Istanbul, Byzantium or Constantinople. However, you name the city, it’s the only city in the world reaching across two continents, and it’s the only place where the West meets the East. A fascinating history has bequeathed the city a vivid inheritance of Byzantine ruins, splendid palaces, ancient mosques and churches, exotic bazaars or if you are looking for modern city with trendy bars and restaurants, Western boutiques and elegant suburbs, it’s also Istanbul.
Lets begin to our list with must see places of the city. Of course, many but you can choose the best for you from our favorites.
SULTANAHMET: Most people who come to Istanbul land feet first in Sultanahmet. This peninsula known as Sarayburnu juts out at the apex of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. Rich in history, it is a natural magnet to millions of tourists every year. The home of Topkapı Pallace, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Yerebatan and the Hippodrome, Sultanahmet is filled to bursting with hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars and souvenir shops as well as a plethora of fascinating museums, mosques, markets and historical sites. The main drag, Divan yolu, is the heartbeat of the area and there are hundreds of tiny back streets and alleyways in which to explore and discover the history of the old city. The labyrinthine Covered Bazaar near Beyazıt University is also on this street.
EMINONU: Situated right on the waterfront on the Golden Horn, Eminönü is the end of the tramline. It is generally buzzing with activity during the day, with streeet pedlars selling you things you never even knew you wanted. The vast Egyptian Spice Bazaar is the main feature of Eminönü Square and Mimar Sinans Yeni Camii is a familiar landmark with its minarets standing tall above the general chaos. Ferries to the Asian side and the Princes Islands leave from the huge docks lining the shore. The Sirkeci Train Station is also here. All trains to and from Europe start and finish here.
BEYOGLU: A veritable symphony of accident and Orient, Beyoğlu ıs the pulsating heartbeat of İstanbul s colourful hoi polloi / is at the hub of the metropolis while a maze of narrow winding lanes filled with funky cafes, soulful bars, continental restaurants, historic cinemas, prominent theatres and exlusive shops shoot off in all directions around it. Taksim Square, featuring the impressive monument to the Republic, heads the parade into Beyoglu’s bohemian open air museum past the Greek Orthodox. Aya Triade Church and the French Consulate. A quaint and tramway carries passengers past the Rumeli Han, Cicek Pasajı, Cite de Pera, Atlas Pasajı, Glatasaray Lise and several elegant consulates to the last stop in Tunel square. Every year the International İstanbul film, International İstanbul Music, International İstanbul Theatre and Internatıonal İstanbul Jazz Festivals are held here and in nearby districts. Other annual events include the Bosphorus Festival, Roxy Music Days, Aksanat Jazz Festival and the Blues Festival.
KARAKOY: Around the first centrury BC, there was a tiny village situated on the mini peninsula of the Golden Horn where the modern suburb of Karakoy stands today. These days, Karakoy is a bustling port with a lively fish market, a hectic ferry terminal and a shady nightlife an intriguing landscape at the mouth of the Golden Horn. Scores of locals fish from the Galata Bridge and an array of vendors peddle all kinds of goods along the sidewalks. A vast underground market filled with every electrical appliance you could ever imagine provides safe passage under the busy road to the entrance of Tunel. Up the hill is Bankalar Caddesi, an hşstorical area filled with banks and art galleries and do it yourself stores. All visiting international cruise ships dock in Karakoy.
GALATA: The Genoese built Galata Tower is the most central point here. The renowned Turkish film İstanbul Beneath My Wings tells the story of Hazarfen Celebi who flew from this tower with his hand made wings. The main street, Galip Dede Caddesi, is a hive of activity with shops selling all manner of musical instruments, antique bookshops and tiny local restaurants. The whirling Dervıshes have a home here at the Mevlana Evi, the Goethe Instıtute provides locals with a good dose of culture and art and there are countless mosques, churches and synagogues hidden away in obscure side streets.
GOLDEN HORN: The most interesting part of the Golden Horn district comprises of the strech of land between Eöminonu and Ayvansaray, up as far as Eyup. The Selimiye Camii, the Fethiye Camii and St Steven’s Church Grace the shoreline while the Chora Church and Mihrimah Camii are further inland. The old city walls start at Ayvansaray and snake overland to Yenikapı.
BOSPHORUS :Arnavutkoy to Sarıyer - The bosphorus shore on the European side is lined with Otoman style mansions, high society hangouts and fish restaurants. There is only one main road and it follows the shorelıne all the way to Zekerıyakoy, a popular weekend gateway for the citybound.
Kadıkoy to Anadolu Hisarı - Kadıkoy is a quieter of Beyoglu with a more subdued atmosphere. The tiny cobbled lanes are filled with restaurants, cafes, bars, cinemas, and shops. The coast road snakes past Uskudar, a pretty suburb with plenty of fine examples of Mimar Sinan’s work, including the Mihrimah Sultan and Semsı Pasa Camii. Selimiye Barracks (where Florence Nightingale worked during the Crimean War) is up on the hill. Heading toward Anadolu Hisarı, the road winds along the shoreline (which is less built up than that of the European side). There are plenty of parks and trees, outdoor cafes and restaurants and a string of historical buildings to explore including Kuleli Mosque, Kuleli Naval Officer’s training school, Kucuksu park and Kiosk and Anadolu Hisarı.
Of course, you can not miss a wonderful bargain chance in the famous bazaars, markets and shops of Istanbul. Because, it is almost impossible to leave Istanbul without buying something. Whether you are looking for trinkets and souvenirs, kilims and carpets, brass and silverware, leather, books, prints and maps, or furnishing and clothes (turkish textiles are among the best in the World), you’ll find them in Istanbul.
Shopping in the city also provides a snapshot of its contrasts and contradictions. From migrants selling wares on the streets to the bar codes of upscale Western style department stores, Istanbul has it all. Numerous shops that sell local and foreign high class products and trade Marks are located (for the European port of the city) in Nısantası, in and around Rumeli avenue and along Istıklal avenue. In the residental area of Etiler, Akmerkez shopping center was awarded best European shopping mall in 1994 by the International shopping center commission. Cevahir shopping center, the biggest in Europe and the second in the World. The other shopping centers in Istanbul are IstinyePark in Istinye, Profilo in Mecidiyekoy, Metro City & Kanyon in Levent, Galeria and Atrium in Atakoy, Carousel in Bakırkoy, Olivium in Zeytinburnu and Capitol in Altunizade(Asian side). Taksim square is in Istanbul and is a major shoppinng, tourist and leisure district famed for its restaurants, shops and hotels.
TAKSIM : It lives at night. In daytime, it is mostly a shopping center, but once the sun goes down, it wears a totally different suit. People from all around the area and sometimes across the Bosphores Bridge pour in, filling the clubs and streets. It is over – crowded on weekends and that is when you can find all the tourists, who come for the food, outdoor entertainment and the pubs and clubs.
BEYAZIT SQUARE: Turkish traders are joined by new arrivals from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union at the flea market held in Beyazit Square, near the Grand Bazaar, every Sunday starting at abaout 10 a.m. here you can find everything from cheap electronic goods to Russian boots and hats.
TUNEL SQUARE: Tunel square, a quick metro ride up from Karakoy, is a quaint group of stores with old prints, books and artifacts.
You have seen the must see places, filled up your lugguge with Turkish souvenirs but still have some place in your stomach for delicious Turkish food. Of course, its the most difficult thing to decide what to eat and where to eat in Istanbul?
FRENCH STREET: Istanbul’s French St, which opened in the summer of 2004, has tented buildings, street musicians, cafes, bars and centers. The street behind Galatasaray High School known as Cezayir (Algeria) Street was completely renovated from head to toe by agroup lead by Mehmet Tasdiken within the scope of a two-year Project. The buildings and sidewalks were improved and a special music system was established. Tasdiken had close contacts with the Municipality of Paris, so the Stones of the street were arranged by Parisian architects and 100 year old coal-gas street lamps from the Municipality of Paris were installed. Most of the establishments of Beyoglu, such as the first cafes and first movie theaters, were established by the French in the 19th century and the buildings on the left of the Cezayir Street bear the signature of French engineer-contractor Marius Mıchel, who lived in Istanbul. french street opens 7 days a week live culture and entertainment center, with cafes, restaurants, street concerts and artists and an art gallery.
FISH BAZAAR: Nowhere in Turkey, not even Istanbul’s wholesale Fish Market, can compete with the rich variety of edible waterbound yummies tahat abound here. There is octopus from Bodrum, calamari from Antalya, shrimp from Canakkale, grouper from Saroz Bay and delectable fresh fruits of the sea. And that’s not all! You can also find any kind of meze, (the tasty dishes eaten as an appetizer with rakı) here, especially seafood mezes. The fish bazaar offers more than fresh fish and produce, with its brilliant sense of display and lively atmosphere; it is a fascinating place to explore. This open market is filled with different sights and sounds, and its passages lead to yet another street filled with restaurants and drinking spots; a street that is not an alternative destination on its own. Nevizade Street has scores of tables set on the street and accommodates patrons with the freshest fish in the city (brought over directly from the bazaar) and loads of delicious mezes.
KUMKAPI: Kumkapı is a quarter full of fish restaurants on the backside of the Sultanahmet hill. Take note: you should only go there if you really want to eat fish. There are about 30-40 restaurants and they all offer- more or less only- fish! In summertime it is a very nice atmosphere with all the tables on the street.
Probably a good deal tamer than you might have expected, the city’s nightclub shows include everything from folk dancers to jugglers, acrobats, belly dancers and singers. Some routines are fairly touristy but stil fun. Typically, dinner is served after 8, and flor shows start around 10. Be aware that these are not inexpensive once you have totaled up drink, food and other expenses. Reservations are a good idea; be sure to specify whether you’re coming for dinner, the show or just for drinks.
Dance clubs get rolling by about 10 and usually keep going until 3 or 4 in the morning. Note that at the seedy striptease places off Istıklal street , the goal is to get customers to pay outrageous drink prices for questionable companionship. Those unwary enough to enter such places have reported being physically intimidated when questioning a bar tab that has run into the hundreds of dollars.
Also experience Turkish Tea / Coffee and Narghile!
From the days of the Ottoman Empire through to the present, coffee has played an important role in Turkish lifestyle and culture. The serving and consumption of coffee has had a profound effect on betrothal and gender customs, political and social interaction, prayer, and hospitality customs throughout the centuries. Although many of the rituals are not prevalent in today’s society, coffee has remained an integral part of Turkish culture. The traditon holds that after the quest has consumed their coffee and the cup is turned upside down on the saucer and allowed to cool, the hostes then performs a fortune reading from the coffee grounds remaining in the cup, followed by lengthy conversations. You will find many traditional coffee houses in İstanbul where fortune reading is done. Enjoy!
Tea is the national hot drink of Turkey – any place, any time it is time to drink! In Turkey, tea is not drunk from porcelain cup sor mugs but in glass cups. There two types of tea: koyu cay; the strong one and acık cay; the lıght one. As by mixing tea and water you can order either of them. Altough artificial, tourists love elma cayı(apple tea), tea is the national hot drink of Turkey- any place, any time it is time to drink!
NARGHILE: There are various places in İstanbul where you can drink tea and smoke a narghile(waterpipe). Narghile is not a drug. The set is made of a ceramic or glass jar fitted with a handle and a pipe, containing water. You just place the tobacco and charcoal and smoke your exotic cigar through the long pipe. The narghile is the best and most welcome excuse for a chat.