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There’s a reason why Istanbul is quickly becoming many travelers’ favorite city. Not only is this a city located on two separate continents, complete with a wide range of diverse and fascinating neighborhoods wherever you wander, but you also have an abundance of history to explore, a mouth-watering cuisine to enjoy and even some nightlife that rivals that of many major party places around the world.
It’s easy to spend a full day roaming around just one of the areas of Istanbul, whether it be Kadikoy or Uskudar on the Asian side or Taksim, Beyoglu, Besiktas, Eminonu, Karakoy or Sultanahment on the European side. Heck, an entire day or two could be spent visiting the two main attractions in the city, the mesmerizingly impressive Hagia Sophia and the gorgeous Blue Mosque.
But after you check those two off your list, you’ll still need plenty of time to tackle the Grand Bazaar, Sulameiniya Mosque, the Spice Bazaar, Galata Tower, a ferry ride across the Bosphorus Strait, a visit to Dolbache Palace, an evening out along Istikal Street, among many others.
At first, the city can appear to be expensive and a bit overwhelming, but travelers quickly discover that once you walk a few blocks away from the tourist areas, you’ll discover an entire world of local eateries and shops, pomegranate juice and roasted chestnut vendors, shisha cafes, bars and more…all at prices that will barely affect your wallet.
And believe me, you’ll quickly become addicted to listening to the ??? call to prayer being sung from the mosques five times each day, especially around sunset as the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia look their best.
Favorite Things To Do In Istanbul:
Hagia Sophia – Pay the 20 lira entrance fee and go inside…trust me, just do it!
Rustem Pahsa Mosque – Located just behind the Spice Bazaar, this tiny mosque is one of the most beautiful and peaceful in the city, and is a great place to take a break from all the hustle and bustle of the city outside.
Lunch in Kadikoy – Take a local ferry from Eminonu to Kadikoy on the Asian side (2 lira each way) and head straight to the fish market. Here’s where you’ll find dozens of local restaurants serving up some of the city’s best cuisine at prices that clearly aren’t geared towards tourists. After your meal, stop into a baklava shop or a small cafe and you’ll soon be chatting away with the locals.
Walk Along the Bosphorus – Take the tram to Kabatas, the final stop, and from there, begin walking, with the river on your right side. If you don’t mind walking for 1.5 hours or so, you’ll be treated with views of palaces, parks, colorful waterside mansions and the quaint village of Bebek, which happens to be home to the most famous waffle shop in all of Istanbul.
Istikal Street – Actually, the small lanes that weave off this main road are the place to be at night, whether you want to dine traditional meze style, drink a few beers or shots of raki, listen to Black Sea-inspired music or eat Istanbul’s famous ‘wet hamburgers’ from the food stalls set up on every street. In short, no visit to Istanbul is complete without spending a night in this area.
Local Markets – The Grand Bazaar is impressive, but if you walk out of the building and start wandering through the lanes that surround it, you’ll find yourself in the local markets where you can buy the exact same stuff at significantly lower prices. And you’ll probably also discover plenty of interesting local items that you just won’t find inside the touristy Grand Bazaar.
Walk Across the Bridge – A stroll across the Galata Bridge is quite a sight, with hundreds of fishermen lining the sidewalks, oyster vendors calling out to passers-by, an interesting mix of vehicle and pedestrian traffic at all times of the day and night and some of the most impressive views of the city. The walk across only takes five minutes if you don’t stop, but chances are you’ll end up spending at least an hour on that bridge given all of the activity there is to see.
It should be no surprise that Istanbul is the kind of city that travelers feel the desire to return to over and over again. After all, one visit simply isn’t enough to properly explore all that this amazing destination has to offer.