Shop Shop

Istanbul City Guide & Tips

Posted in Turkey
Istanbul City Guide & Tips

Turkey has been one of those peculiar countries that has always sort of confused me. Whilst at university, in my Middle East courses, we always associated modern-day Turkey as part of Europe. In those historical classes, what is the landmass of modern day Turkey played a major role in the Islamic world. Istanbul, in particular, was at the heart of the Silk Roads taking spices from the East to the West and good from West to the East. With the strategy location on the Bosphorus peninsula between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean—Istanbul has been associated with major political and religious events for more than 2,000 years and still today. And with that came the historical gems established as the ancient Hippodrome of Constantine, the 6th-century Hagia Sophia and the 16th-century Süleymaniye Mosque.

Istanbul City Guide & Tips
Istanbul City Guide & Tips
Istanbul City Guide & Tips

Istanbul City Guide with Context Travel

I partnered with Context Travel for this post to bring to you an Istanbul city guide. A few weeks before my trip last week, I sent them an email to let them know of my background and what I would like to gain out of the tour. For me, it was to understand Istanbul today in a historical context. What role has Istanbul played in the past that has shaped its identity and place in the world today?

Context Travel put together a unique Istanbul city guide and tour just for me and my tour guide and I, Ebru—walked around for 7 hours wandering every little nook of the old city. Gaining perspective, sharing stories and admiring the city on foot. If you’re a history buff like me, you would particularly enjoy it. This Istanbul city guide was supported by Context Travel.

Istanbul City Guide & Tips
Istanbul City Guide & Tips
Istanbul City Guide & Tips

Istanbul City Guide // The Tour

We started with The Blue Mosque from the outside as most of it is under refurbishment and renovations with the Hippodrome and Basilica Cistern on the way to the grand Hagia Sophia.

We then took a tram to Kabatas and a funicular to Taksim Square. Where modern history took its course. This square is a symbol for what Istanbul and border Turkey is experiencing today. Once a place to congregate has become a political tool to showcase the agenda of the government. Finally, we took a walk down to the water and grabbed a ferry to the Asian side to Kadikoy. Where we fell in love with the city’s skyline and saw the juxtaposition of old and new Istanbul.

The tour ended on the Asian side of the city in Kadikoy. A vibrant place where young professionals and creatives live. The market was a great place to understand society and everyday life. Embracing the nuances, we ended up with a pide and beer at a table the shared a side walk with a Turkish coffee shop, fruit stand and the many people going about their day per usual. An Istanbul city guide is not complete with a walk through history!

Istanbul City Guide & Tips

Noteworthy Places

Krependeki Imroz • one of the oldest meyhanes {taverns} on the street, its notorious for its long leisurely meals with endless glasses of milky raki {Turkish anise-flavored liquor}. We ordered a few vegetarian sides and then a big plate of mixed meat kebabs and we sat there people watching, catching up and laughing.

Lonca Store • Through the winding maze that is the Grand Bazaar a store pops up that feels slightly out of place, but also in place. Lonca celebrates everything that is wonderful about Turkish goods from towels to soaps and essential oil to candles and tea. Made all natural, all high quality and all so beautifully packaged and place. We grabbed a few Turkish towels here to enjoy this summer.

Haci Bekir • if you’re looking for confectionaries of all kinds and all flavors and the traditional too, then Haci Bekir is the place to go. We grabbed little rose and cinnamon flavored candies, hazelnut Turkish delights and pistachio halva to satisfy my sweet tooth. Don’t be too nervous about asking for a tasting before you commit. Go for a variety pack of Turkish delights to enjoy the range!

Istanbul City Guide & Tips
Istanbul City Guide & Tips
Istanbul City Guide & Tips
Istanbul City Guide & Tips

Noteworthy Places, continued…

Büyük Valide Han • Between the Spice and Grand Bazaars, you’re told about a beautiful place where you were once able to enjoy a view of the city. Up a winding staircase and you’re walking through a building that looks like it’s crumbling, but smell the aromas of teas and coffee and clinking of artists working on masterpieces. It’s a paradise for the creatives and young, conventional artists.

Saray Muhallebicisi • The window will definitely lure you in with all the baklavas lined up and just goo-ing with syrup and pistachio filled goodness. It’s a 7 floor haven for anyone looking to get away from the mayhem that is Istiklal for a bit and seek refuge. Not once did we visit this place {yes, visited more than one time} and had something savory. We went for the puddings and a few small pieces of baklava.

Saray Pide Ve Lahmacun • According to our Context Travel guide, Pide is always best topped with lemon juice and some parsley. A pide is a flatbread topped with all sorts of bits. We had a little teaser of a pide on the Asian side in Kadikoy, but really wanted to enjoy them for dinner with beers on our last night. We searched and everything in our vicinity was way too commercialized, so we walked off the beaten track at found this place!

Istanbul City Guide & Tips
Istanbul City Guide & Tips

Tips

  • Try to enjoy Istanbul by foot as much as possible and if that’s not an option, the metro is a great way to explore because it’s not underground. 1 pre-paid card is good for as many people as you’d like, so each person doesn’t need their own.
  • I wore mostly midi dresses and carried/wore a jacket and a scarf will do to cover your shoulders.
  • The local bus doors close way too quickly, so prepare to jump out when exiting the bus!
  • Drink the Turkish coffees and mint teas! You won’t be disappointed.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for clarification. We found people were the kindest in Istanbul!
  • If you’re on a layover in Istanbul, contact Context Travel and they’ll be able to put together a thorough tour for you!
  • Be sure to check if you need a Turkish visa. This can be done online or at the airport and only costs $20.
  • Beware of the hills. I had zero idea that the city would be so hilly! Take proper walking shoes with good grips.
  • Ferry across the Bosphorus is the cheapest and easiest way to enjoy the skyline.

Do you have anything to add to this Istanbul city guide?

Istanbul City Guide & Tips
Istanbul City Guide & Tips

What I Wore

dress c/o BODEN flats c/o BODEN jumpsuit c/o NEXT suede jacket c/o NEXT flats JOSEFINA’S shop THE BOUTIQUE

Istanbul City Guide & Tips
Istanbul City Guide & Tips