The 7-Day Guide to Istanbul

As you walk on the streets of Istanbul you will hear pop music blasting through the speakers while the call to prayer is being echoed in the background. It is the city where the West meets the East, physically and metaphorically.  I spent 7 days in Istanbul. These are my recommendations.

 

Day 1- 3

Eat

Privato Cafe (Breakfast)

Istanbul: Privato Cafe

AddressŞahkulu Mahallesi, Galata Galip Cad., Tımarcı Sok. 3/B, 34420 Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey
Price: $$
I highly recommend having breakfast here. The food was healthy, delicious and fulfilling. 

Tarihi Kuru Fasulyeci Beydağı Lokantasi (Lunch)

Istanbul: Pilav

AddressBeyazıt Mh., No 31/, Süleymaniye Cami, 34116 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey
Price: $

Sütis Abdullah Aga Yalisi (Dinner/Snack)

AddressÇengelköy Mh., Albay Hüsamettin Ertürk Sk No:7, 34680 Üsküdar/Istanbul, Turkey
Price: $$

Try Simit (Snack)

Istanbul: Simit

Price: $

You can find this street food anywhere in Istanbul. It’s more of a breakfast snack and can be eaten with anything.

Aga Kapisi (Breakfast/Dinner)

AddressSüleymaniye Mah, Nazır İzzet Efendi Sk. No:11, 34134 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey
Price: $$

Çikolata Kahve (Breakfast/Dinner)

Istanbul: Chocolate by the bosphorus Istanbul: Chocolate by the bosphorus

AddressÇengelköy Mahallesi, Albay Hüsamettin Ertürk Sokak ( Derecik Sokak) No:8, 34680 Üsküdar/Istanbul, Turkey
Price: $
This dessert shop had the most scrumptious hot chocolate I’ve ever had! You can get to enjoy your purchase on the terrace while admiring the view of the Bosphorus sea. In addition, there are rooms to reserve for a family or large group. It also includes a prayer room.

Durumzade (Lunch)

AddressHüseyinağa Mahallesi, Kamer Hatun Cd. 26/A, 34435 Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey
Price: $
Durumzade has amazing Durum and it was recommended by Anthony Bourdain.

Baylan Patisserie (Breakfast/Dinner)

AddressCaferağa Mahallesi, Muvakkıthane Cd. No:19, 34710 Kadıköy/Istanbul, Turkey
Price: $$

Ficcin (Dinner)

Addressİstiklal Mahallesi, Kallavi Sok. No:13 D:1, 34430 Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey
Price: $$

See

Galata Tower

Istanbul: Galata Tower

This tower is hard to miss once you are in the center of Istanbul. I used it as a point of reference whenever I got lost.  The Galata tower was built by the Genoese colony to protect the city. It used to be called the Christea Turris (Tower of Christ). Today the tower is a Museum where people take selfies and also visit to learn it’s history. 

Famous Landmarks in Istanbul

Istanbul: Blue Mosque

The Blue (Sultan Ahmet) Mosque, Hagia Sophia Mosque, and Topkapi Palace are the most famous landmarks in Istanbul. One can’t simply talk about Istanbul without mentioning them. Each of these places has its own unique and intriguing history.

You can buy a combo ticket at a discount price for all three of these landmarks. P.s. There might be people who approach to buy tickets from them or skip the line so they could be your guide. Don’t respond to their request. Most of the time, they have a kiosk by the side and want you to eventually buy from their kiosk.

Prices: Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace- 30 Turkish Lira ($8); Hagia Sophia- 30 Turkish Lira ($8); Blue mosque- Free

The Topkapi palace has Holy Relics of prophets and companions of the prophets.

If you plan on visiting the mosques, research about the dress codes to enter.

 

Do

Say hello to the Cats

Istanbul: Cat Istanbul: dog

During your visit to Istanbul,  you’ll see many cats and some dogs. These street animals are accustomed to people treated them kindly so don’t feel shy to say hello. 

Climb the Galata tower

One of the ways to oversee the city of Istanbul is to climb up the Galata tower for 20 Turkish lira- $5.26

Secret hidden gem for views

Istanbul: Best view

  Source: Katrinka Abroad

There is a secret spot that is free of charge and has the best view for Instagram. The caveat is that its location is hidden to only the locals. If you can find this spot send me a picture of you there!

Walk through Istiklal street

Istanbul: Istiklal street

The busy Istiklal street is a famous street that starts from the Beyoglu area to Taksim square. It’s filled with a lot of tourist attractions and street food. On this street, you’ll find a mix of hidden gems and tourist traps. It takes doing some research and asking the locals to filter them out.  However, Istiklal street is perfect to explore. Find out more here

Watch a Swirling Dervish performance

Istanbul: Swirling Dervishes

Source: Wallscover.com

One of Turkey’s oldest Sufi tradition; This performance includes chants, prayers, music and of course, a whirl dance. Although not apparent to tourists, it is a religious ceremony. Tourists either hate it or love it, there usually isn’t any in betweens.  The Swirling Dervish lasts for 2 hours. Some places allow you to take pictures and record while others don’t. Make sure you find this out before going to the ceremony. 

The Whirling Dervishes took their name from Jelaleddin Rumi (1207-1273)(Istanbul Insider)

Walk around Beyoglu

Beyoglu is an affluent and hip neighborhood in the European part of Istanbul. It’s catered mostly to tourists. Beyoglu is filled with pleasant surprises as you walk through this neighborhood. Make sure to check out Asmalimescit

Explore Asia

Istanbul: Asian Istanbul Asian Istanbul

Grab a ferry and take a ride to the Asian side of Istanbul. Seriously, when would you ever get the chance to hop between Europe and Asia in just 1 hour? Ferry ride cost as little as 3 Turkish Lira- $.85. Some notable areas here are Kariköy, Usküdur, and Çengelköy. These parts have fewer tourists, so it’s perfect for those who want to immerse themselves with the locals for a bit.

Selfie overlooking the Bosphorus/ 5th of July bridge

Istanbul: Bosporus bridge

 

 

Day 4- 7

Eat

Istiklal street filled with Turkish delight shops.

Istanbul: Turkish Delight

Istiklal street has almost everything you are looking for in Istanbul. What I love to see is the scrumptious looking Turkish delight stacked in a triangular form in sweet shops. Stop by one of these shops and try them. They are nothing like you’ve ever had with a wide plethora of flavors.

The Pistaccio and chocolate Turkish delight are to die for.

Restaurants under the Galata bridge enjoy Balik Ekmek (Breakfast)

Istanbul: Balik Ekmek Istanbul: Balik Ekmek
Enjoy delicious Fish Bread also known as Balik Ekmek (in Turkish) while gazing at the beautiful Bosphorus sea. One thing to note is that the price isn’t fixed. 

Koska– Turkish delight

Koska is a Turkish pastry brand you’ll find all throughout Istanbul.  Wherever you are in Istanbul,  type in “Koska” on your google maps and there will be a shop around the corner.

Mado

Istanbul: Mado

AddressAsmalı Mescit Mahallesi, İstiklal Cd. No:168, 34430 Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey

Tarihi Kalkanoğlu Pilavcısı (Lunch)

Address: Kuloğlu Mh., Ayhan Işık Sk. 16/A, 34435 Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey
Hours:  10AM- 10PM
Price: $

Zubeyir Ocakbasi– Best durum because of the succulent meat
AddressŞehit Muhtar Mahallesi, Bekar Sk. No:28, 34435 Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey
Price:  $$
Another restaurant recommended by Anthony Bourdain. It is said to have very succulent meat.

Old Ottoman cafe & restaurant (Dinner)

Address: Prof. Kazım Gürkan Cad, Cağaloğlu Hamam Sk No:17, 34110 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey
Hours: 12PM- 11PM
Price: $$

Tavanarasi (Lunch)

AddressAsmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Asmalı Mescit Cd. No:10, 34430 Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey
Price: $$

 

See

Dolmabahçe Palace

Istanbul: Dolmahce

If you ever had an image of heaven, the Dolmabahçe Palace comes close. It is said to be one of the most glamorous palaces in the world. The last Ottoman Sultan resided there. It was used an administrative center for the rulers. Today it is a Museum. The Good news is that you will get to see all major the highlights for 40 Turkish Lira ($11). The Bad news is that you can’t take any pictures or record videos inside. 

Visit Süleymaniye mosque

Istanbul: Suleymaniye

Another stunning mosque you can get to visit for free is the Süleymaniye mosque.  It’s located not too far off from the city center.

Visit Rumeli Hisari

Istanbul: Rumeli Hisari

The Rumeli Hisari is an impressive castle located in the European part of Istanbul. It played a role in the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the end of the Byzantine empire. Check out Peter Sommer Travels to learn more about its history. The best time to visit is during the summer months. Entrance fee to the castle is 3 Turkish Lira ($.85)

 

Do

Go shopping

Istanbul: Grand Bazar

Many people come to Istanbul for the sole purposes of shopping. With over 4000 shops present in Istanbul, it’s hard not to see why.  However, the top Bazaars (Shopping centers) are The Grand Bazaar, Egyptian Spice Bazaar, Eminönü, Fatih Çarsamba to mention a few.  Check out Guardian’s list of the top 10 Bazaars in Istanbul

The shopping centers in Fatih Çarsamba caters to mostly Islamic fashion. Wednesday is the best time to go for discount prices. 

Walk around Kadiköy

Istanbul: Fishermen

Walk by the sea district of Kadiköy and watch fishermen catch their fishes.

Explore Taksim square

Istanbul: Taksim Square

Check out the popular Taksim square where a lot of activities and events take place. It is considered the heart of modern Istanbul and it connects to major transportation networks. 

Enjoy a Turkish bath 

Istanbul- Turkish Bath

Pamper yourself with a Turkish bath. If you want to enjoy the real local experience go to Mihrimah Sultan Hamami in the Fatih district. 

Go to the Princes’ Islands

Princes' Island

If you visit Istanbul in the summer and you have some time on your hands, try to visit Princes’ Islands. It is a group of nine Islands located on the coast of Asian Istanbul. Members of the Byzantine and Ottoman dynasty resided here during their exile. The Princes’ Islands remained a remote place until the 19th century when ships arrived there.  On the Island, you’ll see elements of a multicultural society in the infrastructures, food etc. It will take you the whole day to explore. See how to get there.

 

Note

  • When visiting the Mosques, visit for tourists might be halted temporarily during prayer times.  
  • When I included $$ for the average price of restaurants and other items, please note that I’m basing that off the Turkish Lira. For example, $$ could mean that the food in a restaurant costs between 40- 100 Turkish Lira which is between $11- $30
  • In Turkey, no price is set. You can always haggle to reduce the cost. 

I hope this post has inspired you to want to visit Istanbul.  I had a great time there although I visited in the winter. 

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Istanbul: Pinterest

 

2017-08-22T13:41:17+00:00 August 22nd, 2017|Turkey|9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Amelie (therovingpuffin) August 22, 2017 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    Istanbul seems stunning. Sadly we never made it so far but I found your article very interesting and it surely inspired me to visit one day. Especially the turkish bath seems like such an amazing thing to do – I always fall for spa days !
    Thank you and Greetings
    Amelie

  2. Kavey Favelle August 22, 2017 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    Oh this is great, looks like we missed a few key attractions out when we visited a couple of decades ago. Definitely time to go back. How did I miss that there are trams?!!!

  3. backpackingdetours August 22, 2017 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    I love this post! I haven’t been to Turkey in a few years and it is such a special place. Thank you for these recommendations, I wish I had gone to the baths, my one regret.
    I need to visit Galata Tower and the Rumeli Hisari Castle next time I get to Istanbul as well. There is so much to see and do.

  4. Lora by Lora August 23, 2017 at 1:34 am - Reply

    I have never been to Istanbul but always wanted to. Thanks for this informative posts. Great tips and ideas. xx
    Lora by Lora

  5. Rachelle Gordon August 23, 2017 at 4:32 am - Reply

    This is a pretty awesome and DETAILED post! I would love to visit the Hagia Sofia. The history alone is simply fascinating, and the building is stunning. It’s one of those buildings that is recognizable by SO many people. And I had no idea that you could see a Swirling Dervish! I always just assumed it was something from a Sound of Music song!

  6. Miranda Knudtson August 23, 2017 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    The breakfast at the Privato Cafe looked absolutely delicious! Princes’ islands sound interesting too.

  7. I went to Istanbul years ago. I really enjoyed seeing the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. I would love to go back to try more of the food!

  8. Indie Chick August 26, 2017 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    Turkey is one of my favorite countries to travel in! This is such a great, informative post for anyone visiting Istanbul. I like your food reccommendations and your photos are awesome!

  9. NieNie August 26, 2017 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    Istanbul looks so beautiful and interesting! I want to go some day!

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