You can’t visit Istanbul without being drawn into its rich past, especially the striking remnants of the Ottoman Empire. Walking around the Topkapı or Dolmabahçe Palaces, for example, is like a journey through time to an era when Istanbul was the seat of powerful sultans and their harems.
Turkey has different food cultures and recipes in every one of its regions and Istanbul is where all this amazing tradition comes together in one place. From street food to the more upscale reinterpretation of the Turkish kitchen, you’ll can literally eat your way around the country in this city.
Almost every Istanbul neighborhood has its weekly bazaar, not to mention the Spice Bazaar where you’ll find everything imaginable. Fresh produce from the villages, Turkish sweets, endless varieties of cheeses and olives, and so much more entice enthusiastic foodies to Istanbul’s culinary bazaars.
Istanbul has some of Turkey’s most important art galleries and museums, that not only display artifacts pertaining to Turkey’s amazing history, but also exhibitions by renowned local and international artists. It’s also important to make time for two of Istanbul’s lesser known museums, which have exhibited the work of some of the world’s most important artists: the Sakıp Sabancı Museum and the Pera Museum.
There are plenty of hipsters in Istanbul just like everywhere else in the world, and their entrepreneurial spirit has made way for some great concept stores, cafes, and cocktail bars, which can mainly be found around the cool neighborhoods like Galata, Karaköy, and Arnavutköy. Just wander around these places to really get a sense of the local culture, far removed from the city’s tourist hubs.
With so much history to its name, there are also plenty of antiques in Istanbul that are a dream come true for rummagers. The Çukurcuma neighborhood is filled with antique shops, while the Museum of Innocence is a fantastic showcase of Istanbul during the 1970s, exuding the purest of nostalgia.
Apart from the imperial Ottoman architecture all around Istanbul, you’ll also find the remarkable remnants of the Byzantine Empire. From the Chora Church to the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul’s Byzantine past is always palpable at every turn.
We can’t talk about Istanbul without mentioning the Bosphorus, the famous strait that separates Europe from Asia. Take a Bosphorus cruise to really experience the water as well as amazing views of the city, or reserve a table at one of the city’s iconic seafood restaurants that look out over the water.
The hamam experience is top notch in Istanbul and places like the Hürrem Sultan Hamamı and the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı offer the Turkish Bath with a touch of luxury. Make sure to book your treatment and indulge in being scrubbed down and then washed in a cloud of fragrant soap.
From international designer shops in the Nişantaşı neighborhood to the Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s largest covered bazaars, Istanbul has plenty of shopping options for every budget. Of course food shopping is also on the list when you’re in Istanbul including colorful neighborhood markets selling everything from fresh fish to pickled vegetables.
The fact that there’s always something new to discover in Istanbul makes this city undeniably exciting. So you’ve seen the Topkapı Palace but what about the Küçüksu Kasrı on the Asian Side? Or the city’s former land walls dating to the Byzantine Empire? There’s plenty of lesser known sights just waiting to be discovered.