Istanbul, the city where oriental and modern clash, sky-high minarets are the usual sight and small streets hide sweet shops at every corner. Once you go there, you will always long to go back! As I often visit Istanbul, I decided to put together a few tips to help you discover its many wonders.
Accommodation and Transportation
Think carefully where you will stay. It takes time to get to any of the tourist attractions so book a hotel or Airbnb in the vicinity. In the European side of Istanbul, stay close to Aya Sofya or if you choose the Asian side, book a hotel near to the Kadikoy ferry harbor.
As for transport, get an Istanbul travel card. You can use it for metro, bus, tram and ferry transport. One ticket is about 2.2 Lira and one Istanbul card can be used to check in more than one person.
It’s an option to rent a car, but I’d only advise it to those with Turkish driving skills. Traffic jams are common on most roads and parking can be tedious.
Going for just a few days? Here’s a selection of my favorite sights.
– Ortaköy neighborhood – Check the mosque and the jewelry market nearby.
– Hagia Sofia § Sultanahmet Square – Buy tickets for Hagia Sofia online in advance to cut the big queue.
– Balat neighborhood – the traditional Jewish quarter hides many authentic cafes and steep streets which relevel a beautiful view over the city. Stay on the main streets, however, as it might not be as safe.
– Bosphorus sightseeing – hop on a ferry which leaves every 15-30 minutes and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Asian and European Istanbul over a cup of hot Turkish tea. It’s most beautiful during early morning or sunset times.
– Shopping – there’s plenty of shopping malls around, so if you’re into shopping like me, check out brands like Koton, DeFacto, Mademe Coco, Miniso, Penti, Mudo. Most brands are also situated on Taksim street in the European part.
– Galata tower – originally a Byzantine creation, the tower is one of the highest landmarks of Istanbul. Climb up and check the amazing view from the top or go in the evening to see it lit from within.
– Istanbul Sunsets – You must definitely visit the Asian part of Istanbul to see how the local Turks live. You would be pleasantly surprised by the infrastructure, parks and building areas. If staying over at the Asian side, don’t forget to roam around the seaside streets of Kadikoy and Moda neighborhoods. You will take amazing pictures!
– Moda & Kadıköy – there’s plenty to see from typical and more modern breakfast places to parks, hipster cafes, bars, and markets. So just spend a day to roam around the many time streets.
What more is there? The Basilica Cistern, Sultan Tombs in Hagia Sofia, Gulhane Park, Topkapı Palace.
Eat and Drink
Now, here’s the real deal! The food of Istanbul!
– Turkish breakfast at Mado or Cookshop – lavish, colorful and nutritious, it’s a breakfast I want to start every day with!
– Muhlama – add on to Turkish breakfast, this is a hot bliss of cornflower, butter, and molten cheese
– Turkish tea – drink it wherever, whenever
– Midye tava – street food sandwich with fried mussels with a white sauce on top
– Midye dolma – mussels with rice handed to you with the shell. You can see them at many street corners
– Sultanahmet Kofte – meatballs in various forms and flavors is what Turkey is famous for. Sultanahmet kofte, for example, is a slightly spicy variant and is sold near to Hagia Sofia.
– Baklava, Turkish Delight (lokum), Asure, Kunefe – desserts to try at least once
– The Icecream in Mado is a bliss!
– Lahmacun – also known as the Turkish pizza, this crispy dish goes perfectly with ayran
– Balik Ekmek – passing by a harbor? Look around for the freshly made fish sandwiches.
– Kokoreç & yayık ayran – a midnight kind of snack for the brave ones, served with a chilled foamy yogurt drink
– Waffles in Moda – If you’ve got a sweet tooth like me, definitely try the waffles at Kemal Usta. You can pile up so many fruits and sweets on top, you won’t see the waffle!
Peculiarities of Istanbul
To be prepared for Istanbul, bear in mind:
– Prepare for long travel from sight to sight. No matter if you are going by car or using the public transport, reaching from Sultan Ahmet to Ortaköy, for example, takes energy and time.
– Turkish drivers honk with and without a reason. Taxis, in particular, tell you they are passing by you and they are vacant by beeping twice.
– Get ready to be treated super well wherever you go from a street food shop to an exquisite restaurant. Politeness and good service are among the Turk’s best qualities.
Did you read our Valencia travel guide already?