Ah Istanbul, what a beautiful city! With 17 million citizens Istanbul has something to offer to anyone. For me, it was the first time I visited Turkey and I wanted to do as much sightseeing as possible. In this second instalment of the TFE Travel Log, we focus on what to do in Istanbul.
As I didn’t have time to plan out my trip before hand, I had no Idea what to expect of the city. Luckily, I had enough people around me to give me advice on where to go and what to see. The one thing I did know before hand was that the city consists of two sides. The Bosphorus strait divides Istanbul into a European side and the Anatolian side. It is common for people in Istanbul to take the ferry to from side to another. I loved taking the ferry and enjoying the view while drinking Turkish tea.
A great place to start your tour of Istanbul is the Topkapı Palace. What a sight! The palace served as a main home for the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years. Every room is decorated lavishly and tells a different story, while the view at the top of the place is breathtaking. Inside the palace walls you can also find the Harem. The Harem was the home of the sultan’s mother, the concubines, the wives and the children of the sultan. It has more than 400 rooms. All in all it is interesting peak into the history of the Ottoman Empire.
The hipsters have also taken over this city and they even have their own district. In Karaköy you can find cute little cafes and restaurants. In fact, it doesn’t matter to which café you go. They’re all great and cozy. Just take a book with you and enjoy a cup of cappuccino with a carrot cake. Plus, you’ll easily find an English speaking person in this area
Another area that is full great bars and restaurant is the district of Beyoğlu. The heart of Beyoğlu is İstiklal Avenue. This popular avenue is 1.4 km long and leads all the way to Taksim Square. It has shopping boutiques, bars, restaurants, art galleries and even a high school. The buildings are breathtaking and İstiklal Avenue was once called the Paris of the East. In the area around of the avenue you’ll find enough great places to eat or have a nice drink. It can be hard to find a seat though as this area is one of the most popular areas to go out. At the heart of Beyoğlu, you can find the Galata Tower.
The areas I mentioned above are on the European side of Istanbul. However, the Anatolian side also has enough places worth visiting. Bağdat Avenue is a busy high street full stores and restaurants in the district of Kadıköy. Bağdat Avenue is 6 km long and you can easily spend hours and a lot of money there. I also couldn’t resists to do some shopping myself !
One of the highlights of my trip to Istanbul was the Princes’ Islands. With the ferry, it takes around 1,5 hours to go to any of the 4 islands. We went to Burgazada, which is the third largest island. As you take the first steps on the Island you’re overwhelmed with all the touristic stands, but once we’re past that we rented a bike and cycled around the island. We hardly saw any cars as the main way of transportation are horse carriages. From afar it looks fancy, but as I got closer to them, I realised that the horses weren’t all that healthy. I was also told that they’re treated badly. It saddened me to see the horses in the condition they were in and I decided I didn’t want to be part of that tourist attraction. Plus, I had no problem cycling and getting my exercise on! The uphill parts were challenging, but once you’re up there, you’ll realise the view was well worth all that difficult breathing! There are enough spots to sit down for a drink or to picnic. It takes around 1,5 hour to cycle around the Island and I enjoyed immensely.
In the one week I was there I have seen many interesting and beautiful places (e.g. Hagha Sofia, Grand Bazaar and Bebek). Yet, there is much more to see in Istanbul (Blue Mosque, Bosphorus Park and 1000 other cafes!). With 17 million inhabitants, this city has enough to offer everyone!