Istanbul through the eyes of a local

Istanbul through the eyes of a local

Istanbul is located in two parts of the world – Europe and Asia. Representatives of the five greatest empires fought for this city – Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman. Istanbul used to be the official capital of Turkey, but is now considered a tourist capital.

Veronica Gordon moved to Istanbul recently, but has already managed to fall in love with it and get to know it well. In this article, she will share her favorite places and useful notes about life in a city at the junction of two continents.

Which area to choose for living

Istanbul through the eyes of a local

Istanbul is a metropolis with a population of 15 million, so to book a hotel or apartment, choose the central areas of the city where the main attractions are concentrated: Sultanahmet, Eminonu, Sirkici, Bayazit, Grand Bazaar.

Istanbul through the eyes of a local

Interesting excursions from local residents in Istanbul

Sultanahmet – a tranquil area where Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Roksolana Baths and the Archaeological Museum are located.

The quarter Sirkeci is located just below Sultanahmet towards the Bosphorus. This is a quiet area with a beautiful Gülhane Park, which offers beautiful views of the strait.

Sirkeci is adjacent to the area Eminonu, where the pier is located – from here ships with tourists on board go on excursions along the Bosphorus. Nearby is the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, the second largest market in Istanbul after the Grand Bazaar.

V Bayazit is the most profitable place to change money and rent housing, and besides, the area is relatively close to the center.


hotel 2* Antique Hostel – accommodation from 755 rubles/day;
hotel 3* Kupeli Palace Hotel – accommodation from 2,780 rubles/day;
hotel 3* Grand Peninsula hotel – accommodation from 2,147 rubles/day;
4* hotel Acra Hotel – accommodation from 5,182 rubles/day;
4* Hotel Sapphire – accommodation from 3,762 rubles/day;
5* hotel Fer Hotel – accommodation from 8,220 rubles/day;
5* hotel Ajwa Hotel Sultanahmet – accommodation from 16,427 rubles/day.

On the other side of the Bosphorus, there is the Beyoğlu district, which is suitable for lovers of bars, discos and nightlife.

Istanbul through the eyes of a local

Galata– the oldest and most cosmopolitan quarter with a special charm. Walking here is a pleasure, and the cheapest souvenirs are sold here. Get to the Galata Tower – the symbol of the city. At the top of the tower there is a restaurant and an observation deck, which offers a magnificent panorama of the ancient city. Advice: go to the tower early in the morning, as later you will have to wait in a rather long line.

Not far from Galata there is a quarter Taksim, where traffic does not stop even at night. Hotels in this area are especially popular among tourists who come to Istanbul for work.


hotel 2* Bunk Hostel – accommodation from 961 rubles/day;
hotel 3* Hotel The Pera Hill – accommodation from 2,528 rubles/day;
3* hotel Pera Luna Residence – accommodation from 3,890 rubles/day;
4* hotel Mr Cas Hotel – accommodation from 5,669 rubles/day;
4* hotel Mercure Istanbul Taksim – accommodation from 6,325 rubles/day;
5* hotel Daru Sultan Hotels Galata – accommodation from 6,095 rubles/day;
5* hotel The Galata Istanbul Hotel – accommodation from 7 830 rubles/day.

What you need to know if you are in Istanbul for the first time

  • When going for a walk by the sea, take a bun or bread with you to feed the seagulls that will fly after the ship.
  • Do not take photographs of people praying without their permission – it is prohibited by law.
  • If you plan to travel by taxi frequently, download the BiTaksi application, where you can find out the exact cost of the trip in advance. If you catch a taxi on the street, it is better to sit with taxi drivers whose meter is screwed on top, where the mirror is, and not below. The one below can be “twisted” – you’ll get there for double the cost.
  • Keep cash and change with you just in case, because some historical sites do not accept card payments.

How to save money in Istanbul

Istanbul through the eyes of a local

For museum lovers, I advise you to buy a Museum Pass Istanbul, which will allow you to enter museums without queuing (and in the high tourist season you can wait for more than one hour to enter the museum) and the fact that with it you will be able to save significantly. A card valid for five days costs 185 liras (2,323 rubles).

Museums where the Istanbul Museum Card is valid:

1. Hagia Sophia.
2. Topkapi Palace and Harem.
3. Archaeological Museum.
4. Mosaic Museum.
5. Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art.
6. Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam.
7. Chora Museum.
8. Galata Mevlevi.
9. Yildiz Palace.
10. Rumeli Khysar fortress.
11. Fethiye Museum.

For travel on public transport, buy Istanbulkart – an electronic travel card to pay for trips on the metro, tram, bus, metrobus, vapura (small boat) and funicular. It costs 6 lira and can be replenished by any amount. If the cost of one trip is 4 liras, then with a card it is only 2.30 liras. Istanbulkart is sold in special machines near bus stops, at the airport, and in newsstands.

If you plan to pay by card in Istanbul, then before your trip you can apply for cashback on your bank card.

With Sberbank cards you can withdraw liras without commission from Deniz bank until the end of the year. Conversion of rubles into dollars is carried out automatically.

To see all the variety of Turkish sweets and taste them for free, go to the Misir Carsisi market, which is located in the Eminonu district – here the sellers will gladly treat you.

Where to eat

Istanbul through the eyes of a local

Breakfast. For breakfast, go to Sariyer – the quietest area of ​​the city with a beautiful coastline, from where fishermen go to sea every morning. See where the Bosphorus ends and the waters of the Black Sea begin.

Have breakfast at Lokma (Yahya Kemal Cad, 12), Les Ottomans Hotel (Muallim Naci Cd, 68) or Hisar Café&Restaurant (Yahya Kemal Caddesi, 26), and then take a look at one of the markets in the area, where they sell fish that swam in the sea this morning.

Lunch.In the Sultanahmet area, go to the restaurant on the roof of the Seven Hills Hotel (Tevkifhane Sokak, 8), from where there is an excellent view of the Bosphorus, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Be sure to try the shrimp with vegetables and Turkish coffee. For lunch, you can also choose Ulus Cafe (Besiktas, Adnan Saygun Cd, 71/B), surrounded by greenery. It is better to book a table in advance and ask for a first-level view (that is, closer to the Bosphorus) – the influx of tourists there is huge.

I advise you to go up to the restaurant of the Intercontinental Hotel (Taksim, Asker Ocagi Cad, 1) with panoramic windows from which you will see the whole of Istanbul.

Dinner. In the evening, Turks, as a rule, do not have a big dinner, but choose places where they can drink tea or coffee and eat ice cream. Chain cafes are perfect for this – Mado, Divan, Alaçati Muhallebicisi, Saray Muhallebicisi, Kahve Dünyasi, Simit Saray, Happy Moons, Midpoint.

What you should definitely try from Turkish fast food

Istanbul through the eyes of a local

Make your opinion about freshly squeezed fruit juices, roasted chestnuts (kestane), boiled corn (misir), bagels with sesame seeds (simit).

Simit or gevrek– a buttery bread ring covered with sesame seeds. Prepared in various variations, for example, with cheese or Nutella.

Islak Hamburger – hamburger with minced meat and a lot of sauce.

Kumpir – baked potatoes, cut into two halves, with butter, cheese and various fillings of meat and vegetables. Be sure to order sausages and Russian salad (mayonnaise salad with potatoes, carrots, peas and pickles).

Tavuk Pilav – rice with butter and chicken breast.

Dürüm – a version of our shawarma: thin slices of meat, cut from a rotating spit, wrapped together with vegetables in pita bread. Sometimes melted Turkish kashar cheese is also added. Can also be with chicken, lamb and liver.

Tantuni (Tantuni)– the same as durum, only with beef. Served with yoghurt.

Kokoreç – spicy lamb offal roasted on a spit. Served as a sandwich or simply with a side dish.

Chi-köfte (Çig köfte) – vegetarian spicy cutlets made from bulgur, tomato paste and olive oil. The most suitable drink for this dish is ayran.

Lahmacun – Turkish pizza with minced meat and spices.

Gözleme – flat bread with filling inside, often with cheese and spinach.

Kagit Helva – cookies with condensed milk.

Balyk Ekmek – fried fish fillet with onions, salad and vegetables, seasonings is placed in halves of a loaf or pita bread.

Mussel dolma (Midye Dolma) – mussels stuffed with rice, currants and pine nuts.

Pide – shaped like a boat of dough with minced meat or egg and cheese.

What else to do in Istanbul

Istanbul through the eyes of a local

The fastest and most comfortable way to see the city is to go on a tour on a comfortable double-decker bus. You will be taken to the most interesting places and told legends and interesting facts about the city.

Take time to visit the Maiden Tower (Kyz Kulesi), which is located in the middle of the Bosphorus and is one of the symbols of Istanbul. According to legend, the tower on this site was built back in 400 BC, when Athens fought with Sparta. Initially, the structure was wooden, burned many times when countless wars broke out, and managed to be a lighthouse, a prison, an isolation ward during cholera epidemics, a restaurant, concerts and exhibitions were held here. Now the tower has an observation deck, a restaurant and a cafe. It’s best to come here in the evening just before sunset to see the sun touch the horizon.

Istanbul through the eyes of a local

In addition to the embankment near the Maiden Tower, you can spend the sun sleeping standing on the Galata Bridge, on the embankment in the Kadikoy area or in the park on Otagtepe Hill overlooking the Sultan Mehmed Fatih Bridge over the Bosphorus. You will not see such sunsets in any other city – the sky turns fiery orange at sunset.

For fans of classic detective stories, I advise you to go to Sirkeci Station – the final station of the famous Orient Express train arriving here from Paris. Sitting at the station, you can imagine that the famous detective Hercule Pauro or Agatha Christie, who once sought inspiration here for writing “Murder on the Orient Express,” is about to peep around the corner. By the way, the author created part of the detective story in the Pera Palace Hotel, which is located in the Taksim area.

In the Asian part of the city, visit the summer residence of the sultans – the Beylerberei Palace, built in the 19th century, with an interior in a traditional Ottoman style and an abundance of luxury.

Tourists and locals go to the suburb of Istanbul, the city of Sile, for excellent beaches on the Black Sea and solitude. Golden sand, a gentle sea, sometimes bordered by picturesque rocky cliffs, ruins of ancient fortresses scattered along the coast and charming seaside vegetation create an invigorating landscape.

The Adalara region in the Sea of ​​Marmara is an archipelago consisting of four islands: Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada, Kinaliada. Any of them is a good place to visit because of its special atmosphere. The islands “breathe” differently and give peace and tranquility, the opportunity to swim and sunbathe, see ancient mansions with unique facades, flowering trees and horses and carts. I myself recommend taking a closer look at the island of Heybeliada. It is better to go here on weekdays. On weekends, like any other place, there are a lot of tourists. Travel on the islands is limited to bicycles, horse-drawn carriages and electric vehicles.

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