In this travel guide you will find the most complete information about what to see in Istanbul. Discover the city of the Bosphorus in the best way, discovering its monuments, its places of interest, its gastronomy and its traditions. You will find information about tourism in Istanbul, what to see and what to do, climate in Istanbul, and everything you need to prepare your trip to the capital of Turkey.
- Getting around Istanbul
- Airport Transfers
- Things To See
- Istanbul in 3 days
- Istanbul in 5 days
- Istanbul in 7 days
- Istanbul at night
- Around Istanbul
- Istanbul Restaurants
- Istanbul Nightlife
- Turkish Gastronomy
- Best time to go to Istanbul
Getting around Istanbul
The good thing about this city is that its large extension makes all kinds of transport available to us. Each one is indicated depending on the zone, I tell you its main characteristics.
The bus is the least suitable option for moving around Istanbul, as it can be very confusing due to the number of routes and stops. It is the cheapest option, but taking into account that the rest of the public transport is also cheap, I recommend you not to waste time looking for the right line. Any other means of transport will be easier to understand, will be cheaper and will get you to your destination faster. There are 500 different lines and more than 8,000 stops, hence the complexity.
Most often, when you are wondering what to see in Istanbul, what you are interested in visiting is in the centre. The best way to get around the city and get there by public transport is by tram.
The price is 5 lyras (a little less than 1 euro) each way
Schedule: from 06:00 to 00:00
This is cheap and fast, easy to understand and very accessible. It has only 3 lines that run through the historical center of the city. The T1 line is the one that will take you to almost all the places you need to see, such as the Grand Bazaar, Sultanahmet, Spice Bazaar and more.
The main feature of the Istanbul metro, from a tourist point of view, is that it connects the city with the airport. It does not reach the most touristy areas, so it is more useful for locals than for tourists, but it will allow you to get very easily from Ataturk airport to the center, changing to the tram.
The timings are from 06:00 to 00:00 and the price is also 5 lyras. It has two lines, and the one you may be most interested in is the M1.
This means of transport is one of the most essential for all those citizens who come in one continent and have to move to the other daily. For you, as a tourist, they will also be useful, as they will take you from the European to the Asian side quickly and cheaply.
On the European side are the Eminonu, Karakoy and Besiktas docks and on the Asian side, Uskudar and Karikoy. The most recommended route for tourists is from Eminonu (south of Galata Bridge) to Uskudar, it takes about 20 minutes and the price is 5 lyras.
Be aware of the timetables, as most ferries do not operate after 9pm and if this happens you will have to cross by public transport to the other side.
Taxis in Istanbul are one of the best options for fast and cheap travel. The official taxis will always be yellow, do not trust others that are not this color.
Officials will usually use a meter as well, they will usually tell you that they have one when you ask what the fare is. My recommendation is to always tell them where you are going (sometimes you will have to show them on a map, because they will not speak English; sometimes not) from the window, before you get into the taxi.
They can ask for the price from the outside too, they can tell you that they put the meter on or they can propose a price. Keep in mind that to move around the centre, the journey should cost around 5 or 10 lyras.
The option of using Uber is present in the big city, something that will come in handy if you want to avoid having to negotiate with taxi drivers. One thing you have to keep in mind is that if you don’t have Internet, it can be complicated to contact the drivers. Make sure you set up a clear pickup point. Most drivers are local, so they probably don’t speak English, so make sure you don’t have to call them if you want to avoid a misunderstanding.
By metro and tram
From Ataturk airport, you can easily and cheaply reach the city centre by metro and tram. Without leaving the airport, you can get to the metro, where you will have to buy a ticket for 5 Turkish Lyras. Then you will have to buy another ticket for the tram, so I recommend that you buy two directly from the first machine before you get to the metro.
If you are going to the Sultanahmet area, this option is the most suitable as it will take you directly there. You have to take the M1A subway in the direction of Yenikapi (6 stops, takes about 10 minutes) and then get out of the subway and change to the tram (they are attached), to the Zeytinburnu tram station, where you have to take the T1 in the direction of Kabatas, and get off after 15 stops (about 35 minutes) in Sultanahmet.
If you are going to the Taksim area, the Havabus bus is the best option (it costs about 15 lyras, 3 Euro on the change).
From Sabiha airport you can take a local bus (the E10 or E11) to Kadikoy in the Asian part of the city, so you will have to take the ferry in Kadikoy to the European part. This can be a bit confusing if it’s your first contact with the city, so I think another option is to take the white Havabus bus, which will take you to Taksim or Sultanahmet directly.
By shuttle bus
The price of the shuttle bus is usually 5 euros for Ataturk airport and 10 euros for Sabiha airport. It’s a good option, faster than the metro and tram, although you’ll have to control the times well and be careful with the traffic, as it can give you a bad time.
If you go to Sabiha airport, this option is highly recommended, as it is a bit more complicated or laborious to get there by public transport, and can be more expensive with a taxi, as it is further away than Ataturk.
The taxi option is one of the most appropriate if you are travelling as a couple or in a group. Taxi drivers usually have a fixed price for these transfers, although it can vary from 45 to 65 lyras to go to Ataturk airport, and from 90 to 110 lyras to go to Sabiha airport.
If they exceed that price, you’ll have to negotiate, but they most likely won’t. I recommend that you talk to the person at the hotel reception to call a taxi, and that they tell you the price beforehand, so that if you see it too expensive, you can refuse it.
Uber is the most expensive option to transfer you from the airport to the city and vice versa. The fact that it is a private vehicle makes its price more expensive and, contrary to what you might think, in this country, it is cheaper to take a taxi (at least for this route, where taxis already have a fixed price).
In Uber it will cost you between 90 and 100 lyras to get to Ataturk airport and, although it is more expensive, it is still a useful option.
Things To See
Hagia Sophia is one of the city’s main monuments, and its walls breathe history. It’s an ancient Orthodox patriarchal basilica, built between 527 and 565, converted later into a mosque in 1481, and now and since 1935, is a museum that reflects the traces of both moments in history.
Price: 40 TL (about 9-10 ?)
Opening hours: In winter from 9:00-17:00; in summer from 9:00-19:00
Last entry time is 1 hour before closing time
It is very worthy of seeing on the outside, as it is imposing and very beautiful, but also on the inside. Even if your budget is tight, I recommend that you visit it, as it is something you only see once in a lifetime. Currently, a part of the museum is under construction, but it is still totally visible and does not prevent you from appreciating the museum.
The Blue Mosque is the most important mosque in the city of Istanbul (though not the biggest, that is Süleymanlye), located in Sultanahmet Square, opposite Hagia Sophia. It was built during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Ahmet I, between 1603 and 1617. It’s one of the most important mosques in the world and undoubtedly the main and largest in Turkey.
It has 6 minarets (Mecca has 9), more than twenty thousand blue tiles (hence its name), and a dome of 23 meters in diameter and 43 meters high.
The entrance is totally free. At the time of prayer, the Mosque is closed to the public.
Inside the mosque you will only find a carpet, some railings separating the area of the tourists from the area of the believers and numerous chandeliers that illuminate the enclosure along with more than 200 stained glass windows. It is very simple inside in terms of ornaments, and the mosaics on the walls and domes take on all the importance. To enter, you must cover your head, shoulders and legs. There they will give you clothes to cover you if you don’t take them with you. You must also enter barefoot.
The Topkapi Palace is another of the city’s main monuments. This, unlike the two mentioned above, is not just a single building, but an enclosure of several buildings and gardens.
Price: Palace: 40 TL (about 9-10 Euro), Harem: 25 TL (about 5-6 Euro)
Opening hours: Wednesday to Monday, 9:00-17:00 (until 19:00 from April to October)
It was the palace of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire until the middle of the 19th century. Opened in 1465, has been adding more and more spaces throughout its history and its use by different rulers. It has 700,000 square meters, in which are distributed four courtyards and multiple buildings. The most striking, in the opinion of the guru, is the Harem (the area where the women lived).
Whether it’s the shopping that drives you crazy or, even if you don’t think much of it, this place is a must-see. It is, to call it in a way, a Turkish style shopping centre, where shops of all kinds and with all possible products, meet.
From Turkish delicacies to lamps, clothing, carpets and household products. An endless number of options in an enclosed area, although if you go outside, the surroundings are also full of shops. The covered area alone occupies 45,000 square metres, and in total there are more than 3,600 shops on 64 streets. You will find many shops with jewellery and souvenirs, as this is a must for tourists.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Closed on Sundays
And of course, one of the rules is that you have to haggle. As budget travelers, haggling is a key point, and I confirm that the starting price they tell you can be reduced by half. Lose your shame and negotiate, sellers know that tourists can and will not be cut! Another trick: in the Turkish delicatessen shops, the shopkeepers will be happy to offer you their products for you to try and, of course, to buy. Whether that’s your purpose or not, no one is bitter about candy, right? Take advantage!
Galata Tower is another major monument, this time outside the main tourist area, Sultanahmet, and one of the oldest towers in the world. The Tower is located on the other side of the Bosphorus, you have to cross the Galata Bridge to get there, and also climb some slopes and stairs.
Timetable: Every day from 9:00-20:00
Price: 25 TL (about 6 ?)
The queues can be huge, I recommend you go early in the morning
The best thing about the tower are the views that can be seen from it, with a panoramic view of the city. It is not a super spectacular monument because of its architecture or dimensions, but more so because of the diameter and width of its walls and the views it offers. If you are looking for a different plan in Istanbul, one of the options is to enjoy a dinner in the Tower, although the guru recommends that you look in one of the bars in the surroundings, there are some with a terrace and views (quite) similar to those of the Galata Tower and, yes, at a much cheaper price.
When you wonder what to see in Istanbul, this monument has to be on the list too. The New Mosque, although not as important as the Blue Mosque, is the second most important one in the city. It is 400 years old on its back (despite its name) and is beautiful on the outside as well as the inside. You will be able to see its vaults from the distance, as it is located right in front of the Galata Bridge, in one of the busiest areas of the city, although it is now covered due to renovations.
It is open every day, from 7:00 to 00:00.
The Spice Bazaar is another place you should visit on your trip to Istanbul. Although it is not as famous as the Grand Bazaar, it is a focus of visits from tourists and locals alike. Unlike the Grand Bazaar, where you can find almost everything but no food, it has dozens of stalls in the surrounding area (the uncovered part) with fresh products of all kinds, such as pickles, cheeses, vegetables, meat and fish.
Opening hours: from 9:00 to 19:00
Closed on Sundays
The covered part is notably smaller than in the Grand Bazaar, as it has 2 streets that form a cross, and there you can find jewellery, nuts, soaps and all kinds of spices.
The Prince Islands is a municipality of Istanbul, consisting of a total of 9 islands, which can be reached by ferry. They are located in the Marmara Sea, and take between 1 hour and 2 hours, depending on the ferry you choose and the stops it makes.
You can decide which of the islands you want to visit beforehand, so you will know which ferry to take as soon as you arrive at Kavatas dock, from where they depart. My personal recommendation is that, if you go in time, you should visit Buyukada, the biggest island.
It’s best to go in summer to enjoy its beaches, although you should know that many of them are private.
The other four most important islands are: Burgadaza, Heybeliada, Kinaliada and Sedef Adasi. Once on the chosen island, I recommend you to walk around, discover its streets and get lost in its paths.
In them, you will see horse carriages, and the fact is that no motorized vehicles circulate on its roads, they are forbidden (except for the service ones), so you will have to move around on foot, by bicycle, in horse carriages or on donkey. A real adventure that makes these islands unique.
What other places can’t I miss in Istanbul?
The Galata Bridge
The Basilica Cistern
The Archaeological Museum
The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art
The Church of San Salvador in Çora
The Gülhane Park
The Dolmabahçe Palace
The Rüstem Mosque Passes
The Asian part of Istanbul (you can easily reach it by ferry for 5 lyras)
Istanbul in 3 days
On day 1 of your trip to Istanbul I recommend that you dedicate it to discovering the city at your leisure. Starting the trip by moving away and going to the Asian side would not make much sense if you want to discover what the city has for you from the beginning. That’s why I recommend you to start approaching the Sultanahmet area, to appreciate the two most recognized jewels of the city: Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
You can visit both in the same day, and you will still have plenty of time, since, although one of them is a museum, you can see both quickly. You can get up early and visit the Blue Mosque first, then Hagia Sophia, have lunch in a local restaurant and in the afternoon go to the Grand Bazaar, which is nearby, about 15 minutes walk. In the Bazaar you may need from 1 to 4 hours, depending on what you want to do. If you are interested in shopping, you will be in paradise.
I recommend you to spend a whole afternoon in the Bazaar, as there are shops in the covered part, but also in the uncovered part, and you can have a tea or a soda in some bar and have dinner, all in the same area.
On the second day you can take the opportunity to go to the Spice Bazaar before crossing to the other side of the Galatian Bridge. If you like to walk, you can do it quietly on foot, without the need for transportation. Come to the area of the Bazaar and discover it both inside and out. Later on I will give you some tips on how to enjoy the food in this bazaar 😉 Cross the bridge full of fishermen and walk up to the Galata Tower.
If you decide to climb to the top to enjoy the view, you will probably have to wait a long time in line; keep this in mind when organizing your times. Once you have done this, I recommend that, either by metro or walking, you go to Taksim Square, a key area when we think of parties and demonstrations in Istanbul. And it’s not for nothing, it’s gigantic!
Between walking in the square and walking around it, you can spend a few hours. I recommend you to have lunch and discover the area in the most relaxed way, enjoying the bar area that is Taksim and the atmosphere.
On the third day of your visit, a must see is the Topkapi Palace, an incredible venue full of history and key architecture in Istanbul and Turkey. This palace is of incredible dimensions, so you will need at least a whole morning to visit it, between 2 and 6 hours is what you can throw, depending if you see it in depth or more above.
After that, I recommend you to go back to the Sultanahmet area for lunch, which although a little more requested and expensive than others less central, offers some of the most recommended (and believe me, not so expensive) restaurants in the city. In the afternoon, hurrying up the last cartridges of the trip, I recommend you either to go to the Asian area of Istanbul by ferry or simply take a tour by ferry on the Bosphorus, where you can see the city from the sea enjoying the good weather.
It’s a great plan if you do it in the middle of the afternoon!
Istanbul in 5 days
If you are lucky enough to go to Istanbul for more days, one thing you should see is the remaining monuments on the must-see list. For example, the New Mosque and the Basilica Cistern are in the same area and you can visit both in one morning as you will not have to leave the Sultanahmet area.
In the afternoon, you can get away from the historical centre and visit three monuments that are quite close to each other: the Rustem Pasa Mosque, the Suleymaniye Mosque and the Church of St. Saviour in Çora. Between getting there, discovering them, moving from one to another and coming back, you will have spent the whole afternoon.
On the fifth day of your trip one option you can do is to cross the Galata Bridge and go to the Besiktas area. There, I recommend you to visit the Dohlmabaçe Palace, which is currently a museum, and it will take you quite some time. Besiktas’ stadium is also close by, and considering how important football is in the country and in the city, it deserves a visit.
In the afternoon, you can simply go back to the Taksim and Beyoglu area, walk around its most vibrant areas and have dinner and a drink before returning to the hotel.
Istanbul in 7 days
On the sixth day, taking into account that, according to your pace, if you have based your guide on this, you have already seen the most important things in the city, I recommend you take a ferry and go to the Prince Islands.
There, you can spend the whole day between making the journey (which can take up to 3-4 hours depending on the ferry with the day and the return) and visiting one or two islands, depending on what you want. I recommend you to go to Buyukada, the biggest one, it’s beautiful!
On the seventh and last day of your vacation, as a closing and farewell to this incredible city, I recommend you to come again to the Sultanahmet area and enjoy the main square with Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in a more peaceful way, without having to worry about entering to see them or waiting in line.
Walk along the main street, full of restaurants and shops, in another ideal option for the last day, especially considering that it is the last chance to buy souvenirs you have. Take advantage of this day to walk around, stroll around and enjoy the city’s bustle in the most peaceful way.
Istanbul at night
Istanbul at night is one of the shows that will remain in your memory after the trip. Vibrant, noisy, illuminated… I have several recommendations about what you should see in Istanbul at night that you should not overlook when organizing your trip to Istanbul.
One of the main things is to cross the Galata Bridge at night: it will be a bit cool, as it is an open area and it is usually very windy, but the view of the illuminated Galata Tower on one side, the mosques on the other and the Bosphorus in front, is a picture worthy of a postcard.
Another thing I recommend is to walk around Eminonu, the area under the Galata Bridge, you can do it all in the same day. There you will find several restaurants where you can enjoy typical fish and the area is super quiet (and romantic).
I also recommend you to look for a restaurant with a terrace (there are lots of them) and enjoy a dinner and a drink with a view of the city, which is what many people do and there are more and more restaurants offering terraces with a view, so take advantage!
Finally, another couple of things you can do in Istanbul at night are, depending on the weather, go to the Taksim area to smoke narghile in a bar (you can accompany it with a çay or an Ephes beer, the typical one in the country), something very recommendable if the weather is not good, or take a walk around the Sultanahmet area and, especially, around the square that separates Hagia Sofia and The Blue Mosque. Both illuminated monuments are like a movie.
If you go to the city enough days to have time for excursions, something I recommend is to visit the Prince Islands, which I have already told you about. They are made up of 9 different islands, so you can organize yourself as you wish and visit 1 or do the whole tour.
If you want to go further, I recommend you to visit the city of Bursa, which is only 2 and a half hours away from Istanbul by ferry. It is one of the most famous cities in Turkey for its Great Mosque and highly recommended to go to spend 1 or 2 days, depending on what interests you.
Some more ideas for things to do in Istanbul:
Smoking nargile in some bar in Taksim
Taste the raki, the typical liquor
Drink water from a plastic container
Have a çay
Playing the board
Take a Turkish bath in a Hamman
Have a coffee at the Café de Pierre Loti, with the best view of the city
Tour not only the covered Grand Bazaar, but also the crowded, uncovered streets around it
Dancing the typical songs with a group of Turks
Order an ice cream that will be served to you making a show like no other
Enjoying a sunset in Uskudar
As I know that one of the most striking things about Istanbul and Turkey in general is its cuisine, I wanted to dedicate a large part of this guide to Istanbul to mention its most typical food, the different options for eating in Istanbul and a list of cheap restaurants, restaurants for eating on the street, restaurants chosen as the best by travelers and other tricks, so that on your visit to the Turkish city you do not miss this essential part of its culture.
The restaurants you visit on your trip to Istanbul will probably depend a lot on the area where your hotel is located. However, there are some general recommendations that I want to give you to enjoy the typical gastronomy in some very good restaurants.
Cheap restaurants – Kebabs and buffets
Probably one of the best ways to enjoy Turkish cuisine without wasting a single euro! The streets of Istanbul are full of small restaurants or, rather, food stalls, where there are a couple of tables to sit at. Usually, they are stalls where you can get the traditional fast food, a Durum Kebab, Çig Kofte or similar.
You will quickly identify them, since almost all of them have a very simple and traditional place, they are small and their decoration is very clear. But don’t let these details guide you, even though they may seem ‘cheesy’ for this reason, you will probably find one of your best meals in Istanbul. Think that it is probably a traditional family restaurant, where the recipes are those of a lifetime and, moreover, if the place is simple, the food is cheap. I assure you!
It’s best to go to one of the buffet restaurants where you can choose among many different dishes all those that you want and, this, dear traveller, is very cheap. You can find many different ones in the city, and they are all similar. In them you can find typical Turkish food, homemade, quality, but at a very low cost. You will see many groups of people who are on a break from work or who simply go there to eat well at a cheap price.
For example, a bowl of soup, a bowl of rice, spinach and scrambled vegetables, a bowl of kofte with potatoes and tomato, a bowl of meat with kisses and aubergine, with bread, water and ayran, for example, costs 6 euros in total. But that’s more than enough for two people. 3 euros per person, believe me! Some examples of this type of restaurant you can find in the city of Istanbul are the well-known Lokantasi,
One of the most typical sins of tourists is wanting to try everything. Be careful, because the rations are considerable and therefore you can end up leaving a lot of food untasted. Decide on the menu before you order what you want, so that you avoid throwing away food and money.
This type of restaurant is one of the allies of tourists, and you can enjoy a typical meal for very little money while you continue to enjoy your plans for the city. If you walk around the streets (it doesn’t matter which one, because it’s the same all over the city), you’ll be amazed at the amount of options you have.
There is a wide range of options, although the most famous are the kebab stands. But, for example, you also have Turkish burger places, Çig Kofte stands, juice stands of all kinds (the most famous are the orange and grenadine ones), mobile carts with “pide” (the Turkish pizza) and “simit” (a circular bread with sesame and many other things that you can add to it), stands where you can buy mussels with rice and lemon (something very typical in the coastal cities but that you can also find in Istanbul), and many, many more options.
Although they can’t be considered street stalls, there are a lot of very small restaurants with terraces, something that is very popular in the city, so for very little money you can also enjoy delicious food on the street, although this time something more comfortable.
Think about what you want to do and how much time you have to continue getting to know the city; sometimes it will be more worthwhile to sit down and rest, and other times it will be ideal to buy something quick to eat on the way. Later, once you have finished with the important things, you can enjoy a çay on a terrace.
If you want to see a unique street stall, where the show is guaranteed, you can’t miss going to the Çig Kofteci Ali Usta, a street stall located near Sultanahmet, where a very funny employee will prepare the most salty çig kofte of your trip.
I’ve already told you about the best restaurants if you want to save some money, but if you want to indulge yourself or simply enjoy one of the most famous restaurants in the city, this list is what you need.
Most of them are part of this list not only because of their quality, but also because of their terrace with a view of the city, something that tourists demand a lot. Traditional food is more or less the same everywhere, but here importance is given to the location of the restaurant and the experience you will have.
These are more expensive than the street stalls or the simpler restaurants, but normally they will offer you a terrace with music, stoves during the colder months, the waiters will take care of everything you need and, in general, the experience is in line with the price. But don’t think that they are luxury restaurants either! Istanbul is a cheap city, in general, and in these restaurants you will pay at most, the same as you would pay in a restaurant in Spain.
The best rated restaurants are the following:
Old Istanbul Cuisine
Bistro Chef Restaurant & Cafe
Roof Mezze 360
Kiss Restaurant Bistro
Saltanat Barbecue House
Buhara Ocakbasi Restaurant
Byzantion Bistro Restaurant
Eating from the face
Go to the Grand Bazaar or the Spice Bazaar and try the Turkish delicacies that the vendors will offer you continuously. They do this, obviously, to make you go crazy with the delicacies (they are very tasty, there is no denying it) and buy them. But if you don’t want to buy, they will offer you anyway, try it, say no, and that’s it. You can do it in all the stands, you just have to put a little face to it.
Take a walk through the open market at the Spice Bazaar. This market is the fresh produce market. Here you can find all kinds of fish, pickles, nuts, cheeses, sausages and much more. As with Turkish delicacies, you can try the products (mainly cheese and nuts) on their face. Olives also take centre stage here.
The good thing about this market is that it is quite large, so if you want to try different cheeses, you will simply have to go from one stall to another. Sometimes, you will have to work at it: standing in front of the cheeses, studying them as if you were really interested, is something that helps them to offer you.
Many times, when you order a Turkish coffee, they include a couple of Turkish delicacies on the plate, to sweeten the palate. Enjoy!
In some restaurants, you are sometimes given a free starter, which is usually Turkish bread with hummus or some other typical cream. Sometimes they give it to you without even telling you, but other times they use it as a hook to get you into that restaurant and not another one. In any case, I can assure you that they don’t charge you for it, so take advantage of their kindness and enjoy your meal!
Sometimes I’ve come across street stalls that have some tables, where you order a sandwich, kebab or similar and when you go to sit at the table, you find a plate with mussels and rice. They put them as a side dish, but they don’t charge you for them, even if you eat them all. Besides, you don’t have to be afraid because they are outdoors, they change them every time there is a new customer.
This restaurant is a gem in the Beyoglu area, on one of the perpendiculars of Taksim’s main street. On its walls you will see hundreds of paintings of public figures who have passed through the premises to enjoy the food, and it does not leave anyone indifferent. Here you will try one of the best meats in town, and there are many options. My recommendation is that you try the kebab kurfa and the lamb chops, which are finger-licking good! This one is a little more expensive than the average, but I assure you that it is worth it, and a lot!
Whether you go here or not, I leave it up to you, but I think it is interesting to propose it to you, because it is something very typical in Turkey that I think, is worth trying, if only because of how famous it is. The Kokoreç is a meat composed of pig’s organs, and cooked on the grill just like you would cook a kebab roll. In this restaurant, they cook it for a long time so that it is cooked on the fire, then they cut it up, mix it with various spices and serve it inside a sandwich. It is a meal that depends on the tastes of each person, but the taste is very Turkish and it is worth trying, even if it is the first and last time you do it.
Sehzade Cag Kebap
This place is a little hidden in the Sultanahmet area, in a street full of restaurants, but its quality is incredible. On the menu you will not find much variety: a soup, a salad, some typical cream and the ‘pinchos morunos’ of lamb. This dish is the star of the place, they serve two Moorish skewers with seasoning and bread, for only 20 lyras (about 4 euros). Good, nice and cheap! Be careful, because it’s closed on Sundays.
In this restaurant in Sultanahmet, number 19 on the list of the best restaurants in Istanbul, they serve a wonderful Kahvalti, for only 35 lyras (about 7 euros) for 2 people, although you can also choose the one for one person for a little less. Moreover, this restaurant is located in one of the most vibrant streets of Sultanahmet, where there are numerous restaurants and bars where you can eat, have a few drinks and enjoy yourself all day long.
One thing that’s not missing in this town is walking. Apart from knowing what to see in Istanbul, I think you also need to know the best neighbourhoods where to party in the city. You will find many places where you can enjoy a few beers, cocktails, a narghile or where you can party all night long. There are four very well known areas for this.
Taksim is the most famous area for partying and enjoying the craziest atmosphere in town. It is the area that any Turkish person, whether from Istanbul or not, will recommend you not to miss on your trip. There you can party from the evening until the next morning, if your body can take it.
The streets are full of bars and places with “cachimbas”, which is the most important thing in this area. Not only will you find a party, as you would expect in other European cities, but the party is guaranteed every day of the week. Istiklal street, already mentioned in this Istanbul guide, is one of the main arteries of the party, and in its perpendiculars you will find alleys full of bars.
Just so you don’t get confused, I want to make it clear that Beyoglu is the area that hosts Taksim and Ortakoy, so when you’re in Taksim, you’ll be in Beyoglu too. But it’s in Beyoglu in general that most of the partying in the city takes place. If you stay in this part of town and you’re in a good mood, you’re very lucky, because your chances of finding bars and clubs will multiply, and you’ll be close to home.
Kadikoy is one of the fashionable areas of Istanbul, which can be considered the hipster quarter. It is on the Asian side, so if you stay on the European side, it may be a little less accessible. However, you can get there by ferry in the afternoon and return in the evening by taxi, something I think is worthwhile, as the visit is highly recommended.
There you will find modern bars, artists’ shops, people on the street… Think of the most chic neighbourhoods in London or Berlin, this one has nothing to envy them! Besides, a walk around the area will allow you to discover the way of life of the Asian part of Turkey, a real luxury.
If you’re staying in the Sultanahmet area and don’t feel like partying in the Taksim area, that’s not a problem either. You won’t find as many clubs here as in the other part, so if you feel like dancing to the beat, you’d better go to Beyoglu. However, if you feel like partying till all hours, drinking beers, cocktails, smoking hookahs or just having a party plan but more of a party, Sultanahmet will let you do it. Akbiyik Street will provide you with many options.
Kahvalti – The breakfast of champions
In Turkey they have a typical breakfast called kahvalti, which includes typical Turkish products such as cucumber, tomato, green and black olives, cheese, ham, a dish with fried eggs and suçuk, bread and butter, jams and honey. Sometimes you can also find fries, depending on the restaurant where you order. Another typical dish, also served for breakfast, is the menemen, scrambled eggs with peppers and tomato (it is like a Spanish pesto in Turkish style), very tasty. It is a very powerful breakfast, so the locals usually eat it at noon, and many of them take the opportunity to make both meals, breakfast and lunch, in one go.
The sweets are the most typical in Turkey and in Istanbul you will find hundreds of shops and stores dedicated to them. The sweets are mainly made from nuts, syrup and honey. It will be difficult to find sweets with chocolate (although there are also some) and what you will see most is sweets with pistachio and nuts, with honey, or with fruits like pomegranate. Baklava, Kunefe and Turkish delicacies are the most typical.
What do I tell you that you don’t already know about Turkish kebab? It is what you will see most around the city: meat rolls of all types and sizes. Even in the smallest shop you can find a kebab roll. Just try the different types, in durum, in done, in bocata… The truth is that you can find everything. If you’re a kebab freak, this is your paradise. But, one thing, if you expect to find the same kebabs we have in Spain, none of that. In Turkey they’re totally different.
Fish is, along with meat, a basic element of the Turkish diet and the country’s cuisine. Although what you see most in the city are meat stands, the coastal areas of Turkey and also the city of Istanbul produce a great deal of fish. Something that you can’t miss on your visit. In the restaurants you can find all kinds of fish more prepared, but something very typical is to eat a sandwich on street stalls. For example, in summer, you can find many stalls with this dish under the Galata Bridge, right on the Eminonu pier.
Soups and rice
Korbs and rice are two of the great components of the Turkish diet. Rice is known to have a special texture and taste, and to have white and brown grains. In Turkey, it serves as an accompaniment to the vast majority of dishes. The most typical ‘Korbas’ are lentils, which come in two types, and others such as tomatoes and other vegetables.
The bohrek is a cake or bread typical of the countries that were part of the Ottoman Empire, including Turkey. It is made with a phyllo dough called yufka and is usually filled with spinach, white cheese, minced meat or other vegetables. In Istanbul you can find it in many stalls and restaurants and you can choose the specialty that you like. Although it cannot be considered a dish, but more a snack, it is delicious. Do not hesitate to try it!
Best time to go to Istanbul
The best time to go to Istanbul from a tourist point of view is July and August. However, in these months, as it is the high season, flights are more expensive to travel from Spain and, in addition, the city is full of tourists, as this is when more people decide to visit the city.
The winter months, which can be very cold, are the least appropriate, as the cold and the possibility of rain can put obstacles in your way. My personal recommendation is that you travel in the spring or autumn months, so you can avoid the high temperatures of summer and the low temperatures of winter, and although Istanbul is a city that has tourists every day of the year, you can have space in restaurants and you won’t have to wait in long lines to visit the main monuments.
The climate in Turkey is generally much more extreme than we tend to think. Summers are mild, with average temperatures hovering around 24ºC, but the city’s humidity makes temperatures feel much higher and the feeling is sometimes overwhelming. In the winter they usually reach 0 degrees, and there can be less, which will also feel colder due to the humidity. It is common to find abundant rain and snow in the winter months, and sporadic but abundant rainfall in the summer months.
The currency of Turkey is the Turkish lyra, which you can see written in these ways: TL, TRY, lyra or with the symbol ₺.
1 TRY = 0.20
1 EUR = 4.6 TRY
To change money, I recommend you do it at the airport. Despite what usually happens, that it is more expensive to change at the airport than in the city, in Istanbul the opposite happens.
In the city you can find change for 4.50 TRY for 1 EUR, while at the airport it can be as much as 4.68 TRY. Although you can always compare, and change little money at the airport and, later, change more in the city, from experience I tell you that the best thing is to do it at the airport.