OUR guide to Istanbul
Some suggestions from life around the world. Since my husband & I have lived in Istanbul for 2 years and we are often asked what are the must see place there or the best restaurants. I have decided to put together a list of things that we enjoyed while living there. So here it is OUR guide to Istanbul!
Firstly, the city itself is mesmerising, it is a must see place in itself. I have not experienced nothing like Istanbul in my life. It’s so crowded, colourful, unpredictable & endless. The city that never stops. Sadly this means that sometimes you can be stuck in traffic even at 12am haha!
Secondly, the safety is one of the main questions we get asked. Is the city safe? All I can say is that we have never felt threatened or unsafe, never once! The city is full of police and security, every mall you enter you get checked like in the airport, but you have to remember that it is for your safety and it’s really nothing to be afraid of. So remember that the way media portrays some places is much exaggerated, relax & explore!
Another pleasant aspect of the city is its people. Turkish people are friendly and willing to help.(Unless, of course you are driving and stuck in traffic, there are no friends then, haha). Most of them speak at least tiny bit of english that you can so communicate your way around, especially in touristy areas.
A little downside of the touristy areas, that they will try to sell you things you don’t need, and tell you they can show you, anything whatever they are selling, from carpets to fruits, and it’s a very short walk away. 99% of these conversations start with ‘’Where are you from?’’. I am sure these kind of ‘’business men’ are harmless, but annoying!
One more thing you should be aware of are taxi drivers. I know there are plenty of very nice ones, but there are also plenty of the ones that will NOT turn the taximeter on and tell you whatever price they feel like, arguing that he is past his working hours or that there is big traffic, so he will not turn it on. I have had such crazy experiences with taxis. Starting from NOT having seat belts on anywhere, driving 110 km/hour in the city, being yelled at because he was about to take the WRONG turn to my house, when I told him it’s not it, being overcharged & once kicked out of the cab because I insisted on taxi meter and the driver said yes in the beginning but a few minutes into our ride he obviously changed his mind!
As long as you know you stuff and do not let them trick you, you are fiiiiiine:)
Now about our favourite areas to go:
Bebek - a water front walk with shops & restaurants, you can chose to walk to Arnavutkoy and see more of Bosphorus and its beautiful bridges
Nisantasi area with it’s small streets, little bit of shopping and sooo many cute cafes. It’s one of the places in Istanbul that feels more like Europe, since you can park your car and walk around
Galata tower area with the cutest small streets, cafes & boutiques
Istinye park shopping mall is by far one of the favourites. It is huge, has the high street brands & all of the designer ones too! This mall is basically an all day attraction if you are into shopping & eating (because Zuma and Nusr-et are here & many more)
Zorlu is another mall, a bit smaller but has A LOT of stuff too!
Nisantasi is an area with many cute shops and designer boutiques
Places to see:
Blue mosque (&/or other mosques) - if you are in Istanbul you have to see it
The Grand bazaar, it is a short walk from the Blue Mosque so all can be done in one go! It is the biggest market I have ever been to and it has it ALL. From Turkish teas, gold, diamonds, towels & carpets, dried fruits & nuts, to lamps, tea cups, silk scarfs & very well known for its fake production of… basically all you want, haha! You can get tempted even if you are not into fake things, but be aware, because they are probably going to rip you off, sell you something that is not a quality thing ( I mean you know that Gucci from the Bazaar is not the same quality or looks as Gucci from Gucci, but each to their own) & remember whether you are buying a Chanel bag or a carpet you HAVE TO bargain. Never pay the first price they give you!
The mosque on the water - Ortakoy - & the boat tour near by. The boat trip takes you to see both of the bridges on the famous Bosphorus and if you need a little rest from all the walking is a great thing to do!
Hamam is a traditional Turkish bath & I would recommend it to everyone. First of all its so authentic and incomparable to anything else I have experienced. I have visited two different hamams, one the traditional authentic hamam & the other one in the fancy hotel Raffles , there we had a couples hamam, which was amazing as well. If I had to choose though I would probably chose the first one just because of the experience itself (nothing against Raffles:)
So what’s happening during hamam? The authentic one is where men and women go in on seperate times of the day so if you and your partner want to enjoy it together go for a different option. Upon entering the place your experience starts with a minty drink and a cold towel, you fill the little paper with your name and some safety instructions ( I guess thats basic stuff), then the ladies tell you what you will do and give the instructions for the first timers. You get changed into your robe, wearing only underwear (I mean you can wear the bikini top too if you want to but you will be the minority. Not that it matters, just wear whatever you feel comfortable in, bikini top or no top), then you will wait until a lady comes and picks you up, walks you to the huge sauna looking room with all the other ladies. She will quickly rinse your body and hair, give you a glass of water and let you rest on the huge warm marble, where you can relax and chat to your friends if you are not alone. In about 15-20 minutes one of the ladies will take you to the spot where you will be washed and massaged, it sounds different and a bit strange at first, but the experience is so relaxing and wow, I LOOOOVED it everytime. It all takes about an hour, after that you can relax and chill for however long you want. It is a MUST DO from me!
Our top places to eat:
Zuma is by far the most amazing place & the food there is insane! I really do miss it every day!!
Healin is a healthy restaurant with amazing food options for everyone. I am saying that because if my picky husband found stuff to eat there, you will too! From Vegan to healthy beef and organic everything!
Spago is a rooftop restaurant with a great chef & wonderful food options from sushi to steak & fish. Great quality food! Order lettue cups - just saying!!!
Vogue is a sushi restaurant that turns into a club kind of on given nights. We have only been there for food and it was ok, but I am sure if you are looking for dinner & party it is a great place
Misk- floral cafe is cafe instagram goals, haha! The food is great, healthy and can have anything from smoothie bowls to salads and wraps - yummmmm!!
Chilai - a cool restaurant (lounge bar later in the evenings) on the water, literally with the windows in the water, cool experience and huge variety of different food.
Cafe Federal - Australian coffee roasters with great brunches & pancakes
Nusr-et - #SaltBae - you know it & you have to try it if you eat meat!!!
House Cafe - casual but good
Godiva - chocolate everything
Mangerie - brunch place in Bebek, cool & trendy place with delicious mimosas!
Ulus 29 - the view is amazing
Sunset bar & grill - great food, great view great bar!
Kempinski hotel is a beautiful spot that we did not go enough. A place for lunch, coffee or a short visit to get a little glimpse so the ''rich & famous'' lifestyle :)
I hope I have not forgotten anything, otherwise I will keep updating this post! Istanbul is an amazing city with so much to offer, if it is not on your bucket list yet it definitely should be! I am just grateful to have had this opportunity to get to know the city that from the first glance seems insanely big and to make it close to my heart over the two years. Enjoy & make the most out of your trip!
Teşekküler Istanbul <3