No trip to Istanbul is complete without looking out over the Bosphorus as you walk for hours, moving from one neighborhood to the next, gazing at the buildings and people, and reveling in the city’s daily life. The Bosphorus promenade is a long stretch that goes from around the Kuruçeşme neighborhood all the way to Emirgan. On the way, you’ll see many beautiful Ottoman-era mansions, cool boutiques, restaurants, and cafés where you’ll want to make a stop, museums (most notably the Sakıp Sabancı Museum), and of course plenty of amazing views of the Bosphorus.
If you’re looking to get away from the city for a day or two, then take a ferry and head to one of the islands. Büyükada is the most popular, and due to its large size, you’ll easily be able to wander off to more remote corners where you’ll be alone with nature, historic Ottoman mansions, and beautiful views of the sea. The smaller islands of Heybeliada and Burgazada are also great destinations where you can also get happily lost among the many streets and where you’ll come across a quiet café in the shade of a tree, or a beautiful mansion that you’ll definitely want to photograph. Bikes can also be rented on the islands, so you don’t always have to walk.
If you want to gaze at Istanbul from a whole different angle, then head to the Asian side and stroll down the Moda promenade, where you can sit on one of the big rocks on the beach and look at the European side. Moda is definitely one of Kadıköy’s coolest neighborhoods, so when you’re done walking down the beach promenade, make your way into the neighborhood (especially Moda Caddesi) to check out all the great cafés, restaurants, galleries, and boutiques that the very young Moda has on offer.
The Balat and Fener neighborhood is a great place to really wander the streets and get lost among the many beautiful historic apartments with their colorful facades and ornate decorations. You’ll come across historic churches and the stunning Fener High School, as well as the cafés, vintage shops, and restaurants opened up by young people that have made the historic neighborhood their new home.
If you’re interested in seeing some of Istanbul’s coolest neighborhoods and spending a lot of time making stops at cool boutiques, galleries, and cafés, then make your way to the Karaköy neighborhood, make your way up Boğazkesen Street, and make a right into Çukurcuma Street to explore the antique shops of the Çukurcuma neighborhood (as well as the Museum of Innocence). You’ll end up making your way all the way to Cihangir, where you can finish the tour with a delicious meal at Datlı Maya, where the Anatolian dishes are made from fair and organic ingredients.