Reasons to go
- Graffiti hunting. My favourite ones are at (40.992840, 29.028688) and (40.997301, 29.030014), but there are many others.
- Restaurants with traditional vegetarian Turkish food - Çiya Sofrası, Yanyalı Fehmi Lokantasi.
- Best cocktails in Istanbul at Fahri Konsolos. Kutup moda is also good.
- Pastries - traditional boyoz at Izmir Inci Boyoz, and modern pastries at Fatcat Moda.
- If you happen to be around here on November 29th, there is a parade (about 7pm until 9pm) along Bağdat street, starting from around Suadiye station and going west. It is an unmissable opportunity to join in for Turkey’s birthday celebration.
- In Galata area: Galata Kitchen for traditional vegetarian Turkish food, Helvetia for most affordable high-protein meals, Ficcin Restoran for traditional Turkish dishes with an emphasis on seasonal menu supplied on an additional sheet, Cafe Privato for amazing Turkish breakfast, Flekk for cocktails.
- Cihangir is another area to explore. In Restaurant 21 the kitchen is open until 3am if you are in need of a late dinner.
- Karaköy is a fun area to explore.
- Just next to prosperous areas there is Tarlabaşı slum. A walk from (41.035856, 28.977338) to (41.039884, 28.979600) gives a good idea of what life is like in that neighbourhood.
Watching sunrise from Roma Bostanı is still on my to-do list. Locals say you can see both night and day at the same time.
- Topkapi Palace is expensive, but absolutely amazing. Even just seeing the pots in the kitchen makes it worth it. Make sure your ticket includes harem (the actual palace).
- Amazing mosques - Ayasofya Camii, Rüstem Paşa Camii, and many more.
- Cağaloğlu Hamam - preserved in its original state, having never been restored.
- Ahmet Tevfik Paşa Tomb (41.008280, 28.972960) in a beautiful cemetery.
- Cistern (free to visit) under the Nakkaş carpet shop (41.004159, 28.975025) - learn about the Istanbul hippodrome there, then visit Sultan Ahmet Meydanı square where it used to be located.
Basilica Cistern is still on my to-visit list.
- Sariyer: Emirgan Park where locals hang out, get married and let their kids play; Ural Ataman Classic Car Museum that has, among many other gems, Ford Model T; etc.
- Beşiktaş and Nişantaşı
- Many more
- My favourite ones are Fatih Camii, Rüstem Paşa Camii, Ayasofya Camii (the biggest one), Şakirin Camii (modern and very different).
- Avoid praying times when visiting. Raincoat hood counts as head covering (mandatory for women), while caps and hats do not.
- I had a great experience at Cağaloğlu Hamam, but there are many more.
- Hopping between different parts of the city on ferries is fun. All of the lines listed here can be used with Istanbul, which requires activation here before first use.
- Bosphorus tour is a great way to see a lot of Istanbul for 15 TRY. It departs from Şehir Hatları Bosphorus Cruises in Sultanahmet every day at 10:35. Tickets have to be purchased in advance. It’s best to purchase one way ticket, get off at Sariyer, explore that neighbourhood, and then make your way back by public transport. Waiting for the return ferry from the last stop of the Bosphorus tour is not a great use of time.
5. Other stuff
- santralistanbul in Istanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi - Ottoman Empire’s first power plant (it was in use from 1914 until 1983) and an energy museum. Read about it here and here. Entrance to the campus is only through Guest access, located near Espressolab. ID and vaccination records required.
- Müze Gazhane - restored historical Hasanpaşa Gazhanesi (gashouse that was in use from 1892 until 1993) which now contains museums, preserved old structures, spaces for events and hangouts. There is also a Humour Museum (Karikatür ve Mizah Müzesi).
- Best places to stay in Istanbul are near ferry terminals. Definitely not in Sultanahmet.