Described as where Europe meets Asia, and as cliched as that is, it’s a great description of the experiences you’ll find in this fascinating city.
Where to stay
Read the normal guides about the city to determine where you want to stay. My recommendation is Galata. Perched high on a hill, the views are amazing, it has a great atmosphere, and is only a 20 minute wall across the Galata bridge to the old city. The bridge crossing is fantastic and worth the daily crossing. Galata also has trams connecting it to the rest of the city.
Aya Sofia – a once beautiful church transformed into a more beautiful mosque. My favourite building on earth (stealing the crown from La Sagrada Familia).
Whirling Dervishes –
Markets Istanbul was the meeting point of so many if the old trading routes. This has lead to a fantastic choice of spices and other lovely things. These are all on show on the markets. The Grand Bazaar is the biggest and a wonderful experience. The Spice Bazaar is equally good though and worth the visit.
Haman – visit one of the traditional bathing establishments for a scrub and pulverising massage.
Nargile escape the hustle and bustle of the city by sorting in a nargile cafe drinking tea and supping a water pipe. The standard is apple scented and does not contain tobacco. Tobacco is available. After an hour you’ll be feeling very relaxed.
Get lost in the sidestreets around Galata. There are many traditional homes and businesses hidden in the hilly lanes. It’s easy to find your way back to isitklal.
Explore the Asian side. There is a quite different feel on the Asian side of the Bosporus river. People are going about their everyday lives, and there are no touts or even signs of tourism. Explore the area around the ferries including the market. There’s some great food in there. Then take the long walk to xxx fweey terminal to get back to xxxx.
Golden horn walk – spend several hours walking amongst the streets leading down to the riverside, north of the ferry terminals xx. Although geographically close to the city it feels a million miles away as children play in the street, men play cards and washing hangs out to dry. Try and catch the street markets. The mosques are compact and beautiful here.
Food and drink
Kebabs (kebaps) are the national dish and come in many shapes and sizes, as well as prices and quality.
Mezzes. Small portions designed for sharing, like tapas, normally drunk with Raki. Well recommended as there are some really fantastic dishes out there.
Baklava. You’ll find an enormous choice in Istanbul and it’s Worthing trying some different ones.
Simit. These bread rings are sold all over the city. Very cheap 1TL and fresh. Great when you’re waiting for a ferry or need something on the run
Turkish tea the staple refreshing millions every day.