Each city claims to be unique, but Istanbul is truly unique. No other city in the world spans two continents, after all.
Istanbul stretches over seven hills and is divided by the Great Bosphorus River: Europe is on one side of the water and Asia on the other. And this is just the beginning …
You’ll see hijab-wearing Muslim women walking alongside hipsters fully tattooed and pierced. Sophisticated restaurants share the same zip code as traditional tea shops and spice markets. Istanbul is the home of fishermen, millionaires, old mosques, and H&M.
Although close to 20 million people consider this city their home, it does not appear to be very compact, and green spaces often dismantle development. The modern construction supports the ancient monuments in a tangible marriage between the old and the new.
Since Istanbul is the meeting place of Asia and Europe, traces of the two continents are found here, along with a unique presentation of their own. Influences of Christianity and Islam fuse with the greatness of ancient Roman civilization, then mix with a bit of Middle Eastern flair.
1. Take a Free Walking Tour of Istanbul
Ever since our amazing walking tour in Medellin, one of the first things we do in a new city is to take a free walking tour. Usually, these excursions are led by young locals who can give you
great insight into their city and the life its people lead.
2. Picnic at Gulhane Park Istanbul
This one may not be in your guidebook, but our picnic at Gulhane Park was once of our favorite afternoons in Istanbul. Pick up some fruit, wine, and cheese from a local market, then buy a Turkish towel (great souvenir alert!) and head to park.
3. Explore Different Neighborhoods
Istanbul is a sprawling city and it can seem overwhelming at times, but think of it as a compilation of many smaller cities. Each neighborhood in this metropolis has a distinctly different feel and attracts people for different reasons. Spend an afternoon getting lost in the narrow cobbled streets of Beyoglu, or window-shopping and people-watching in Taksim.
4. Stroll Istiklal Avenue
Istiklal Avenue is both the local and tourist center of Istanbul in the heart of the city. Would you believe this single avenue is visited by nearly 3 million people every single day? The nearly mile-long stretch of pedestrian walkway is home to restaurants, boutiques, and even nightclubs. However, even with the chain restaurants creeping in, there is still a feel of old Istanbul here.
5. Catch the Sunset on the Galata Bridge in Istanbul
Istanbul has some killer sunsets, so be sure to catch at least one. Whether you’re on a rooftop or near the water, you’ll be enchanted by the orange sky and flapping seagulls.