As many people from all around the world notice, Istanbul keeps adding to her popularity each year. 2014 was yet another great year both for Istanbul and Turkey in general. At this point, Istanbul is the 3rd most visited city in Europe, right behind Paris and London, and 7th in the world. If that doesn’t say something, what does?
So how about 2015? What are some of the most exciting travel activities you could partake while you’re visiting this majestic city? There are countless resources you could use to get advice on this but we thought we should prepare a list ourselves and as always, make it ‘The Other Tour’ style…
CIHANGIR: THE ARTSY BACKSTREETS OF TAKSIM
Cihangir has been the rising star of Istanbul for a long time and it gets noticed by many travelers as new cafes and bars pop up all around the neighborhood. Renting an apartment in Cihangir has also been a very good idea as many people list their places on sites like AirBnb and such. And who could blame them? The area is full of good energy, great people and the cutest little antique shops and art galleries that give you a lot to enjoy and learn, simply by walking around.
On top of all that (literally and figuratively), some of the best rooftop bars and restaurants are also in the area. Our favorite is 5.Kat which offers THE best view of Bosphorus and the city. If you are not particularly into rooftops (and that’s just weird), there are many other cool venues you could enjoy such as 21 which has a fantastic vibe and quite delicious food or White Mill, which has an awesome backyard and a unique atmosphere.
Cihangir doesn’t much to offer in terms of late night entertainment. For that, we go to our next recommendation.
ASMALI MESCIT aka PERA
All the day from Galata Tower until half way through Istiklal Avenue and all the cool backstreets in the area is considered to Asmalı Mescit. Or Pera, the ancient Greek word for ‘across’ because the area is right across Galata. Anyway… this fun region offers a lot of cool things like intriguing architecture, lovely food, dozens of cafes and bars, bookshops, art galleries, street performets and cool views of the mesmerising Golden Horn.
Some of our recommendations include, trying the mojito at Parantez which is delicious AND cheap. Or the turkish coffee on the rooftop bar of London Hotel. Or the tomato soup in Helvetia.
EMIRGAN AND KANLICA
These two neighborhoods rarely get any foreign visitors and what a shame that is. We often spend time there during The Other Tour and even though I don’t wanna reveal much about the precious formula, I gave to put this out there.
These are 2 wonderful neighborhoods on Northern Bosphorus. Emirgan is one European side and Kanlıca is on Asia. And how can you go from one to another? With cute little water taxis that only take about 5 mins and charges you 5 Lira per person. Emirgan has nice cafes and restaurants while Kanlıca has the famous yoghurt. And let’s not forget the Emirgan Park which may be the most beautiful park in the whole city.
I don’t want to share further simply because I don’t want to. But I have given you the magic words. Look it up and go spend some time there – you’re gonna love it!
DEEP INTO KADIKÖY
A lot of people are aware of how cool Kadıköy is and how much it has to offer at this point. However, I still want to point out a few cool ideas about it. Like exploring the backstreets through Barlar Sokağı and onto Moda district. Then making your way towards Bağdat Street. So many cool little shops, bars, restaurants, views of The Sea of Marmara, wonderful people, etc. are only some of the thing you should look forward to while you’re there.
And don’t forget to drink alcohol out on the streets. 3 reasons why I like that:
- It’s legal.
- It’s refreshing and cool.
- It’s alcohol, you don’t need any other reason.
THE OTHER TOUR
Well you might think I’m just another selfish businessman promoting my own product here and you wouldn’t be that far off but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. The Other Tour still is one of the best things you can do while you’re in Istanbul.
The tour runs 3 times a week (however we plan to do it every day in the near future) and consists of a variety of cultural activities such as visiting interesting but mostly untraveled neighborhoods, local schools where we interact with students and teachers, local streets markets where to sample local products, have a delicious lunch at our mother’s house, get a massage in an ancient Turkish bath, enjoy a boat cruise across Istanbul’s famous Bosphorus and have dinner and drinks in a traditional restaurant where we sing and dance.
OTHER HONORABLE MENTIONS
- Don’t miss The Mosque of Suleiman. Most people do and the they miss out on seeing THE BEST mosque in town. Yes, even better than the Blue Mosque.
- Chora Church is always a good idea.
- Anzac Centenary. For Australians, this year is the 100th anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli to sleep out under the stars as the original Anzacs did 100 years ago. It is going to be a time that will acknowledge the heroes and stories and the distinctive bond that has grown between those who live in Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. And there are daily trips to Gallipoli from Istanbul that conveniently gets you there and brings you back.
- If you’re short on time, you could actually take a day trip to Cappadocia. It could be a little pricey, but it would a such a nice gift both to yourself and whoever you’re going with.
- See a street market. We call them ‘pazar’ which means Sunday in Turkish. Because they used to be set up on weekends but today, they are there everywhere. But they also change location every day of the week so that they can go all around the city. You can see and taste some of the best products of Turkey in these markets.
BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY…
Go meet some locals. Seriously. Folks from Turkey are some of the most friendly and hospitable people in the world. Especially the ones in the areas mentioned above. And so many people are eager to interact with foreigners and maybe improve their English (which is the second language here) but they usually don’t get a chance. You can easily start a casual conversation by simply saying Hi. Try not to be so shy for God’s sake!!
I’m sure I didn’t include a lot of cool options on this list. Do you know of any cool ideas that would make me go back and update this post. If so, leave your comments below and force me into admitting that even “I” don’t know everything.
And as always, have an amazing time Istanbul. It’s highly likely anyways…