Istanbul, It’s a Great Place to Linger

For the past two months I used Istanbul as my little jump off point for trips to Bulgaria, Israel and Jordan, accumulating as many as 6 stamps in and out of the country. You’d think the city would have lost the initial spell it had cast on me, but on the contrary, the more time I spent in Istanbul, the more I liked it.

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I can’t quite put my finger on it – it could be that magical skyline dotted with minarets and swirling seagulls, it could be the locals lazily puffing on shisha during the day, or maybe it’s just those backstreets that made me feel like I had somehow stumbled back in time to a Paris that no longer exists. Whatever it was, here’s my attempt at capturing that je ne sais quoi through photos.

Art on the streets

Istanbul’s streets are vibrant! Some parts of town have been revamped and renovated while other parts are crumbling and spray-painted. Half the charm of this city is that you never really know what you’re going to find when you set out in the morning.

Istanbul, Turkey

Istiklal Avenue

As you can probably tell from the photo below, this pedestrian road is the place to be on weekends. While you could ride the red street car from one end of the avenue to the other, I would recommend you cover the 1.4 kilometers on foot instead.

The street is lined with bakeries, chocolateries, book shops, antique stores, restaurants, shisha bars, cafes, art galleries, old theatres, churches and high end boutiques. Along the way, you’ll be able to pick up a sesame coated pretzel, get a cone of Turkish ice cream from the man wearing a red fez hat, or even listen to the musical ensembles that set up with their accordions, drums, and banjos for a one of a kind musical experience.

Istiklal Avenue full of pedestrians in Istanbul, Turkey

Cozy apartments in historic buildings

While in Istanbul, Sam and I stayed in a short term apartment rental. As it turns out, the housing market in Istanbul is booming and people are buying these old historic, dilapidated properties and remodelling them into chic little gems that still stay true to their history. For the traveller, this often translates to boutique properties with fifteen foot ceilings, hardwood floors, and a balcony or terrace where you can enjoy a hot cup of Turkish tea.

One of my favourite areas to stay in was Beyoglu, where we found a place through 9flats.com. What I liked about this area was that aside from it being really accessible to the city’s main sights, the neighbourhood itself had plenty of charm – there were antique stores selling everything from record players to Ottoman furniture, family run cafes serving up organic salads and sandwiches with homemade bread, and even private museums that I would have completely skipped over had I not been staying in the area.

The apartment I stayed in had two bedrooms, a living room with a pull out couch, a spacious bathroom with a laundry machine, and a fully functioning kitchen. It turned out to be far more space than we needed as you could easily fit an entire family here, but that just goes to show that this is a great city to travel in with friends or family. You’d think accommodations like these would be pricey, but you can easily find apartments in this area starting out at $50 for a one bedroom or $75 for a three bedroom property. Not bad for a city like Istanbul!

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So much delicious food

Oh Turkish food! I did not have a single bad meal during my stay. Most dishes featured chicken and lamb kebabs, roasted eggplant, green peppers, fresh green salads, and bulgur (which looks a bit like cracked wheat). I also enjoyed plenty of lahmacun, a thin dough topped with minced meat, finely chopped vegetables and spices – it looks like a sauceless and cheeseless pizza, but I guarantee that the explosion of flavours is magical.

Istanbul is a city where you can’t get bored! I will be writing about my experiences in more detail in the coming weeks, but I wanted to give you a little preview of this gem of a city.

Have you been to Istanbul?

Is there a city where you feel like you could linger for months on end?

 

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22 Comments

  1. says: Sally

    I 100% agree! I was only there for a week total, but Istanbul totally snagged my heart. Or my stomach. I’m still not sure which…

  2. says: MollyG

    Istanbul is magical. I very much enjoyed my two weeks there, and I stayed in the same neighborhood! Cities I could linger in: Paris, London, Naples (yes, really), Berne, Berlin, Chiang Mai, my hometown (NYC!), and many more. And many more to be discovered!

  3. says: Sarah

    I’ve been hearing more and more about Istanbul and I can’t believe I didn’t consider visiting it until now. This is really an informative entry, now hoping to visit it sooner rather than later.

  4. says: Maria

    Love that you show me the sites spiced with some history. Also, the photo of you reading a map is a beautiful composition – don’t know if that was just a happy accident or not but it’s fantastic; the color contrasts and you being modern, the background ancient. Beautiful.

  5. says: Alex @ ifs ands & butts

    I LOVED Istanbul and 3 days there was nowhere close to enough, but the Turkish coast called. I fell so in love with the food and it quickly hopped to the top of my favorite cuisines list. The only thing that drove me nuts was feeling like I was constantly being sold something or propositioned (I was traveling just me and a girlfriend). I definitely recommend it to any travelers though as it has so much magic!

  6. says: Sherry Nash

    I always do search new destination to travel because I’m hooked to travel much. Nice post that will help to everyone to get there hotels room or visit at best destination in Istanbul. I never visited there but I want to go at least one time in my whole life so, I think this content will help me to go there. Thanks

  7. We are in Istanbul for a month and have 10 more days. There is still so much we have yet to eat! So far I love the balik ekmek (fish sandwiches) sold from carts along the Golden Horn, the pide (Turkish pizza) and koefte (meatballs). This is definitely a city about eating! I took a great cooking class our first week here. Now I can make a few Turkish delicacies, like stuffed eggplant, dolmas and lentil soup. Okay, now I’m hungry…

  8. says: Rebecca

    I loved Istanbul – although I think I might easily get fat if I lived there, I couldn’t agree more with the food, its amazing!

    I also agree, its hard to capture what is so amazing about the city, I think its the liveliness, the mix of old and new, culture and modernness. its an impressive lively city

  9. says: Jules

    I love the perspectives of some of your photos – lovely! I only spent 2 days in Istanbul the last time I visited which is hardly enough time!

  10. says: Sam

    Agreed. Istanbul is great for all these reasons. I didn’t know that such big apartments for those prices were available though – that’s great! All the more reason to stay for a while, right?!

  11. My friend lived in Istanbul for two years and he always said how beautiful, funky and interesting the city is. I never had the chance to visit him, but I would absolutely love to. I love Turkish food – I grew up in Germany and there are a lot of Turkish restaurants there. But usually eating the food in the actual country is always better.

  12. says: Red Hunt

    Yes, Istanbul is among my top cities…and I don’t generally like cities! Your photos bring back some great memories….such tasty food there – my favourite was Iskender.

  13. says: Dhritiman

    Hi Audrey,

    Great post!. I am planning a trip there soon. How many minimum days would you recommend for staying in Istanbul (to see the usual stuff you mentioned plus exploring the little, overlooked things in the city) ?

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