Istanbul is without a doubt, one of the cities to visit in your lifetime. Its unique location connects Europe and Asia and Istanbul played an important role in history. But you probably already know that there is more than history in this metropolitan city! Friendly locals, delicious food, amazing landscapes and colourful streets are waiting for you!
How long to stay?
If it is your first time in Istanbul you will need good 6-7 days if you want to get a good feel of the city. With its 15M population, rich culture and numerous sights, but also heavy traffic you will find you need to explore one district first and then move to another region. Even the locals prefer to prefer to live and work in the same continent so they don’t have to deal with the traffic and crossing the Bosphorus Bridge every day.
You can walk between the landmarks that are in the same district but you still need to use public transportation. Try to prefer metro or tram lines and stay away from the public transportation within busy hours, or else, you might even need to wait couple busses to pass to get one!
Where to stay?
There are many good areas for accommodation such as Beyoğlu/Taksim, Karaköy, Sultanahmet etc. Most of the districts in the European side have very good transportation, better than the Asian side. These districts can be considered as the central places. Also, you can stay in Haliç, that is a bit less in center but also has an amazing view away from touristic groups.
Where to go?
A big part of visiting İstanbul includes walking in the districts and admiring the beautiful Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. Besides the famous landmarks that everybody has to see, try to spend a relaxing day in the streets and enjoy your time while getting lost! And while there are numerous districts and historical sites to see in this beautiful city below is a list to help you prioritize.
Pera or Beyoğlu
Another gem of Istanbul is Beyoğlu district which was known as the “Pera” in the history. Pera is separated from the “old city” with the Golden Horn, forming an amazing view besides Bosphorus. While visiting this region, your first stop should be the Cihangir neighbourhood since it is located very close to the beginning of Istiklal street. This is the place for food, drink and fun! :) Many locals spend their day at cafes here to even work. It is also one of the capitals of Art in Istanbul, since it is home to many artists and art shops.
Istiklal street and the historical tramvay! Photo source: www.istanbultourstudio.com
After that, make your way to the beginning of the Istiklal street! Istiklal is a 1.4 km long street that is surrounded by the shops and the beauty of this location is its side streets that are waiting for you to discover! Get ready to do some shopping and walk a lot :) If you are looking for something unique to take home from Istanbul, visit the Atlas Pasajı and have a traditional Turkish tea or coffee in Aznavur Pasaji! While on this street, you might also enjoy a historical tram ride.
Istanbul’s largest Catholic Church, Saint Antoine is also located in the Istiklal street. It is open to visitors and the atmosphere will amaze you!
A Love Story Between Towers
From Istiklal street, you can walk down the hill and reach the Galata district. Here, you will see the glorious Galata tower, “Christea Turris”. This ancient stone tower has a very interesting “story” besides its history.
Photo source: www.gezicenga.com
Locals believe that there is a love story between Galata tower and the Maiden’s tower that is located on the Asian side of Istanbul. If we are sure of one thing, they are both worth to visit it! :) You can even enjoy a panoramic view of part of Istanbul from the top of Galata Tower.
The cute streets of Galata where you can find the Galata tower at the end :)
One of the most popular areas in the city…Historical Peninsula holds many of the popular landmarks in Sultanahmet region that are already in your list! The region is actually the ancient Istanbul inside the walls with all the sightseeing heavyweights packed together with famous mosques, museums, palaces and of course, the Grand Bazaar.
View of Gulhane Park and Topkapı Palace
Besides the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, we also recommend you to visit the Basilica Cistern and have a relaxing day at the Gülhane Park. Since this touristic area is traffic free, you will be able to walk between the landmarks easily. Keep in mind that, this is a very touristic area. So if you go in the peak season, it will be very crowded :)
Streets of Sultanahmet
Food and a Fun Night!
No visit to Turkey is complete without delicious food! For this purpose, we recommend you to go to Kumkapı. This is a very old district in Istanbul where Armenian community lived and still lives, surrounded by the historical, colourful houses. Today, it is the centre of the traditional Turkish nightlife This includes lots of traditional appetizers, fish and a cold glass of Raki, the Turkish alcoholic drink.
A fun night out in Kumkapı! Photo source: www.bakirkoyhalkmeclisi.com
If you are going at the weekend or Friday, definitely make a reservation in a restaurant. Or else, just hit the streets and enjoy your time with the live music and delicious food! Warning! A Turkish belly dancer might pop-up! ;)
This is one of the oldest fisherman’s villages in Istanbul. Today it is one of the richest districts in the city and the long coastal walk by the Bosphorus will be one of the best parts of your trip!
Peaceful coast of Bebek with a view of Bosphorus bridge
One of the most colourful parts of Istanbul, streets are lined with cute tiny houses. Balat is a historical neighbourhood where the Jewish community lived in the history. Get your camera ready and plan a day of just walking in the colourful streets!
It is true that most of the touristic sites and landmarks are located on the European side. But everybody can agree that Asian side has its own beauty! This part of the city can give you the sense of more “sincere” neighbourhood since most of the people live here for generations.
Visit the market where you can find much fresh food and walk in the peaceful “Moda” district. There are two must do’s here... Definitely, have a scoop of ice-cream from Ali Usta! Next, to that, you will find Kemal Usta who serves the most delicious waffles in the city!
If you want to visit the Maiden’s tower, this is a perfect time. Hope on to a taxi or a bus to make your way to Üsküdar, where you can see the tower from the shore even though you don’t want to pay and visit it.
Have you ever been to Istanbul? Tell us how you like our tips in the comments below! :)