I believe this is one of the most vibrant cities I have been to and apart from being the heart of Turkey it surely deserves some mention in the greatest cities of the world.
The city which divides Asia and Europe is truly a place which has a lot of culture, tradition, the new meeting the old and history and a lot more perhaps.
Being the first time to Turkey I think it is a good idea to stay over in Sultan Ahmet area since this is the heart of where the backpackers stay and this area could be classified as the centre of the city as most of the monuments in Istanbul can be reached over walking distance or easily through the transport network.
bar street in taksim
Arriving in Istanbul airport and taking the metro to Sultan Ahmet I was just overwhelmed by looking at this city for the first time and not certainly the last one
PLACES OF INTEREST
The Grand Bazaar, Kapali Carsi, Blue Mosque, Top Kapi palace, Aya Sofia Mosque and the area around the grand bazaar can easily be done on foot and perhaps as I realized it’s much better as this is how you come into contact with more people and see more.
I stayed at Cordial House which is a moderately priced hostel at 15 Ytl a night for a dorm bed and the staff is pretty friendly besides the area where it is located is generally safe even at at night although it’s better to take precautions by taking as little cash or valuables with oneself.
I befriended a lot of locals and they took me to a lot of places.
The open air theatre is a place to go to.
bar street in taksim
It’s near the Hilton. I went there to see the Leila Majnu folklore and although it’s in Turkish but one can easily understand what’s happening if you have a local along to do some translation. Besides the place being open has a great ambience for shows of this nature and with some slight drizzle you wouldn’t mind feeling romantic!
Any trip to Istanbul would be incomplete without going to Taksim and Beyoglu. These are the areas which are famous for being the heart of Istanbul nightlife and these places rock at night. Firstly passing through taksim with its different souks and the performers and jugglers showing there skills or sharpening them is a treat especially since we don’t need to pay. Furthermore the small streets unwind into great coffee places and the party area but the clubs are mostly empty on regular days and only fill up on weekends.
performin in taksim square
The coffee places generally are full. The Turks love hanging out especially the young Turks with their multitude of friends. Besides in this area you would find people of all ages and all classes so its very cosmopolitan but be careful after 12 am because the public transport stops and you need to hire a regular taxi not a dolmush to take youand the taxis at this time are very expensive. So bring a tent over or party the whole night!!!
BOGACIZI UNIVERSITY SURROUNDINGS
The area around IstanbulUniversity is also a place to pay a visit and this is the place where you can find a lot of young people honing their skills of English so if you speak English you can get first hand information from these students but be prepared to be patient if they don’t understand what you mean.
The area around the Bosphorous is a treat especially if you if book a ferry ride from the local companies on the terminal and this is cheap. I feel there is no need to take a guided tour. Once on the ferry one can easily savor the different architecture of the Anatolian and the European side and how Istanbul is such a great city because of the enmeshing of these two cultures and how it could not be Istanbul if one of the cultures is removed. The bridge over the bosphorous is also a great landmark.
Once you are finished with the ferry trip you can easily go around the area where there are lots of small clothing stores and electronic outlets as well as restaurants. The food tastes great and so does the Turkish desserts like baklava and other ones I just tried them for free. The Turks also love their ice creams and one can easily observe the ubiquitous ice cream stalls although it could leave a hole in your pocket if you are on a tight budget in indulging in all these pleasures but then life doesn’t come more than once so just go for it.
The Top Kapi palace is a big landmark to visit.
The articles on display are simply amazing and mind boggling. Most of the articles on display are off limits to taking pictures which is why I believe they are full of mystery and opulence. If the sultans lived in such times they would have been the most ingenuous and crafty people to say the least and the fact that these have been preserved very well is testament to the Turks ability to take care about their legacy.