I can say with no doubt that your love for a city depends on your personal encounters with the city.
My first encounter with Istanbul was June 2015; it was my birthday and my first ever trip with my best friends. Needles to say, it was one of my favorite and most memorable birthdays!!
Now what you need to know about Istanbul is that is a very busy city; and people are used to seeing tourists all the time; this is why you might encounter some angry salesmen, or pushy waiters trying to force you to check their menus. Personally, I noticed people are not very chatty with tourists, again its because in the recent years the Turkish tourism has sky rocketed and tourists can be annoying sometimes so I promise you its nothing personal.
Istanbul is a beautiful mix of historic and modern culture, almost everywhere you walk you can see this contradiction. In the my last visit I noticed the streets are now buzzing with performers and that gave the city even more life and color.
If you are a cultural traveler like me here’s a few places I think you should see:
- Hagia Sophia: A former cathedral which became an Ottoman imperial mosque. This could be the shortest touristic tour you will take, it’s an obvious mixture of cultures.
- Topkapi Palace: This used to be the Ottoman administrative center and imperial residence. Touring this could take up to 3 hours but its worth it if you enjoy history and luxury!
- Sultan Ahmed Mosque Square: You can find so many cafes and touristic stores in here, the mosque is also one of the most beautiful attractions of Istanbul as well.
- Galata Tower: If you have the time to wait in line, you should climb up and catch a view of Istanbul from the top. If you don’t its okay, walking around the neighborhood is also a great experience. I recommend you walk there from Istiklal Street, its a 15 minute walk and you will see a lot more.
- Dolmabache Palace: I didn’t get the chance to go there yet in both my trips but on the third one this is a must!
Some of the other places I enjoyed in Istanbul are:
- Istiklal Street, Taksim: This is the busiest street in Istanbul I believe, its the shopping street but if you look hard enough you will see a lot of hidden cafes and stores in the side alleys. Discover those!
- Bosporus Boat Trip: If you are there in the summer you will really enjoy this trip, it will show you a different view of the city and some of the most luxurious neighborhoods.
- Grand Bazaar: You must visit this to get the complete Istanbul experience. You will see piles and piles of replicas for almost every brand you can think of and they will all claim this is an original! However, I highly recommend you walk into “Sahaflar Carsisi” where you can find old books, manuscripts and calligraphy portraits (a personal favorite).
- Ortakoy: This is a suburb in Besiktas district of Istanbul, just below the suspension bridge, you can find many seafood restaurants there with a Turkish twist.
Don’t forget to try the famous Turkish Kastane, Simit and tea!
If you are worried about transportation, I can tell you the Turkish metro and trams are very easy and straightforward, it is cheap compared to other countries or even taxis. Also, you can always easily walk anywhere!