Istanbul is probably the most varied city I’ve ever had the chance to experience. You can find wealth and poverty, history and religion, nightlife and parties, churches and mosques; mosques, that used to be churches, and are museums now. To put it in a nutshell: Istanbul is always worth a stay regardless if it is for 3 days or weeks or months.
Of course the two main sights are obligatory to visit: Ayasofya and the Sultanahmet Camii (The Blue Mosque). Kapalı Çarşı, the Grand Bazaar, is an interesting experience. I, for myself, don’t like it that much since it is too crowded and too big. But you definitely have to see it once you’re there. Try to haggle and bargain as much as you can!
In my opinion though, there are much smaller and nicer bazaars in Istanbul. One of my favorites is the one in Beşiktaş, every Saturday. Go get some breakfast in the famous “breakfast street” in Beşiktaş and head to the market right after!
Another secret tip is to go find the “hidden rooftop” in Eminönü. Located on top of the workshops of the grand bazaars somewhere in Eminönu is this amazing abandoned rooftop with an breathtaking view of the Haliç (the Golden Horn), the New Mosque, the Bosphorus, the Galata bridge and tower. To describe the way there can be really hard, I won’t even try it. You should take someone with you who knows where it is and then go find the old man with the key who can open the big door with the small stairway up to the roof! You won’t regret it.
One of my favorite places in Istanbul is the café right at the Bosphorus in Üsküdar. You sit on steps with comfy pillows and blankets and watch the sunset and the most beautiful view – the famous skyline – of Istanbul. Kız kulesi (maiden tower), Ayasofya, Sultanahmet Mosque, and Topkapı Sarayı right in front of you.
Also, try to go to Rumeli Hisarüstü one day! It is a nice neighborhood and you should visit Boğaziçi Üniversitesi, its campus is beautiful! When you’re there, go down, take a stroll in Bebek at the Bosphorus and visit Rumeli Hisarı. The ruins itself is nice already, but the view of the Bosphorus on top of it is amazing!
Finally, always try talking to the locals! They are the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Their hospitality is great and they’ll always invite you in for a cup of çay.
Now it’s your turn to fall in love with Istanbul.
Photo Credits: Didier Baertschiger