! I also love the sloppy joes. Not sure what they’re called but they’re the best drunk food int he world :)

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Hogga December 10, 2013 at 6:49 pm

a kumpir sounds amazing
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Nelson Mochilero December 10, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Great list Audrey! One of the best posts I’ve read from Istanbul.

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Firsta | Discover Your Indonesia December 10, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Audrey! So many beautiful pictures! I am in love :) :)
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Sara Ko December 10, 2013 at 8:04 pm

What a comprehensive list! I too love your photos, especially the more intimate captures of life. I also thoroughly enjoy the suggestion to pet stray cats. Now I’m craving Turkish tea, a doner, and some hookah haha!
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Stefania - the Italian Backpacker December 10, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I love how you compared the Galata Tower to Rapunzel’s home! My favourite part of Istanbul was Topkapi Palace, and second comes the Asian side with its local life. I wouldn’t mind going back to Istanbul and have more of it. It’s a city that has so much to offer!
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Lily La December 11, 2013 at 12:32 am

I love wandering around the spice markets when I’m anywhere in Turkey – the smells are gorgeous. As probably one of the biggest potato fans, I’m intrigued about this kumpir – hot, fluffy AND topped with olives, hot dogs, pickles, corn, peas, bulgur and more?! I need to get my hands on it.
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Agness December 11, 2013 at 2:40 am

Great list! The Blue Mosque looks amazing, much better than I though and seen it on TV. I would love to explore it one day. I love the idea of indulging myself in traditional Turkish börek :).
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Renuka December 11, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Never been to Istanbul, but would love go! It’s an interesting destination with lots of unique things to experience. I’m looking forward to trying its different cuisines. :)
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Christy December 11, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Wow. This is such a great list! I can’t believe I still haven’t been here.
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mina December 12, 2013 at 12:02 pm

very concise posting. Although been there twice you realise you have not seen anything!!!

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Peter Korchnak @ Where Is Your Toothbrush? December 12, 2013 at 4:08 pm

The best part: There’s plenty more to do in Istanbul!
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Carmen December 13, 2013 at 3:26 pm

We LOVED Istanbul and did a lot of the things on your list. We were lucky too because our really good friend is Turkish and he showed us the city!
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Cheryl Howard December 13, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Great list Audrey! Will definitely keep this in mind when I finally get myself to Istanbul. :)
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Franca December 13, 2013 at 10:33 pm

I’ve never been to Istanbul but you really made me want to go NOW. There are plenty of things on your list that I’d happily do and experience. Thanks for the tips ;)
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Best Holiday Destinations December 17, 2013 at 9:16 am

After reading this post, I think Istanbul is worth a visit. Your tips are really helpful in planning the trip.
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Kiara Gallop December 18, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Wow! I visited Istanbul earlier on this year and I thought I managed to cram a lot in! The only thing I would add is to watch some live Turkish folk music on a Sunday night at Munzur bar not far from Taksim Square. We were the only westerners in there, everyone was so friendly and we even got dragged up to join in with some Turkish dancing :-)
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MollyG December 24, 2013 at 11:37 am

Gosh, this brings back so many memories! I even ate at Hamdi Restorant! We seem to have many of the same tastes in activities as I did most of the non-meaty things you listed. Istanbul is such a wonderful city. One thing we did not listed here was to take the boat all the way up the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea. We chose a cloudy day, but we still got a foggy look at the Black Sea! Istanbul is totally worth a trip!
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Kerri January 2, 2014 at 6:06 pm

What a great list! Can’t wait to make it to Istanbul! :-)

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Sarah March 26, 2014 at 9:10 pm

I’m going to Istanbul, Turkey in 5 days and I don’t have any plan in mind! This is really helping me lol! :) I just really hope I can pronounce things right. I’m really Excited!!!!

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Joy @My Traveling Joys April 3, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Well, I’ve done all of these things in Istanbul except 25, 32 and 41. :-) Hiking around Rumeli Hisari and having kahvaltı by the Bosphorus are 2 of my fav things too!

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Nana April 16, 2014 at 6:23 am

Do you think it is necessary to hire an English speaking guide for the first day you arrive. We will be there in late may for six days.

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Audrey April 16, 2014 at 9:32 am

No, you really don’t need a guide to show you around, unless of course you want one. It’s very easy to get around the city and visit the attractions on your own. If you would like a guided tour, there’s always the option of taking one of the hop-on-hop-off tours, which usually come with audio guides (or sometimes a real guide!).

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José F April 23, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Hola!

I’m a Venezuelan and I love traveling! last year I backpacked through Europe with the inteRail awesome experience …… Good article and blog by the way! I’ll keep reading your adventures around the world.

If you go to Venezuela or plan to let me know, i might help you.

Regards,
José F

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aleyna May 13, 2014 at 2:09 pm

You should also wander around “Balat”, in Golden Horn. Where is recently discovered by turkish bobos and thanks god still pure. If you check there from wikipedia, you’ll learn that it’s a jewish quarter. This information’s not completely wrong, but Balat is mainly and famously rum(in english greeks of Turkey) quarter. Probably the reason is that ancient jewish quarters are very known around the world by tourism and people don’t know nothing about rums. You should see “Fener Rum Erkek Lisesi”, an ancient minority high school, still active with its nearly fourty students. This is one of the most beautiful structures in Turkey, unfortunately not so popularised by turks. In Balat, you can see greek-named streets, ancient greek writings on the buildings. And also at the other side of the Fatih peninsula, there’s another beautiful and smaller rum fisherman quarter, Samatya. Perfect for “raki-balık”. :))

For all art events, travellers can check ” TimeOut Istanbul”website, which is in english. Turkey’s main event ticket company is “Biletix” which is in english too.

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Foqrul May 16, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Great article covering all the things to see in Turkey. I would love to be there and hope your post will help me a lot of make a travel itinerary for Turkey. BTW, which DSLR camera did you use to take the photos? You shot some stunning photos :)

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Nina May 19, 2014 at 2:18 pm

I’ve been to Istanbul for many times (8 I think, but who’s counting) and love it! Istanbul is probably the only city I would really LOVE to live. Like you wrote in your post, you just cannot get bored here! The mixture of old and new, traditional and modern lifestyle is simply unique! I think no matter, what interests people have, istanbul have it all! :)

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Nancy June 21, 2014 at 1:03 am

Some additional things to try.
Meet up with a local from Couch Surfing who can show you around. Best way to experience Turkish culture is with a Turk.
Eat an ıslak burger in Taksim, perfect after clubbing/ late night pub food!
Also, order a traditional Turkish ice cream. Very fun and unique experience. :)
Drink a Turkish coffee. (Most similar to espresso but definitely its own unique drink) There is a place near Taksim that is said to be the original Türk Kahvesi place.
Play Tavla (backgammon) while you sip Turkish tea and smoke nargile.
Drink Salep in the winter or traditional Ayran in the summer.
Eat Mantı, with the garlic yogurt sauce, prepared by the village women! YUM!
Try traditional Ottoman cuisine!
Drink Rakı (Turkish alcoholic beverage) Especially if you like licorices (Rakı and licorices are both made from aniseed. Very potent meant to be drank with food (meze) fish or meat. Take care to drink slowly so you don’t become drunk.
Eat at a Meyhane, a traditional Turkish restaurant.
Drink Boza with cinnamon while you munch on some dried chickpeas. <3
Try a gözleme made in the traditional way by the village women! Spinach is my favorite.
Visit Rumeli Hısarı (Rumeli Fortress) and climb the walls. Great view of the Bosphorus from the top and CHEAP 3TL entry fee. :D
After visiting Rumeli, dine at one of the upscale fish restaurants on the Bosporus in Bebek. (Right beside the fortress) Beautiful sea view.
Curious about Turkish history? Tons of things to do BUT check out the Military Museum (Near Taksim) and while you are there make sure you watch the traditional Ottoman band. Free with Museum admission. Wonderful cultural experience.

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Loki June 23, 2014 at 10:55 am

Thank you for this list! Ooh- Cats!
I am so looking forward to discovering these treasures next week when I travel to Istanbul with my friend for a holiday. I`ve been to Turkey a few years back, but have only ever stopped over at the airport in Istanbul en route to Izmir. So, it will be a great adventure to actually SEE the city this time!

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Alynna June 28, 2014 at 8:42 am

Hi there, I am a person who was born and raised in Istanbul but moved out at 19 yo. This summer, we will visit Turkey for 3 weeks with my boyfriend (who is Indian) and did not know where to start and what to show. I loved your list and actually will definitely use it to plan wisely our days in Istanbul. Thank you :)

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Audrey June 28, 2014 at 9:10 am

I’m glad to hear you found the article helpful, Alynna! Istanbul is such a fun city and I’m sure you and your boyfriend will have a wonderful time travelling there. Have a great trip! :)

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doaa July 1, 2014 at 11:05 am

Thanks so much for the insight of the city. Surely this is going to be a guide for me for our holiday.

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Adem July 5, 2014 at 4:59 am

perfect guide for istanbul!

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Allane Milliane July 6, 2014 at 9:59 am

Hi Audrey, what amazing tips about Istanbul, its helping me a lot to plan my trip to Turkey this year! Your blog is amazing! I hope you can visit my travel blog too: Packing my Suitcase :)
Allane Milliane recently posted..The World Cup away from homeMy Profile

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Maja July 10, 2014 at 9:16 am

This is awesome.Next month I’m going to Istanbul and this is a list which will be done. Maybe I add some things, I hope so. Take care, kisses.

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Ekin July 12, 2014 at 5:05 am

I am a Turkish girl living on the Asia side. I have a few suggestions for you as I have been living here for a long time.
It is called simit not ‘sesame covered pretzels’ if you say that no one will understand.
Don’t take the bus. There are smaller ones you can get on to. The big busses will be filled with locals and it is literally a torture get on, ride and get off. You can take the yellow taxis. But they are not the taxis you individually take. They are called dolmuş, it means filled actually. For a small amount of money you can go many great places. But since Turkish lira is cheap I suggest you take the taxi.
Taxis, track the road and seem like you know where you are going. Because most of the taxi drivers will get off the road and charge you more.
Bağdat Street, Kadıköy, Taksim are the best places you can shop. Many known labels have stores there such as Mango or Nine West and they are cheaper here. Beware the fake. There are many, many stores that sell it for really cheap. If they are piled up and about 30 they are fake.
Most of the sellers have a tourist price. They sell stuff cheaper for locals and more expensive for tourists.
Don’t try to walk anywhere you are not sure you can go. In European cities you can walk a city in a day but not in Turkey. Even if it seems close. It is not.
If you are wandering in streets you don’t know, try to walk on crowded streets. Especially late at night.
1 Euro is 3 Turkish liras, so Turkey is one of the best places to shop. Even though İstanbul is the most expensive city.
Don’t eat döner or any meat in corner streets. They are usually made of chicken or something else they will harm you. Look up for good places first before going.
I hope you follow these and enjoy trip in İstanbul.

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Andrea July 18, 2014 at 4:00 am

Thank you so much for the post! Great information. As a woman, did you feel it’s a safe city. Me and my 2 sisters are considering a visit.

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Lente July 31, 2014 at 5:45 am

Spent a week in Istanbul 2 years ago and absolutely fell head over heels in love. I have quite a few stamps myself and Istanbul is to date my most favourite city in the world, with only Cape Town coming in at a close second. Busy planning a second trip to Turkey to see the rest of what this country has to offer and stumbled on your blog. I love ticking of lists, and could tick all 50. One of my favourites: listening to the call of prayer from the muezzins while lying on the grass (all seats on the park benches already taken) staring up at the sky and the trees overhead. Strangely peaceful and magical.

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