Besides all the sightseeing, there is always time for getting to know Turkish habits. We present to you a list of the things, you have to do when in Istanbul.
Ship cruise over the Bosporus
You can choose whether to do it by day or at sunset. Fact is: This belongs to the Must-Dos when in Istanbul.
You can buy the ticktes next to the chaotic bus station in Eminönü (next to the Galata Bridge). There are cheap ones, which the locals use, and of course expensive ones for the tourists. Both tickets offer you the same views. Avoid the tourist tickets.
From the ship you can see the Dolmabahçe Palace. If you want, you can also enter it, but we didn’t have enough time. This is why we can only recommend the view from the ship.
We totally recommend to get off the ferry and make a stop in Ortaköy. You can sit in one of the many cafés and enjoy the view over the Bosporus Bridge and the mosque. If you’re up for an adventure, take the bus back to Eminönü and you will be a witness of Istanbul’s chaotic traffic.
You can’t miss drinking a Turkish cay (tea) during your Istanbul trip. You can drink it almost everywhere. If you don’t want it too strong (dark colour), you say “Acik olsun, lütfen” to the waitress. (Means: ‘Please not too strong’).
It’s something like the Turkish Espresso, only with a lot of coffee grounds. It’s totally charming when they serve it with oriental, made for tourist dishes. When ordering, they usually ask you, how sweet you want your mocha (mokka). You have three choices:
‘Şekkerlı’: Lots of sugar
‘Orta sekkerlı’: Some sugar
‘Şekkersiz‘: Without sugar
Last choice is only for the brave. We recommend the medium choice.
Why this is the place for shopping? You have so many possibilities. In every quarter, you’ll find a bazaar or huge shopping malls. The dimension of shopping possibilities is gigantic. And people willing to spend their money will definitely be successful.
Unfortunately, we had to make the experience that there is no bargaining any more. At least at the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. Prices are arranged and partly astronomical (if you know how cheap it is outside the touristic spots). Tourist numbers are rising and with them the prices, because many just pay every price.
Even the last country bumpkin will realize there is more to Turkish food than doner kebap. Turkish food often includes lots of meat. But you shouldn’t miss the huge variety.
When going out for eating, you should order ‘Meze’. It’s something like Turkish tapas and they belong to every Turkey trip. The reckless of you will it do traditional style and order some Raki. We just don’t like it. It tastes awful.
Eating out in Istanbul is cheap. Of course, there are expensive star restaurants, but talking about ‘normal’ restaurants, you’ll get a lot for your money. Just as said before, the variety is outstanding and there’s more than doner.
Since the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ everyone knows them. Little Edmund loves Turkish delight so much, he even betrays his siblings to the white witch Jadis. She promises him Turkish delight until the rest of his life.
Turkish delight is everywhere. It’s offered to cay and mokka and the variety is huge. And they all taste delicious. You have to be careful not to eat too much. Bellyache is guaranteed. You’ll also find it under the name ‘Lokum’.
Narghile at Taşhan Bazaar in Laleli
A lot of people love waterpipes. In Turkey, they’re called narghile. We’re not that big fans but here you should go to one of those bars at least once. Before we could even sit in one of the Tourist bars, we found one in the most perfect location for that: The courtyard of the Taşhan Bazaar in Laleli.
The complex was built in the 18th century. The Historical Bazaar itself was really interesting. Going through the corridor at night was a bit creepy, though.
The café is really stylish and there were no tourists. We hope it remains like that. Prices and audience are evidence for this café being authentic and not a tourist place.
Do as the Romans do
The lucky of you, have more time when travelling to Istanbul. You have the time to get lost and find yourself in one of the many student cafés with an awesome view. And watch people. Or just start playing backgammon with them.
Also for those with more time. It should be part of your Istanbul trip. You can watch locals learning to ride cycles. There’s no space left for that in the city. This is why they learn it here.
Visiting a Hamam
This would be the perfect end of your trip. As we didn’t have the time to we didn’t do this and totally regret it. At the end of such a sightseeing marathon it would be the perfect wellness treatment for your sore body.