An underestimated metropolis, that has much more to offer than kebabs and mosques. I fell in love with Istanbul the first minute I stepped out of the taxi. It was a hot day, about 29 degrees, but the salty Bosporus wind welcomed me with a fresh breeze. After the check-in, I went up to the roof terrace of the hotel, to get a first look over the city and enjoy my first Turkish mocha coffee.
After I could get a first impression of the impressive size of the city and fit as a fiddle because of the Turkish mocha, I couldn’t wait but hit the streets of Istanbul.
A hot spot is the area around the “old town,” where you will find must-sees like the Hagia Sophia, a special place for Muslims and Christians a like.
Just around the corner you will find the cisterna basilica, the atmosphere down there alone was worth the visit. The famous Topkapi palace is in short walking distance. It was residence of all Ottoman rulers and is twice as big as the Vatican, so you will need a bit of time here. If you love street markets, Istanbul could become your favorite place in Europe. The Grand Bazaar is overwhelming, you will get pushed around, you will bargain for everything, but you will have a fun time, too. For food-lovers there is the Spice market and Besiktas market, which is famous for ottoman jewelry.
My best buy was a hammam towel; you also find them at shopping centres like Globus for CHF 129, I paid 15 TL (about 5CHF), for an original Turkish hammam towel (bamboo wool, mind you). And while we are at it, visit a hammam, it’s an amazing experience. My choice was the three hundred year old Cagaloglu bath. A day before my departure I relaxed on a five to five meter memoir gallery, got washed, scrubbed, massaged – all surrounded by an atmosphere of tradition and history.
If you are looking for some pool fun, or a relief of the city’s hustle, there is Suada 360, a beach club on Galatasaray Island with a salt-water pool, build in the middle of the Bosporus. Beach club music, sun beds, cocktails… do I have to say more? A boat will take you from Kurucesme to the island and back.
Istanbul is a sea of lights at nights. Dinner places with the nicest views are:
Sunset Grill & Bar: amazing location and the food was great as well. They also have a nice cocktail bar, but Ulus 29 is just up the street and is famous for its vibrant terrace bar. The unrivaled nightlife queen, however, is without doubt REINA. Located right at the river, this three-floor dinner and club paradise is perfect for dinner and drinks on a Saturday. Housing six restaurants and a club right at the middle of it all is a celebrity hot spot and outstanding party location. When I entered Reina at 8pm for a nice lovely dinner by the river, I didn’t imagine me dancing on the tables just 5 hours later.
But with all those places to visit and see, don’t forget to stroll the streets at night, sit down get a water pipe and a glass of tea and simply enjoy the people and the atmosphere of this extraordinary city.
P.S.: Take a taxi, I always had a fun time. Although many taxi drivers do not speak English, you always get where you want to. Plus, a local tour guide and a crash course in Turkish.