My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

Written and Published July 23, 2015


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Why you should visit the Princes' Islands Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

Istanbul is a huge city and home to 14 million people. It's chock-full of sights and has grown morefamous in the last 10 years, especially with European 'city trippers'. A big part of the Old Town and the European side of Istanbul is now fully in the hands of tourism, with little 'original Istanbul' left.

But do not despair - this guide will help you find unique, trendy and affordable places in this Turkish city.

Things to do in Istanbul - Annoyances


Everyone in Istanbulseems to be stressed out and in a constant state of panic. Turkish people are usually a nice bunch andhospitable, but in Istanbul such pleasant people will be hard to find. It's also surprisingly hard to find good speakers of English.

Traffic is a nightmare and drivers are easily Europe's most aggressive. I used Uberfor my ridesaround town ($20 for your first trip), but the companyhasjust started out in Istanbul and the cheaper uberGOonly has a few drivers on the European side so far.

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

Things to do in Istanbul - Sightseeing, Food & Drink


SULTANAHMET(if you must)

Sultanahmet is Istanbul's Old Town and houses the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace and a number of more world-renowned sights. The trouble is that it's extremely crowded with tourists and locals alike. I also found the sights themselves a bit of a letdown when I was there a couple of years ago.

Sultanahmet is also probably my least favorite neighborhood in Istanbul. I suggest you go and see the Old Town sights by getting up really early (which may be easy enough if you are jet-lagged) so you can get there before everyone else (just after sunrise!) Google the opening hours, take some sunrise pictures and then just get out!

EMINÖNÜ

Eminönü is a rather messy affair. It is crowded, dirty and dangerous (nothing terrible, but pick-pocketing is big business there).

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

However, it's also a big ferry interchange and has the two mosques right next to it - Süleymaniye and Yeni Cami - which both look just gorgeous (especially at sunset and sunrise).

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

If you ask me, you should skip Istanbul's Grand Bazaar as well as most ofEminönü.

TAKSIM

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

When you leave the Old Town acrossthe Galata Bridge, you will approach the Taksim area. Thisisanother spot that isn't exactly my favorite, but it is on the way.

For a cheap and delicious meal, you should stop by Ciğer-i-stanbul,which serves delicious kebaps without attitude.

KARAKÖY

Karaköy is more of a highlight of Istanbul and feels so far away from the hustle and bustle of Taksim.

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

Coffee Sapiens

Start in this area with Coffee Sapiens, which sits in a cool little alley alongsidea number of other delicious places.

Istanbul Modern Art Museum

After your coffee, head for the Istanbul Modern Art Museum. It's not very big - and not too cheap at TRY 19 - but gives a good glimpse into contemporary Turkish art.

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

CIHANGIR

In between Taksim Square and Karaköy (which you may walk through) sits one of my favorite Istanbul neighborhoods. The steep, small streets give way to some great options for food and drink.

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

In this area, I really liked Hayri Usta Ocakbaşı for its kebaps and 49 Çukurcuma for the pizza. Plus just next door is probably Istanbul's best coffee, at Kronotrop.

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

BEŞİKTAŞ

Tocontinue your neighborhood discovery, head through Maçka Parkı to Beşiktaş. Beşiktaş is seriously upscale and The House Cafeherewill surprise you with its style and great foodas well as a high price tag.

Ortaköy

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

Ortaköy is a very scenic conglomeration, next to the Bosporus, in view of the bridge. On a sunny weekend day, prepare for some serious crowds there. If you have time, a good option is to stay there for a night or two. I stayed at the Radisson Blu Bosporus, Istanbul during my visit.

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

Moda

Moda is a cute little neighborhood, on the Asian side of the city, just immediately after the ferry terminal in Kadıköy. (Ferries go from almost anywhere including Eminönü andKabataş).If you can schedule the ferry ride for around sunset or sunrise, then the view will be fantastic!

The area is full of interesting littleeateries, of which my perennial favorites remainCiya Kebap and next door'sCoffee Manifesto.There are plenty of other options to enjoyaround there, though.

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

Bağdat Caddesi

From Moda, walk along the waterfront (or use a taxi) to go to Bağdat Caddesitowards Kadıköy. This is a serious 5-mile hike, but it is very rewarding if you can make it. I especiallyliked the area around the No7 Coffee Housein this district.

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul

The Chora Church & City Walls

The old Istanbul city walls and the Chora Church still seem to besomewhat hidden secrets (though more and more buses stop there now).

Do some exploring all the way up along the city walls first and then return via the Chora Church. It is a very small church, but the mosaic is impressive and worth seeing!

Things to do in Istanbul - Day Trips


Istanbul's location allows you to make day trips as far down as Troy, but the most popular options are the Princes' Islands Istanbul Cruiseand the Bosporus Cruise. On a sunny day, I would very much recommend going to the Princes' Islands, as it is cheap with the local ferries, offers great views during the ferry ride and gets you to a more pleasant place.

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