Quick Guide to visiting Istanbul

I have been to Istanbul several times (around 10 times where 9 were for business)! Even though I never really got down to writing any travel tips, luckily, having the chance to go there time after time, I eventually got to see it from locals' perspective and accrued some cool tips specially when it comes to areas that aren't touristy, but still quite exquisite! Without further a due, here's your quick guide to visiting Istanbul!

Istanbul - Turkey

 1) Where to stay

If you're traveling solo, it's best to stay near a crowded area whereas people are awake till late in the evening. A good place would be near Istiklal street, as it's also close to the metro / tram station; Beşiktaş is also quite a popular area and you can find plenty of hotels there. I've stayed in Stories Hotel twice before, the staff are very helpful and it has a great location. For work, I've stayed close to Zorlu center, a huge mall that has one of my favorite restaurants (see below).

Room view from Raffles Istanbul

2) Things to do

  • Watch the Whirling Dervishes, you can check hodjapasha.com for schedule and tickets. There are also two other types of cultural dance shows there.
  • Shopping in Grand Bazaar (you need to bargain a lot as they overprice things on purpose)
  • Cultural / Historical and Food Walking Tours
Source: www.hodjapasha.com

Arnavutkoy area

3) Places to visit

You can do a lot in Istanbul (depending on duration). Even if you're only staying in Istanbul for 3 days, you can surely cover:
  • The Blue Mosque
  • Hagia Sophia, once a church later a mosque.
  • Dolmabahçe sarayı
  • Galata Tower (you can also go inside)
  • Istiklal Street (shopping, food, old tram)
  • Musicians Street (shopping, food, artifacts, souvenirs)
  • Beşiktaş market
  • Take the "sea bus / ferry" to Princes Island when the weather is pleasant.

Adem Baba restaurant in Arnavutkoy area

Asian side (chances are you'll be staying on the European side, so make sure you head to the asian side and see more places) 
  • Take the ferry to the Asian side
  • A nice street full of nice vibe restaurants is Kuzguncuk

Sunset from Princes Island

4) What / Where to eat

  • Eat at a Meyhane (bar / restaurant that serves mezze and raki)
  • Manti (Similar to Ravioli with spiced minced meat on the inside, topped with tomato sauce and yogurt), similar to the Armenian Manti.
  • Fish, specially around the area of Arnavutkoy as it's right by the sea and the fish is fresh. We went to this amazing small restaurant called "Adem Baba"
  • Street Food: Pilaf (Rice with chickpeas), Oysters with spiced rice, Charcoal roasted Chestnuts (during winter), Turkish ice-cream, Kokoreç (I am not a fan of intestines as food, but if you are!)
  • Beşiktaş area for plenty of old style restaurants
  • You can browse more restaurants here:  http://istanbuleats.com/
  • If you pass by Zorlu Center, you must eat at Haci Abdullah (Ottoman cuisine).

Head to the Asian side, take the metro to Kadakoy. Facing the stadium, there is Nur Manti for some Turkish style Manti

5) What to drink

  • Raki (similar to Lebanese Arak)
  • Turkish Coffee
  • Şalgam (Salty beverage)
  • Ayran (liquid salty yogurt)
  • Boza (Fermented bulgur drink)
  • Salep (سحلب)

6) Useful Turkish expressions

Hello = Merhaba
How are you = Nasılsınız
I'm fine = İyiyim
Thank you = Teşekkürler (ş = sh)
Please = Lütfen
Cheque please = Hisap Lütfen
I'm sorry = Özür dilerim
Excuse me = Affedersiniz
Two tea / coffee = İki tane çay/kahve
Where is Hagia Sofia = Hagia Sofia nerede?

If you want to escape the city and head to the country side, here's a road trip you can do to a couple of towns with beautiful sea access only 2 hours drive from Istanbul.



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