Istanbul has a dynamism that comes from a fusion of ancient traditions and lively modern culture. For instance, Galata – Karakoy – and Balat were historically the city’s Christian and Jewish neighbourhoods, with old churches and mosques. They’re now falling apart at the seams with cool new places to see. Please read our guide to Istanbul’s most excellent districts before choosing where to live.
If you wish to visit Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, you must first apply for a turkey visa online. In one of the world’s largest covered markets, you may bargain for souvenirs and drink Turkish tea.
Istiklal Street and Taksim Square
Taksim Square and Istiklal Street are busy all year with high-end shops, restaurants, cafés, pubs, and nightclubs. Starting at the Republic Monument, which was built to celebrate the Republic’s foundation in 1923, you may walk along commercial Istiklal Street, past the unique Taksim Tram, on to cobblestoned Galip Dede Street. The modern art museum SALT Beyoglu is a terrific place to get away from the crowds and immerse yourself in a show. Free film shows are held on the ground floor every Wednesday, while the top floor has the winter garden, an oasis of peace in the city’s centre.
As part of the larger Beyoglu district, Galata is most known for its tower, which views the neighbourhood’s cobblestoned streets and neoclassical buildings. The roads surrounding Galata Tower are lined with small, intriguing shops and cafes, making for excellent surfing. Visit the Mevlevi Museum – Museum of Turkish Jews and the Whirling Dervish Hall after enjoying the city vista. Halt by the Home Spa shop on Galip Dede Street for bath and body goods, including locally obtained soaps and oils, to take home. Boutiques, galleries, and gift shops along Serdar-i Ekrem Street. After sightseeing, unwind with a drink from the Georges Hotel’s rooftop bar with views of Galata.
Sultanahmet is a must-see attraction for anybody visiting Istanbul. This neighbourhood’s social and political hub of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires takes you through Istanbul’s rich history. Some of the city’s most stunning architecture, such as the sixth-century Hagia Sophia, which dominates the skyline with its vast dome, is within walking distance of the main square. The Ottoman-era Topkapi Palace, the 15th-century Sultans’ palace turned museum in 1924; the Blue Mosque, known for its tiles and mausoleums; and the sixth-century Basilica Cistern, Istanbul’s most giant remaining Byzantine cistern, are all must-sees.
Besiktas, one of Istanbul’s oldest districts, is home to three major universities, and the students that visit the area give it a friendly vibe. It’s the perfect place to meet up with friends, with coffee shops playing unique music, hundreds of pubs serving good beer on tap, and a wide variety of food options. This area is also the home of the Besiktas Football Club, and it is a popular meeting point on match days when marching bands and supporters waving flags and whistling fill the streets. Try a fish sandwich from the local shop or a chicken and rice dish from one pilavci (rice sellers) located across the plaza. Finish with ice cream at the popular halva cart, which serves a sweet dish made from carrots and semolina. Besiktas’ many bars and pubs make it easy to go bar leaping: Joker No.19 offers cocktails and a space to dance, talk, and dine, while the United Pub serves a variety of local and international beers. Black Owl Coffee and Bettys are popular choices if you’re looking for caffeine, while there’s plenty more good coffee in the region. Start your tour at the Black Eagle Statue, which marks the market’s centre; from there, you may wonder in any direction and discover something interesting to do or see.
Karaköy, once a prominent city port, was allowed to deteriorate until it became a hub about 2012. Churches and mosques combine perfectly into the newer parts of the city, creating a maze-like street structure that offers a glimpse of the city’s history. The SALT Galata building, once the Ottoman Bank head office and is now a well-established art place, was once home to the financial area in the 19th century. Take a stroll along Mumhane Street to see Pi and the Mixer Art Gallery. There are many new places to eat and drink along this street (and those running parallel to it), such as Karaköy Lokantasi, which serves traditional Ottoman dishes like Hünkar beendi (pureed eggplant topped with lamb). There is a lot to see in turkey, but if you want to see it, apply for a turkey e visa first and explore turkey.
Balat, once Istanbul’s Greek Orthodox and Armenian neighbourhood, is rich with colourful historical sites and churches. Visit the primary market, which is full of antique shops and craft studios. There’s much to see here, especially religious buildings like the prefabricated St Stephen Bulgarian Church built in Vienna from cast iron and assembled on site. Continue up the hill to the Byzantine-era Chora Church, which has beautiful 14th-century mosaics and paintings, and then to the Ahrida Synagogue, one of the city’s oldest. Several young businesses, such as micro coffee roasters, ceramic ateliers, art galleries, and antique shops, can be found here.
Arnavutköy is an upscale area near the Bosphorus known for Ottoman waterfront houses and seafood restaurants, and it is the heart of Istanbul’s nightlife scene. Cocktail and gastro pubs have taken over in recent years, and in the evenings, patrons flow out onto Bebek Arnavutköy Street, drinks in hand. It’s fun to stroll about the picturesque suburb throughout the day, admiring the numerous magnificent residences that populate the banks of the glistening river.
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