You cannot call yourself a true traveler if you haven’t visited Istanbul yet! Ok, I heard all those excuses, you are afraid of the cultural difference, or just the fact that it is a way too crowded metropolis scares you. Istanbul is not what you expect, it is much more! It is definitely more amazing than you could imagine and you must allow it to wear you through history, show you the amazing Turkish cuisine or to impress you with the modern side, the technology and the skyscrapers.
Still not convinced? Then give me few minutes and I will make you change your mind. Or maybe you already plan to visit Istanbul and you need some recommendations from, let’s say, a combination of an inhabitant and a tourist, which is definitely me.
I do not live in Istanbul full time, but I came back and forth too many times, that I know all the good tourist activities, or the best places to eat, even where to shop or where to have a cocktail with an amazing view of the city and the Bosporus.
29 things to do in Istanbul
1. Enjoy Dondurmali Katmer
This is my favorite dessert ever! It is some sort of pistachio pie and dondurma is sticky icecream. Yummmyyyy!
2. Breakfast at Nezih
The humongous breakfast you will be served at Nezih will amaze all your senses! Give it a try, delight yourself with the extremely delicious food and enjoy the Bosporus view. You will thank me later.
3. Take a stroll across the Bosporus, starting from Rumeli Hisar, then see Bebek, Arnavutkoy and all the way down to Ortakoy
You will love to walk around the posh neighborhoods of Istanbul! After having breakfast at Nezih, which is next to Rumeli Hisar, you could lose calories and stay fit by walking 6km to Ortakoy, passing by Arnavutkoy and Bebek. You will have Bosporus on your left and the beautiful Istanbul on your right.
4. Drink Cay
Cay is a drink Turkish people have from the first hour of the morning, till the noon, when they might swap it with raku (an alcoholic drink)
5. Try some chicken pudding – a tradition dessert
Sounds strange, isn’t it? Well, you might not realize there is actually chicken inside the sweet treat. It is quite tasty and you shall try it.
6. Have Midye Dolma at Midyeci Ahmet
Midye Dolma are stuffed mussles. They are my favorite snack or even choice for lunch. Healthy, tasty and something you never tried before. You can find them at almost every corner, but I truly recommend you Midyeci Ahmet, which is the most famous one.
7. Visit the impressive Dolmabahce
This is one of my favorite places in the whole world. The architecture of this place is simply amazing.
8. Marvel at the Gardens of Topkapi and discover the Ottoman Sultan’s Headquarter
Topkapi is the famous Ottoman castel, just go visit it and discover the gardens, the view, the history of such a strong empire.
9. Get fascinated by the mysterious Basilica Cistern
An underground cistern, so mystical and amazing. Find the Medusa Heads at bottom of the columns.
10. Take a deep breath of history at Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia dates back to the year 325. Need I say more? It did see a lot though so many rough periods and it is awaiting for you to discover all the history.
11. Discover the greatness of the Blue Mosque
And take some photos for your social media, as it is one of the most famous symbols of Istanbul.
12. Be fooled by the ambulant icecream guys
They are so famous on internet! The ambulant icecream guys trick you a lot until they give you the well-deserved icecream!
13. Drink nonstop fresh pomegranate juice and fresh orange juice
Nar Suyu as they call it. Sweet, sour and healthy, a refreshing boost that you need! Only problem is that pomegranate juice is not available all year long. By the way, it is very cheap!
14. Take a break and sip from your amazing cocktail on the roof of Le Meridien, while enjoying the best view above the city and the Bosporus
Floor 34. Most delicious cocktails. Go try!
15. Walk around the Ortakoy Mosque
This is one of my favorite activities. There are so many cute stores around, the vibe is amazing, plus the waves of the Bosporus crush into the liman-shore. Also, you can take a Bosporus boat cruise from here, but I do not recommend it necessarily, it is quite boring (all my guests said same)
16. Have lunch or dinner at Banyan, while having a great view of the Ortakoy Mosque
If you follow the 14th point of this list, then you already are at Ortakoy and it would be a pity to miss lunch or dinner here. They serve fusion Asian-Turkish food.
17. Have a coffee on the terrace of Ciragan Palace
Ciragan Palace which belongs to Kempinski. The terrace here inspires so much chill and peacefulness. You have an awesome view over the Asian side of Istanbul while sipping from your cup of coffee.
18. Try your bargaining skills at the Grand Bazaar
It is fun and you get to meet locals. Plus, you can find some treasures over there. But please, stay away from the fake designer products!
19. Enlighten your senses at the Spice Bazar
Go and try the local spices, tea, Turkish delights and so on. The locals are so kind (well, they know how to sale their products) and they will give you so many free samples!
20. Go shopping at Zorlu or Istinye
These shopping malls are so good! They have everything, from mass market retailers to luxurious designer stores.
21. Eat at one of the most famous guys in the world at Hatay (you know Burak – the owner, from 9gag)
I love this place! And it is not only me who does, the queues here are so long and I recommend you to call for reservation. Or better go during the weekdays. The food is so delicious and they do some nice fire shows when they serve you!
22. Go upstairs the Galata Tower
Most of the iconic photos that you know from Istanbul feature the beautiful Galata Tower. The once used to be highest building of the city, offers now a panoramic view over Istanbul’s historic peninsula.
23. Take a walk on Taksim Square
Taksim is so alive and colorful! It is considered the heart of Istanbul and you will enjoy every single part of it. It is a very crowded place, so take my advice into consideration and visit it during weekdays, better before 6PM.
24. Play your luck with a 2tl (0.35 eur) lottery ticket in Taksim
I enjoy trying my luck with a lottery ticket. Obviously, I never won fortunes, mostly got nothing, rarely got my 2tl back. But it is my guilty pleasure, maybe you will like it as well!
25. Buy dried fruits and nuts from Guven
Guven has amazing dried fruits and nuts. They have stores in many locations, google them and find the nearest one to you.
26. Experience the extreme luxury on the terrace of Four Seasons Hotel Bosphorus
But make sure you have your best clothes on! You will be amazed by the luxury you will see here!
27. Take the ferry to the Asian side
It would be a pity to visit just the European side of Istanbul. Taking a ferry is cheap and fun, you will be able to take some great shots for your Instastories on the boat! The Asian side offers you nice markets, Kiz Kulesi (Maiden’s Tower), Polonezkoy – a country side in the heart of a metropolis. Take into consideration that very few people speak English in the Asian side.
28. Order uber from the airport to your hotel and discover the way of traveling in Istanbul
Just because Ubers in Istanbul are Mercedes Vito or Volkswagen Transporter. Wow – isn’t it?
29. Walk on Nişantaşı, a posh area that will remind you of London
Nişantaşı will remind you of London but will never let you forget that you are in Orient. Basically, you can do some good shopping here or relax at a café. It is one of Istanbul’s most exclusive neighbourhoods.
And guess what – Istanbul offers much more than these 29 points, this is just a list of my favorites. You shall also take into consideration eating Turkish Delight, trying the fish sandwich the street merchants sell under the Galata Bridge, take a boat trip to Princess Island, enjoy tasty baklavas, marvel at the humongous gold markets.