My dear Istanbul
You're bleeding and I'm screaming
You're suffering and I'm powerless
You're hurting and I'm crying
You are beauty and authenticity, you are messy and kind, you are loud and fun.
You are so disorganized and yet so charming, you are as frustrating as you are enchanting.
You are the city between two continents, you are the Bosphorus and its fishermen, the dolphins and the ships, the simits and the baklava, the sound of ezan and house music.
You are constant contrast.
The place where the East and the West meet, argue, love and kiss.
You wear the veil and sexy high heels.
I hear you can be violent and dangerous but I've only seen you helpful and big hearted.
I met my husband in your suburb, I danced in your streets, I kissed on your funky sidewalks, I laid down on your beaches, I gave birth to my children in your center, I hugged in your airport...
You're my home.
And seeing you suffer makes my heart cry.
Deep deep inside of me, a little voice, I think her name is Hope, she's whispering: "don't be afraid".
With all my love
I've been living in Istanbul for 8years and a half now. Even though I would love to move just because life is short and I'm ready to experience a new life style somewhere else, Istanbul is the city where I became an adult, where I met the most amazing people, the city that offered me so much, and it will always have a special place in my heart.
I cherish Istanbul so much that I wanted my first post to be about this gorgeous place.
I know that the news make Istanbul look as dangerous as can be. I know that all those attacks keep tourists away.. and that's exactly what they want. They want to damage the economy of this amazing country, they want to scare us.
Let's not give in! Let's be strong together and show the world how life goes on and how Istanbul keeps on being beautiful and fascinating.
Come visit. There are many many extraordinary things to see in this city but I made a little selection of what I think is a 'must do' while you're here. I hope you will enjoy this mini guide, which is designed so you hit the touristy spots but also the fun local places where you'll experience the true Istanbul.
Where to stay: SULTANAHMET
Why: Because it is the historical center and from there you will be able to go around the old city and take the tram 🚋 to kabatas along the bosphorus (Kabatas is close to other great things to see in the city and is also the place where you could take a ferry ⛴ to go to the islands)
What to see:
-The blue mosque (short visit, be careful not to go during the prayer, it is closed to tourists then)
-St Sophia/ Hagia Sophia (plan about an hour and a half visit or more for those of you who like to take their time)
-Yerebatan cistern (short visit, beautiful and very mystical)
-Topkapi palace (very big place, about 3hours needed...at least! Gorgeous palace, beautiful view and it will give you all sort of infos about the Ottoman Empire)
-Istanbul archaeological museums (plan at least 3 hours)
The application GetGo Audio Tours by Tuba Guvelioglu will tell you all about the history behind the places you'll visit in Sultanahmet. It's informative, fun, the music is great and it's on your phone (plus, you'll get the audio guide tour of Hagia sofia for free).
Download it, you'll thank me later 😉
What to do:
-Shop in the grand bazaar. The Turkish name is Kapali Carsi, plan 2 to 3hours and eat there at havuzlu restaurant.
It is one of the most amazing place to shop, jewelry, leather, lamps, scarfs, spices, lokums, carpets, all these are fantastic quality and even the locals go there to do their shopping.
Don't forget to bargain, bargain a lot, if they get mad that means you went too far 😄.
If you're looking for a beautiful carpet, the best place to look for one is Hakan Evin's shop (just tell his name to anybody and they will show you the way, they all know each other in there!! )
If it's jewellery you want there are plenty of places, I like Sim design, in kalpakcilar street, it's affordable and you'll find very beautiful pieces.
-Go to the hamam. There's nothing better to relax and it is quite an experience, a must do if you ask me. You can get the scrubbing/massage and your skin will be like new... be ready though,it is not the soft massage you may be used to.
You can get to Taksim by taking the tram from Sultanahmet to Kabatas and then what we call the 'funikuler' (it is an underground tram) up to Taksim square, from there you will go down the street called Istiklal caddesi. Or if you feel like doing a little sport, get off the tram in Karakoy and go up the really steep hill all the way to Galata and then Istiklal caddesi.
What to see:
-Galata tower. Gorgeous view and nice neighbourhood
-St Antoine church. The biggest Roman Catholic church in Istanbul
What to do:
-Galata bridge and the neighbourhood of Karakoy. Lots of fishermen and a fun atmosphere where you can find new restaurants in old buildings.
-Beyoglu is a great place to have something to eat or drink, it's a very young, animated and full of nice cafes, restaurants and bars.
-Walk on istiklal caddesi. As you walk down or up the street keep in mind to look up so you don't miss the beautiful architecture of some of the buildings. Also look left and right, there are little passages, go check them out. They are super cute and you'll find gift shops (Atlas pasaji, Avrupa pasaji, Aznavur pasaji), fish restaurants (Cicek pasaji) and second hands books (Aslihan pasaji). Basically keep your eyes wide open while you walk on this street 'cause there are surprises everywhere.
-Cezayir sokak (also called the French street), it's a cute, colourful and steep street, perfect to have a little romantic coffee/dinner. They also have fun bars where you can listen to live music. It's 5 /10minutes walk from the main paved street called Istiklal caddesi, very close to the high school called Galatasaray (Galatasaray lisesi).
-Go to a beautiful restaurant with a spectacular view, to name a few: 360 Istanbul, Mikla, Le fumoir.
Note: During the day and in the evening it's a fantastic neighborhood, after midnight be more careful, and New Year eve in Taksim is a big no no!!
If you have the money and enjoy luxurious hotels (who doesn't??) you could plan to stay at Ciragan palace Kempinski in Besiktas, it is absolutely gorgeous.
What to see:
-Dolmabahce palace, (only if you have time) plan on visiting it in the morning and eat by the Bosphorus at their little cafe.
-Bosphorus tour, they have tours departing from Ortakoy, it lasts an hour and it's always nice to be on the Bosphorus.
What to do:
-Ortakoy, MUST DO! My personal favorite. (Take the tram to kabatas, arrived there take a cab, very short drive, you could even walk if you felt like it, about 30minutes walk.) It is right under the first bridge. Apart from the mosque that is small but beautiful there isn't much to visit but the whole neighborhood is cute and quite an experience.
Go there hungry please, this is part of the fun, you should try all their delicious food
Street food: -Kumpir (potato filled with whatever you want)
-Gozleme (sort of crepe filled with what you'd like, cheese, meat or spinach), very tasty.
-Waffles, you cannot leave Ortakoy without eating a waffle, they are just the best!! (you choose the filling and can put in banana, kiwi, strawberries and all the chocolates, almonds and other delicious stuff you can think of)
Restaurants: -Manti Evi, if you want to seat in a small traditional Turkish restaurant 'Manti evi ' is your place. I would advise you to order everything to share, try the manti (sort of ravioli), cig borek, etli dolma, the eggplant salad and a lentil soup, it's all homemade and delicious 😋. (don't over eat, you still need to eat a waffle outside ;) )
-House cafe if you like stylish and classy places. It is more expensive but they do have great food, a beautiful view and a bigger and more international menu.
If you have more time (if you stay more than 4 full days)
BEBEK. Walk around the neighbourhood, it is by the Bosphorus and there are many different restaurants. It is quite a fun place at night where you can have a romantic dinner or a drink in one of the bars you'll find there. Many people speak english there and if you want to spot some turkish celebrities Bebek would be your best bet 😎
RUMELI FORTRESS I think going there in the morning and have breakfast in one of the restaurants by the fortress is a great idea.
You'll be seating across the Bosphorus and can enjoy your delicious breakfast before you go visit the fortress ( great view ). Later on take a walk along the sea.
Here are my breakfast suggestions: -menemen ( tomatoes, green pepper and scrambled kind of eggs)
-sucuklu eggs (kind of a spicy sausage with eggs)
- olives, cucumbers and tomatoes on the side are a must.
-cheese and simit along with a spinach or cheese borek ( pastry).
Yes that's a lot of food!! that's why you're going to walk after your breakfast 😉
PIERRE LOTI. It's a neighbourhood situated towards the end of the golden horn. There's a teleferique that will take you to the view point and the cafes. (very good food: gozleme and manti, nice fruit juices and traditional turkish tea and coffee ).
You should go back down walking through the cemetery and visit the mosque.
I really like this part of the city as I find it very different, more traditional and exotic in some ways.
If you have kids,👫👭👬 not far from Pierre Loti is Miniaturk, Koc museum and Vialand, hop on a taxi and go check them out.
THE ISLANDS. My favorite is Burgaz ada. Take the ferry or the fast boat from Kabatas.
No cars are allowed on the islands so jump on a horse carriage and go discover one of these relaxing and charming islands. Enjoy the day far from the city center, have some fish and homemade ice cream, get tanned and breath the fresh air.
Food tips 😋
I'm not the best cook but I'm a fantastic eater!! I looove food and I truly think it's a way to travel and experience the country you're in. Turkish food offers such variety you just need to try as many dishes as you can.
If you're a little scared to try new things, here are the safe choices:
-Instead of a pizza, have a pide or a lamahcun,
-Switch the burger to some good kofte
-Get a kebab durum
-Have a balik ekmek (literarily fish in a bread)
-Try the sticky ice cream and mozaik cake for dessert
If you feel a little more adventurous go for:
-Iskender kebab (lamb meat on bread with yogurt and tomatoes sauce)
-Imam bayildi (eggplant stuffed with veggies)
-Dolma (bell pepper or zucchini stuffed with rice and meat sometimes)
-Meze (all sort of cold appetisers, great for vegetarians) try baklali enginar (the best way to eat an artichoke)
-Sis kebab (grilled meat on a stick)
-Mercimek kofte (lentil based)
-If you have a sweet tooth, baklava is a must, lokum, sutlac (milk based sort of pudding) and pumpkin dessert (called kabak tatlisi)
-Profiteroles, I know it is French! I should know, I'm French, but even if it's not typically Turkish I like the way they make them here. It is quite different than the french style so I think you should try and tell me what you think 😉
I hope you'll love this city and its people as much as I do.
Hi there, I'm Pascaline, a french expat in Istanbul. I'm a traveler, an artist at heart and I have a toddler and twins running around my house. My hubby is Superman and is pretty busy flying around the world. When I have a little bit of time I day dream, try to explore foreign places and most of all I try to better myself everyday and grow into the person I would like to be.