Istanbul Travel Guide – Get to Know the City Like a Local


4Whether you have been there already or not, this guide will let you get to know Istanbul from a totally new perspective, so be sure to save this link in your notes or copy paste it into your friends’ Whatsapp chat, because today I’m letting you in on some secrets only locals would know about…

Why Istanbul?
There are tons of reasons why one should visit Istanbul and I’m not even going to bother you much about this topic at all. To put it in one short sentence, Istanbul is probably the most exciting, unique, traditional yet modern, cultural and interesting cities I’ve ever been to. You could probably stay there for 2 months and still not be able to see all the different parts of the city. So choose wisely the places you want to visit, because you can’t have it all!
The Big Apple of the East and its Times Square, Taksim
This is the epicentre of everything happening in Istanbul, cultural, artisanal and musical events usually come about Taksim and Beyoglu, which makes this neighbourhood a very exciting place to venture both, day and night. From traditional Pudding houses or Kokorec take-aways to super hip art galleries and hipster house clubs, the range is spectacular. Wander around the artisanal and young district to the right side of Beyoglu if you’re interested in art. Head to Sanatorium, a very modern art gallery mainly featuring contemporary artists and say hi to my cousins, if you dare to. For the foodies of you, try out Kokorec Sampion and Saray Muhallebicisi, two very traditional eateries you wouldn’t want to miss when around Taksim square. Finally, for a little glam feeling, head to the rooftop bar of the Marmara hotel right at Taksim square, where a killer view and a glass of wine will await you. From there, you could go clubbing at some of my favourite places, Minimüzikhol, Kassette or Babylon.
The Obligatory – Around Grand Bazaar
Okay, I’m not going to fuss about this section too much, because you don’t need me to tell you which mosque to visit or not. However, did you know that the best Turkish bagels (simit) are sold around the Grand Bazaar, or as we call it, kapali carsi. If you haven’t tried simit already, which are known to be best in Istanbul, have one around the Grand Bazaar! One of my personal favourites about this area is the Spices Bazaar, called Misir Carsisi, where you can buy not only spices but also herbal teas, dried fruit or turkish delight. The blue mosque and Hagia Sophia are definitely beautiful sights, but go and check out the Yerebatan cistern, an underground chamber with a very magical atmosphere to it. Not far from the palaces, mosques and the grand bazaar there’s a neighbourhood called Kumkapi. It’s not ver chic, but it’s one of the best places to eat fish in Istanbul. There are ton’s of fish restaurant’s there and they’ll prepare either a fish you bring on your own or the fresh catches they made that day.
Bogaz Turu – A tour of the Bosphorus
The Bosphorus is kind of magical to me and while there are many beautiful places where you can have a feel for this natural strait, there’s no comparison to seeing it from all the different corners when you’re on a boat. I suggest planning this tour on a sunday, since most of the cities other attractions will be either closed. And here’s the trick, instead of getting of at Anadolu Kavagi, where most tourists get off to enjoy a three hours break and eat fresh fish, get off at the calmer, more local destination, Rumeli Kavagi. If you do so, you will have the chance to eat at Ayder, a fish restaurant I (and my father) highly recommend. I bet, you won’t be able to find a better restaurant for eating fish in the city. You’re welcome.
Karaköy and Nisantasi –  The rich and famous

Another reall trendy and hip neighbourhood is Karaköy, where you will find super cool, little stores and cafés. It’s where the young, hip Istanbul likes to spend its leisure time. Sometimes there are flea markets, too, so be sure to check those out online if you’re interested! Some of my fav shops and coffee places are Souq, Bey, Building, Mok Café and Karabatak. But be aware, trendy always means expensive, too. In neighbourhoods like Karaköy or Nisantasi (a very chic neighbourhood I’m going to introduce in a few lines) a coffee can cost you 15 liras, while the standard turkish coffee will cost you exactly 1 lira in another neighbourhood. If you fancy to see the rich and famous though, Nisantasi is full of well-dressed women and fancy business men. Moreover, if you’re interested in fashion, Nisantasi has it all, international designers, Turkish designers (check out Vakko!), Topshop as well as famous Turkish retailers like Ipekyol or Yargici.

Now, we’ve come a long way, but really, I could go on writing forever, the list of places and areas to see is just endless when it comes to Istanbul. That’s why I will briefly mention a few of my favourite things to do when I’m in the city down below. If you’re planning to visit Istanbul any time soon and have any questions about it, leave me a comment and I’m more than happy to reply to you!

Galata Tower: Great view from an ancient lighthouse.
Zübeyir Ocakbasi: Traditional turkish grill restaurant, close to Taksim.
Yeni Lokanta: Turkish cuisine with a modern twist, apparently one of the hippest restaurants in the middle east!
Özgür Sef: Turkish Jamie Oliver, who runs several steakhouses around the city, also called Özgür Sef.

Istanbul Travel Guide Local

Taksim square

Istanbul Travel Guide Local

Beyoglu

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Turkish jeans brand, Mavi

Istanbul Travel Guide Local

Around Taksim

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BEY Karaköy

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Galata Tower

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View from Galata tower

Istanbul Travel Guide Local

View from Galata tower

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Misir Carsisi / Spices Bazaar

Istanbul Travel Guide Local

Rumeli Kavagi

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Rumeli Kavagi

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Ayder fish restaurant, Rumeli Kavagi

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Ayder fish restaurant, Rumeli Kavagi

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Ayder fish restaurant, Rumeli Kavagi

Leyla

Zurich based fashion and lifestyle blogger.

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About Leyla

Lisa Leyla Yerebakan

Lisa Leyla Yerebakan

Fashion and Lifestyle Blogger from Zurich.

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