Istanbul is a wonderful city, a mixture of Turkish and European cultures. Last year our editor Kate went there and shared her itinerary for a 3-day trip. This year our editor Olga has embarked for the same destination, but for a much longer period. She spent a week there, got tanned under the Turkish sun, explored the old city, savored the Turkish cuisine and collected new material for you!
Seven days in the city were enough to understand that some things you should not do while traveling to Istanbul. So we are sharing Olga’s insights with you. Read, enjoy and don’t make these mistakes!
- Don’t go too heavy on sweets! Are you fond of sweets? You might think that you have such a sweet tooth that no amount of sugar can make you sick, but this only means that you haven’t tried Turkish sweets yet! Make sure you are very moderate while buying these good-looking tulumba or baklava, as the chances are high that you won’t be able to finish them and will regret the money spent! The excessive amount of honey and syrup makes them extra-sweet and heavy.
- Don’t miss a big soup variety! Usually, small restaurants and bistros in the center have a position called “corba” on the menu. If you order it, you will get a bowl of delicious creamy steamy soup made of lentils, which may bring you to a false conclusion that “corba” is a lentils soup. However, actually, “corba” simply means “soup” in Turkish, and the lentils one is served in the center under this name in order not to confuse tourists. Turkey is rich on wonderful soups, like chicken soup or a veggie one, so make sure you check out them during your trip too!
- Don’t get the Istanbul card unless you really need to! Istanbul card does have a big advantage – it allows you to jump the queue. However, make sure you do your calculations well. If you aren’t in a rush or if you want to do only Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sofia like I did, you will actually overpay if you grab the card.
- Don’t focus on Cistern Basilica. I know it is amazing, but what if I tell you that there is another one that is not crowded at all? It is called Theodosius Cistern, and it is also located centrally, right near the Sultanahmet square.
- Don’t expect refreshing walks along the Golden Horn, there is no such thing. For example, the whole piece of the embankment from Galata bridge to the end of Abdülezelpaşa road is really dusty, narrow and lacks traffic lights. My plan was to get from Galata bridge to the Greek district, and enjoy the view of the city while walking, but believe me, it would be much more enjoyable from a bus window!
- Don’t miss the Greek district! I have nearly crossed it out from my to-do list, and that could have been a huge mistake – it is one of the most colorful and unusual parts of Istanbul. Make sure you have enough time to climb to the Orthodox college on the hill right above the district and to grab a cup of coffee in one of the small local coffee-shops.
- Don’t go to the Grand Bazaar! I mean, of course, go, if you want to, but if you hope to do really good shopping there, prepare for a lot of digging and assign to it quite some time. The Bazaar is not only huge, but it is also really messy, with the biggest part of the shops full of things that you can probably buy on the market in your own city. It is extremely difficult to find high-quality, handmade and traditional things there, like expensive Turkish scarfs or dishes.
- Don’t skip the Taksim district. One of the best shopping streets is İstiklal Caddesi that starts right from Taksim square. There you can find not only international brands but also local ones which combine nice quality, interesting style, and attractive price.