As an Istanbul born and raised yogini, I can say it’s a very exhausting city to live. But in terms of traveling, you will find many attractions which are so amazing, and inherent to Istanbul. It’s not only good for your eyes, it’s also a festival for your tongue and stomach! So in this article you will find a list of things to do in Istanbul, of course consisting popular stuff for tourists, but also a touch of a backpacker. Then, let’s start ‘Travel Like a Local in Istanbul!
Travel Like a Local in Istanbul
As a traveler, I have to warn that, Istanbul is a very hard one to explore. It’s very huge in terms of size and since the Bosphorus separating the city into two, the sights are scattered all over the place. Transportation is not that bad nowadays, but since the city contains almost %20 percent of Turkey’s all over population -which is legally counted as 15 million but illegally I would put 3 more-, it’s hard to handle it. But you are lucky, cause you are just passing here:) Either you should pass Istanbul or just to have a job close to your house -which is very rare-.
Well, after a brief information about the ordinary and current situation of Istanbul let’s start wandering! But please don’t expect a historical information here, otherwise this article never gonna end:)
Where to go in Istanbul?
First you need to have a picture on your mind about the city:
This is the big picture
And this is the smaller one:
So in touristic map, you can see there are just 3 states; Sultanahmet, Beşiktaş (like Beshiktash) and Şişli. So you can now imagine how big it is, right? 🙂
Those highlights seem a lot, but if you don’t wait too long for the entrance queue, you finish Fatih in one day. So arrange yourself to visit Blue (Sultanahmet) Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar and the others on your walk way in a day. These are the main historical highlights of Istanbul and must see:) Ok maybe they are too much for a day but start with the main ones, and if you can manage your time after visiting other sights come back there again.
Take a boat from European side to Üsküdar or Kadıköy / or the other way around
There are 3 main stops on European side which are Eminönü, Karaköy or Beşiktaş, and 2 on the Asian side; Kadıköy and Üsküdar.
From Kadıköy to Beşiktaş, during day-time right sight on the boat:
From Eminönü to Kadıköy, during sunset, back of the boat:
Istiklal street used to host more of art events and was famous for locals. After some political issues, countenance of the street has changed. But it’s still a tourist attraction, and it still hosts art events. So you may walk entire street from Taksim Square to Tunnel, and if you have time you can visit Pera Museum, Pera Cinema and Arter (Space of Art). Like a local, you can check Cihangir side out which is close to the square, with full of nice cafes and restaurants. From there, not taking the street but walking parallel and passing Çukurcuma, nice neighborhood, and reach Galata on the other side. If you take Serdar-ı Ekrem Street you can see some ancient buildings and take a nice walk finishing at Galata Tower.
So around Galata, you can explore nice cafes and little vintage shops!
From Galata to Karaköy
From there you can either walk like 15 min to Karaköy or take the tram which is the second oldest metro in the world. So what to do in Karaköy is just chill. It’s again a place recently changed. Some of the cafes serve alcohol some of not. And if you go there night time, some of them turns to club. Don’t expect a big thing:)
If you wanna dance or watch a performance you can just check Babylon ‘s events which is in Bomontiada. Use your map, it’s not nearby.
Kadıköy is the meeting point of Asian side. Since Istanbul’s sights are always growing and changing, it has been very popular for the last few years for expats and hipsters. The population in general is young. So if you go to Kadıköy, grab a seat in one of the pubs on Pub Street (Barlar Sokagi) and drink your beer and chill. In daytime, walk to Moda enjoy the sun and the sea. And you may see lots of fat street cats around here:)
Also there are many bookstores in Kadıköy, vintage shops, antique shops and culture centers. A nice and cosy place. Even just taking the boat and enjoying the view of Haydarpaşa Terminal and Maiden’s Tower, feeding the seagulls during the boat trip can be enough.
Golden Horn; Fener and Balat
Fener and Balat are two neighborhoods along the Golden Horn. The streets in this area are full of historic wooden mansions, churches, and synagogues dating from the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. Nowadays, it’s getting more popular not only for foreigners but also for the locals to come and chill. Around those two, you can see the union of the modern and the traditional, the diversity of cultures and old Turkish neighborhood atmosphere.
So don’t forget to bring your camera to take pictures of nice cafes, ruined mansions, little streets and auctions. And to watch a real fun video regarding Golden Horn area and Yoga click here: http://www.journalofayogini.com/yoga-istanbul-ve-ben.html
One of the best mosques; Ortaköy Mosque
Ortaköy is 15 min walk distance from Beşiktaş, as you may see on the map. So, if you have enough time, walk there along the sea and enjoy the beauty of Ortaköy Mosque. And while you are there, grab a ‘kumpir’ which is roasted potato, fresh salad inside. Ortaköy is famous for it.
And from there you can take a bus to Arnavutköy and Bebek. They have the most beautiful seaside by Bosphorus.
The Best Park of Istanbul; Maçka Park
If you have time, to rest chill and play some, go to Maçka Park. Maçka is in between Nişantaşı and Beşiktaş neighborhood. So you can take the metro to Osmanbey and walk, or from Beşiktaş just walk through Akaretler.
In Maçka Park, especially in weekends, you will see people doing slackline, yoga, picnic or sort of fun stuff. Just go and join them:)
What to eat in Istanbul?
Oh man! Turkish cuisine is just gorgeous and has a large spectrum of specialties. You enjoy especially if you are not vegan/ vegetarian.
As street food:
Simit, açma and poğaça are kinda pastry like bagels.
You can try midye-dolma; mussels with rice inside, which is so delicious. But be careful if it’s fresh!
Nohut-pilav is rice and chickpeas, good and pricy.
Kokoreç! I think you may feel a bit disgusted after learning what it is, but it’s absolutely delicious!
You should try all kinda kebabs. Outside of Turkey ‘kebab’ represents something that is not covering its real meaning. It’s a general name and under this name there are several kinds of kebabs.
Lahmacun is a very nice option. It’s like a thin crust pizza.
Köfte (meatball) is something I used to eat a lot, before becoming vegetarian. Again we have different kind of meatballs, try a couple.
Mantı is like small ravioli, meat inside. And on the top of it yoghurt and some salsa. So delicious!
Sea food is also very good and on season it’s so fresh. So you can go to a ‘meyhane’ (tavern), maybe in Çiçek Pasajı (Taksim) and have some ‘rakı’ which is a special Turkish drink accompanied with some fresh appetizers and sea food.
And you can try traditional pot dishes.
Turkish breakfast is the best for vegetarians, but not for vegans really. So take out sausages and stuff like that and order a traditional Turkish breaky! Maybe even ‘menemen’ which is a breakfast meal made by tomatoes and eggs.
You can try gozleme and borek. They are full of carbs but again delicious.
Çiğ köfte is like a meatball without meat. It’s a bit hot but cheap and tasty:)
And you can try traditional pot dishes.
Waow! Now I have to warn you that you will gain many weight here. I am sure you have heard about ‘baklava’. But here there are many kinds of different desserts like baklava. You just go to baklava shop and try everything! You’ll not regret, I guarantee!
Also you may want to try some dairy desserts like sütlaç, kazandibi and muhallebi.
Turkish coffee is very famous with its unique style of roasting and cooking process. And it’s also very strong. Don’t try to drink it any place that it is sold, go to specific coffee shops.
Where to Stay in Istanbul?
Well, it depends on where you wanna close to be. Most of the foreigners prefer Sultanahmet area. But if I were you, I would stay around Galata, cause Galata Tower is my favorite:) And it’s very close the metro, so that you can either go to Sultanahmet area, Golden Horn, Taksim and the other places.
How to transport in Istanbul?
You will definitely need an Istanbulkart (which is a card) to transit from metro to the buses, ferries, metrobus, marmaray for everything:)
So you can buy it from the kiosks and ticket machines which are at all the metro stations and around ferry and bus stations.
Cats of Istanbul
I don’t wanna finish my post without a single cat photo! You will love almost every street when you see full of cats. It’s magical!
So for the conclusion, if you come here and also wanna do yoga visit Hara Yoga Vedanta Center (www.harayoga.com) which is in Balat and join my class. Let’s meet fellas!
Even if you don’t wanna do yoga and just need help, don’t hesitate to leave a comment!
For other travel destinations: http://www.journalofayogini.com/kategori/travel-with-me
For yoga and wellnes posts: http://www.journalofayogini.com/kategori/yoga-wellness
Teşekkürler! (Thank you:))