Seven ways to enjoy Istanbul

Ever wondered how a transcontinental metropolis, bustling with diverse cultures, with the history spanning over 2500 years and which witnessed the rise and fall of four big empires would be like?

One such city is Istanbul, which attracted the attention of the emperors of Roman, Latin, Byzantine and Ottoman empires to set up their capital here and it has continued doing the same even till date where thousands of tourists beckon to its enthralling beauty. Turkey is said to be the most vibrant city by many travelers and as it is known for its ancient monuments, Turkish hospitality, shopping, food and nightlife and hence its the 6th most visited city in the world. Read along and know how I enjoyed this ancient city:

1) Travel back in time

When we think of Istanbul first image that floats into our mind is its skyline which is dominated by the domes and spires of mosques and medieval architectures. These historic monuments are a good example to show us that the Byzantine and Ottoman emperors spared no expenses in aggrandize their capital which serves as timeless artifacts now. Walk through the opulent courtyards and halls of Topkapi Palace to get a peek into the life of the Sultans of Ottoman empire. Stand under the world-famous dome of Hagia Sophie, get mesmerized by the beautiful handmade ceramic tiles where more than 20,000 tiles adorn the walls, pillars, ceiling, and domes of the Blue mosque and get lost in the 6th century underground chambers of Basilica Cistern. All these will definitely teleport you to the bygone days of glorious Istanbul.

The Gate of Felicity, Topkapi Palace

Interior of Hagia Sophie
Vivid colors inside the Blue mosque


Inside the prayer hall of Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque
Basalica Cistern

4th century Valens Aqueduct

2) Shop at World’s Oldest Shopping mall 

For any kind of shopper, it’s quite overwhelming to shop in a mall which is not only the oldest but also the biggest covered bazaar in the world (3,000 shops and across 61 streets) and filled with zillion things which I was very much tempted to buy. Walking inside the forever crowded, lively lanes of the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul was like a kid lost in the candy world. I could barely keep my hands off from buying the shiny and glittering traditional mosaic chandeliers, crockeries and jewelry, rich and intricately designed Turkish rugs and carpets. Fragrances of spices and teas had filled the air inside the bazaar, mouth-watering Turkish savories and different types of dry fruits were inviting us to try them. 

3) Bird’s eye view of Turkey

Want to know how Istanbul looks when viewed from the top or the sky? Climb up to the viewing deck of the Galata Tower, which is at the height of 169.5 ft and enjoy the mesmerizing vista of Istanbul. For centuries this tower was the tallest structure in the city since its construction in 1348 and it was called as “Christea Turris” or “Tower of Christ” which served as a part of the defense wall surrounding the Genoese colony in Galata. But when Constantinople (current Istanbul) was conquered by Mehmet II it was used to detect fire in the city. Standing on the viewing deck and looking at the panoramic view of this ancient city was speechless as I tried to spot the Topkapi Palace, Blue mosque, Hagia Sophie and many other mosques from up here and the Golden Horn was shimmering brightly under the sun that day.

4) Stroll in their lanes:

It is not a secret that the best way to explore and experience a city is by walking and getting lost in its streets. Similarly, Istanbul’s tour is not just limited to its monuments but it extends up to walking through the lanes and streets and catching a glimpse of the locals doing their everyday chores and often bumping into some old charming buildings. This city is filled with hidden gems in every corner and there is no better option than walking and exploring.

Kamondo Merdivenleri

Istanbul streets are filled with these cute animals
Cats n cats everywhere you go
Love to see where this street leads to!

Love to see where this street leads us to!

5) A hangover from Turkish teas & coffees:

As the locals call it Çay and Türk kahvesi in Turkey, these two beverages form an integral part of their culture and have been rooted in their daily activities for hundreds of years. It is not unusual to see the host offering you the piping hot cup of tea or coffee when you visit a local. Personally, I am a tea lover and I have enjoyed unaccountable cups of this minty flavored tea, which was like a big relief for me from the cold of November in Istanbul. The locals enjoy drinking these beverages all day long so there is no fixed time to have them. But the tea time in Turkey is usually between the late afternoon and early evening say 3’ clock to 5 in the evening, which is enjoyed with some of their delicious cakes and biscuits. All restaurants, cafes and sweet shops serve tea and you can find in every corner of the city.

Çay aka Turkish tea
Türk kahvesi aka Turkish coffee

6) Eat your heart out:

Indulging on the delicious Turkish savories and their hearty meals is the next best thing to do in Istanbul after their striking architecture. Sweetshops, cafes, and restaurants offering not just the local cuisine but a wide variety of food from all over the world can be found here making Istanbul a foodie’s paradise. But while in Istanbul forget about the world-famous fast food joints and enjoy the authentic local food as there is no place to enjoy them than in Istanbul.

Baklawa
Sutlac- Rice pudding
Dondurma- Turkish ice cream
Traditional Salep for sale in a shop
Delicious street snack cart
Ayran- Turkish yougurt drink
Turkish delights!

 

7) Indulge in a spa

Lastly, I would highly recommend trying the traditional Turkish bath or Hammam in Istanbul. Istanbul has plenty of centuries old hammam which are well-known for not just their service but also interesting architectures. Although, initially I was a bit shy about the thought of trying the Turkish bath but by the end of our trip when we were back in Istanbul after Cappadocia and Antalya I wanted to relax and rejuvenate in a local way before heading back home. Even though the hotel where we were staying had an in-house spa and hammam I chose Ayasofya Haseki Hamamı, one of the well-known hammams in Istanbul which was commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I’s consort, Hürrem Sultan in the 16th century and was built by the architect Mimar Sinan. There are various services offered in these tradition spas and one can choose based on their preferences.

Istanbul is a vast city, filled with plenty of interesting things to do as tourists or an offbeat traveler. Do let us know in the comment below your thoughts on this article and if you have any suggestions on things that we missed out in Istanbul.



50 thoughts on “Seven ways to enjoy Istanbul”

  • I always wanted to eat Baklawa. Istanbul is a connection between Europe and Asia and It has much to offer as a rich cultural heritage. But the recent incidents had hit hard on the tourism industry

    I hope things would be better soon. The food pics are very tempting 🙂

    • Istanbul is the place to have Baklawa or any Turkish dish as it is filled with restaurants and eateries in every corner of the city! We agree with you, hope things calm down soon here ..

  • Istanbul certainly looks as if it can take you back in time. I love trying different variants of tea across the world. I haven’t come across turkish tea yet but it looks like a must try!

    • Istanbul is like a time machine Penny and Turkish teas are the best way refresh, loved the flavor of this tea!

  • One of my favourite cities. Those two amazing mosques right in the middle of the old city are just fabulous. The Grand Bazaar – and the Spice Market – are a photographer’s paradise.

    Three of the best meals I ever had in my life have been seafood lunches at one of the restaurants on the Galatea Bridge, watching the ferries on the Golden Horn, drinking a golden Efes beer, and seeing the fisherfolk on the level above hauling in the sardines.

  • I am absolutely dying to visit Istanbul and other cities in Turkey – your photos are stirring up some serious wanderlust! Galata Tower looks like an amazing vantage point to enjoy the city from above. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  • This is an amazing photostory. We’ve come across so many people who just post random pictures as a way to showcase the city but have always believed that a structure to it really brings out the try essence of the destination. Thanks for sharing! Looks like you’ve had a wonderful trip!

    • Istanbul was an amazing destination and we had a wonderful time there and thank you so much Rishabh & Nirali for your kind words 🙂

  • Awesome post. I loved Istanbul but only had 2 days there – not enough time to enjoy it properly.
    I would love to go again once the region calms down a bit 😉

    • We guess now the situation is back to normal in Turkey! Even we wish the same to visit Istanbul some day again…

  • Istanbul is very much in my wishlist! I really hope to go there in future!
    Its such a mystical place with a beautiful mix of west & east!
    I’ve read about Hagia Sophia since college days in Art History and its a must visit!

    • You have a plan a trip soon Bhushavali, as the beauty and the grand architecture of Hagia Sophie when seen in person is mesmerising..

  • You look so stylishly chic in all your pictures. And that bird’s eye view of Turkey from the top of Galata Tower looks so spectacular. We would love to visit Istanbul as soon as possible – it looks so steeped in history!

  • Really enjoyed your post..After reading this, Istanbul is surely on our wishlist! Such a colorful place with rich culture .. 🙂 Surely bookmarking this for future travel. And you know what- We have tried Ayran and turkish delights and we love them a lot 🙂

    • Ayran is a perfect drink during summer there and craved for one everyday during our trip! Thank you, Jose, hope you enjoyed reading our post..

  • Food, food and more food..that is going to be the biggest temptation for me to visit Istanbul. I simply love Turkish food and am going to have the treat of my life trying out everything I can.

  • Very cool introduction to Istanbul! I’ve been meaning to go for some time, but haven’t got the chance yet – maybe this fall I’ll go, to make the Turkish tea and coffee that much more indulgent 🙂 The tea looks (and probably is) very similar to the tea served EVERYWHERE in Azerbaijan that we saw when we were there this spring. The culture of Azerbaijan is very similar to that of Turkey, so I bet it’s quite similar tea – very delicious too, I might add! On a related note, that “oldest shopping mall” reminds me a lot of the central market in Budapest – with all the craftwork and local specialties around.

    The best way to visit a city IS to wander the streets aimlessly like you said. Wandering around to find places to eat your heart out is ever better, as long as you’re not toooo hungry ;). I’ll bookmark this for later when I eventually travel to Istanbul! thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you so much Tom! 🙂 SInce Azerbaijan is close to Turkey they might share a similar culture, we would love to visit Azerbaijan some day…:)

  • I always wanted to visit Istanbul and your pictures are making me so jealous at the moment with your pictures. I love your recommendations of how to enjoy the city – I would love to buy some souvenirs from the market, eat baklawa (loads) and be tea hangover. I will bookmark this for future reference.

  • oh this post brings back some memories .. I have been to Istanbul a few years back and this city left a big impression on me! I am happy to say that I saw almost everything that you mentioned in your post; except the Spa 🙂 And I remember that I had a dessert with chicken in it (kind of creme with little meat pieces but sweet)

  • 1) and 5) are my favourite things to do should I visit Istanbul. The food loks cray delicious and there’s always something about interior details and architecture that I really come to appreciate.

  • I’m traveling to Istanbul Turkey this winter so it’s perfect to see lot’s of images of the city. I didn’t know the Grand Bazar was the oldest shopping mall in the world. I have seen it a recent Bond movie which makes it high on my list.

  • Awesome pictures.
    You have covered all aspect of a beautiful old city and its modern part. Food pictures are always my favorites. Picture of Aryan reminded me one of my clients, she used to look for it in Pizza hut because it’s available there in Turkey.
    Pinned for future ref 🙂

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