Istanbul is a great destination for those looking for a unique cultural experience. As the country resides in the meeting of two continents (Europe and Asia), and has the biggest population in Europe, you can already predict the contrasts and rich history of this traditional yet cosmopolitan city.
Cross the Bosphorus back and forth and visit some of the city’s best selections of beautiful landmarks, exquisite markets, trendy or cozy nightclubs and a cuisine which will certainly not disappoint.
We have selected some of our favorite spots in the city, to guide you in the quest of worthwhile attractions, breathtaking landmarks and some very authentic venues, and of course for the foodies, a selection of budget conscious places offering delicious local food.
Where To Eat:
Do eating freshly baked pastries and sipping on a nice cup of tea sound like a good morning to you? Then you should pay a visit to one of Istanbul’s Kovans. The cozy environment and the friendly staff will present you with their amazing selection of Turkish pastries such as tahinli çörek, a tahini based dough, or anything chocolate. Baking is done throughout the whole day, so do not hesitate in getting your midday croissant on, it will definitely be fresh.
Location: Üsküdar, Kadıköy, Caferağa neighborhoods
Finding a nice and cheap place in the historical peninsula can be quite a challenge, the touristic hub usually offers far from tasty dishes to very tacky atmosphere. But there is Borsa Self-Servis, an authentic Turkish restaurant with pocket friendly prices that make up for the “uninspiring” ambiance. You can choose from the large selection of meat, chicken and vegetarian meals. You can never go wrong with fast, easy and cheap.
Location: Yalıköşkü Cad. Yalıköşkü Han No:60-62
Snack pick: Taste the Delicious Simit (Turkish Bagel)
This is the best option if your stomach starts growling and you are not ready to make a stop to your expedition. You can always stop by one of these carts, and taste some freshly baked Sesame bagel. Prices are usually around 0.75 Korus, which is less than 50 cents.
Turkish Coffee Pick: Ethem Tezçakar Coffee
This is a must stop if you fancy a taste of genuine Turkish coffee. It’s a great place to sit and relax for a break in exploring the Grand Bazaar. It is a small place and run by a local family, causing the whole atmosphere and coffee to be one of the best in the city.
Location: Halicilar sokak the Grand Bazaar. Open Mon-Sat 9am-7pm
Lunch or Dinner Pick: Keyf-i Mekan Cafe and Restaurant
This is definitely one of the greatest restaurants in Istanbul. The menu is very unique and the atmosphere is as Turkish as it gets. The restaurant gets raving reviews online, and for a reason, from its tasty pasta to chicken and beef Turkish dishes, it is definitely a nice and cozy option for a pleasant dinner or lunch.
Location: Tigcilar Sokak No: 48 | Kapalicarsi / Mercan
What to see:
This is one of the greatest masterpieces in Istanbul. This church-turned-mosque-turned-museum displays a variety of attractions, from beautiful shinny mosaics to tombs of Ottoman sultans to beautiful carpets; the place is definitely a must-see for its visual and cultural aspects.
Location: Ayasofya Meydani, Sultanahmet Fatih
Hürrem Sultan Hamam
If you want to partake in a traditional bath house experience, then this is the place for you. This newly restored heritage sight is designed with the best austere style and endowed with an understated modern luxury. The place also contains separate baths for men and women for a more comfortable experience. Although the treatments are relatively expensive, the location is exceptionally clean, and the people working there know what they are doing. Embrace some soap and exfoliation massages and be surprised by how dirty your skin actually is.
Location: Cankurtaran Mh., 34122 Fatih.
This cistern was forgotten for centuries, but now it is a must-see while in Istanbul. The cistern combines water to lights, music and fish which flitter around the 336 columns that support the ceiling. Don’t miss the upside-down head of Medusa that forms the bottom of one column.
Location: Yerebatan Caddesi 13, Sultanahmet.
Istanbul Archeology museums
After a visit to Topkapi, you should flock to the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. The large porticoed building housing the glorious sarcophagus of Alexander, which depicts scenes from the life of Alexander the Great in vivid 3D. The museum also showcases some of the city’s oldest Ottoman structures, beautifully restored to show off its finest ceramics.
Location: Osman Hamdi Bey Yokusu, Sultanahmet.
Where to stay:
A luxurious 5-star property, Eser Diamond Hotel & Convention Center features 218 rooms, two restaurants and a roof garden. You can unwind in the spa with a massage and a beauty treatment, exercise in the fitness center or enjoy long laps in the Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool. The hotel is also equipped for seminars and wedding with 16 meeting room accommodating up to 3250 people and two closed ballrooms. The hotel’s friendly staff is available 24 hours and complimentary wireless Internet is accessible throughout the property.
Location: Çanta Mimarsinan Mh.Kınalı Çorlu yolu Cad. No:17 Silivri
An inviting Istanbul hotel in the old town, with easy access to Süleymaniye Camii and the Grand Bazaar.
A short walk from Süleymaniye Camii, Kaya Madrid Hotel Istanbul is located in Aksaray, within easy walking distance of the Grand Bazaar, in the centre of the old city. Trams run along nearby Ordu Caddesi, Aksaray metro station is a five minute walk away, and further attractions such as Galata Tower and Taksim Square to the north are easy to reach.
Location: Cingiraklibostan Str No 50
For more hotels, you can check our website. We have different options for all kinds of budgets.
Where to Party
Overseeing the Bosphorus, Reina is a classic venue for different bars and world cuisine with its 5 exclusive restaurants. If you are looking for a glamorous night out, this is definitely the place to be.
Location: Muallim Naci Caddesi no:44 Ortakoy
By its name you can predict the eclecticism of the place, from reggae, jazz and world music to the best Latin, Electronic, indie acts. With no entrance fee, it is the perfect place to spend the night listening to good music for those on a budget. (Note that during concert nights an entry fee is required)
Location: Sehbender Sok. No:3, Beyoglu
Jolly Joker Balans
If you are looking for an incredible night out with live music, this place is a great alternative. From its amazing acoustics to the old pub vibe, a location where you can check some of the best Turkish pop and rock acts.
Location: Balo Sok. No. 22, Beyoğlu
From middle-eastern food to the Harem-like design, a mixture of oriental and occidental music from add an incredible vibe to this venue, and the Bosphorus view does not hurt a bit.
Location: taskisla cad. no:3, macka demokrasi, parki ici
If you have more tips, please leave them in the comments below.