If you’ve never had the chance to visit the vivid city of Istanbul, then here’s my take on what to expect.
It was my first time visiting Istanbul. I was curious about getting to know what people do there, how they live, what’s the culture, the tradition, the food, and the city. Turns out a week isn’t really enough to get to know all of these things, especially in such a diverse country as Turkey.
What You Should Know
It’s easy to travel in most places in Europe because in most places people speak English, and you can communicate easily. Well, Turkey is not one of these places. It took me a long time to know how to get and use a public transport card. I stopped many strangers and asked the citizens for help, but they would just stare at me scared and confused, as they did not speak any English. So get ready for difficulties in communication and make sure you have the internet on your phone to use Google translate every once in a while. You can use your public transportation card, to get on the metro, boat, bus, and tram.
On a more positive note, Istanbul is a budget-friendly city. Food is amazingly cheap and extremely delicious. I would highlight their traditional breakfast, with many choices for your table.
Be prepared to be a little bit overwhelmed by the diversity of people you will encounter. In Fatih, for instance — the antique part of Istanbul —there are a lot of women and men working hard on the market, fisheries, and gastronomy. Whereas Taksim, and a few other neighborhoods around the center, are quite different. It is modern, with numerous shopping malls and very well-known brands.
Last, but not least, if you’re a cat lover — Istanbul is home of so many beautiful kittens, which you will find in every hotel, Air BnB, restaurant or city street.
In this article, I want to highlight five places in Istanbul that I found impressive.
The greenery of Istanbul was quite impressive for me, considering how busy and crowded the city really is. Gulhane Park is located in Fatih. Its name means ‘the park of Tulips’, because of so many tulips planted there. It is a beautiful place to stop, take a rest, and enjoy the large trees while breathing in some fresh air. The view here is stunning.
This was the modern/traditional part of the city I mentioned earlier. If you’re a fan of narrow streets, with roses aside, as well as pretty little coffee shops — then Arnavutkoy is a must-visit. There are some narrow streets which need to be climbed, and it’s totally worth it because the sea view from there is mesmerizing.
Of course, Dolmabahce is one of the main tourist attractions everyone will recommend to you. I wish you luck with the long waiting line. However, if you’re patient, the buildings inside the palace are majestic and will provide you with historic background on how the Sultans used to live, as the Palace served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire. Dolmabahce has the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world, so you’ll know what to expect.
The Bosphorus Cruise
I totally recommend taking the Bosphorus cruise, if you want to enjoy Istanbul fully, and see all the main attractions from a boat trip. What is very interesting is that this traditional excursion is done along the waterway separating Europe and Asia, so you’ll basically get to experience a cruise through two continents. The cruise costs only €3! How amazing is that?
The Archeological Museum
This museum, located in the Eminönü quarter of Istanbul, near Gülhane Park and Topkapı Palace, is actually three museums in one: the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, The Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Tiled Kiosk Museum. Combined, the museums have a collection of over one million objects that represent all eras and civilizations in World History from Greece to Egypt.
Photo: Nick N A/Shutterstock
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