I had an amazing holiday to Istanbul, and I was lucky to find a friend from Istanbul who told me about not just the tourist places but also the places that locals frequent, that gives you insight on the culture and lifestyle. I wanted to share my notes:
- Walking around in the old town reminded me of an unreal feeling like I am in a different world, far removed from the chaos of big cities.
- Istanbul is such a unique city, while you ride the boat on the Bosphorous, you see Asia on one side, and Europe on the other side, its quiet unreal!
- There is so much history and the architecture is magnificent. Some of the most stunning places are Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofya, Basilica Cistern, Suleiman Mosque.
- Shopping at Grand Bazaar is a fascinating experience. There are like 1000 stores and the place is a maze so you almost cannot find your way out. There are tiny stores with carpets, stain glass lamps, antiques, scarves, and so much more!
- The non-tourist places that take your breath away are the walk from Beskitas to Ortakoy, the city wall. Taksim Square is the young place hangout, full of shops and restaurants.
- My favorite experiences are sitting in a tea garden sipping apple tea or smoking hookah (or water pipe). The Old Town has the most peaceful tea garden. During the evening time, it gets packed and becomes the hangout!
- People are so friendly and warm. When you go around the old city, there are shopkeepers who try to lure you into the store and offer tea. While there is no malice, they try to pressurize you buy something from them and its a bit hard to say no. But as long as you can still be friendly but say a firm no, it should be fine.
- It is so easy to go around the city, you can use the tram to get around. The boat is also a fun way to go around the city.
- Be careful using the cab though. Some of the cabs have meters that are tampered with, they may overcharge. And although its a rare thing, we got cheated once, they took a 50 lira note and claimed its a 5 lira note. So we ended up paying a lot more than what it should be.