1. Take a boat tour with Istanbul Tour Studio
Boat tour on Bosphorus is a unique and unforgettable way to explore the city. It gives you a different perspective and an overview on how spectacular and impressive Istanbul is. Did you know that Istanbul is the only city in the world that is geographically on two continents, Europe and Asia? And from the boat you will be able to see both of them at once. Also, many of the beautiful facades are visible only from the water side so you can have a sneak peek from the boat.
I can sincerely recommend you to book a tour with Istanbul Tour Studio. You will not regret a single penny spend and your experience can be fully adjusted to your needs. They offer super professional service so the tour will not only be fun but also very informative. We had 2-hour boat cruise and this will forever be my most amazing memory from Istanbul. We cruised through Bosphorus on a private boat trip guided by a super kind Sinan. He shared with us a bunch of interesting stories about the city and its architecture, and we even had a wine tasting on the boat!
Just imagine yourself sipping great Turkish wines, admiring the beauty of Istanbul while the cooling breeze from Bosporus is blowing your hair… Can life get any better than this? Check their full offer here. They have high quality tours with wide range of different ways to explore Istanbul, Ephesus and Cappadocia. Helicopter flights, culinary sightseeing, photography walks, layover tours, just to name a few. Next time we definitely want to try a helicopter !
2. Find the secret rooftop for 360 view
I read about this place some time ago and kept this idea in my mind until we finally made it to Istanbul. There is a secret rooftop with spectacular 360 view of Istanbul, but to find it, you must know the trick ;) So how to make it?
First download Mapsme application as it’s more accurate than google maps. It it really easy to get lost, especially because you need to go to Grand Bazaare. In the Grand Bazaare direct yourself to Büyük Valide Han. At this address you will find old wooden gate as pictured below. You are almost there :).
On the gate’s door you will find a little piece of paper with some writing on it and a phone number. Now you need to call this number. Not kidding! There will be a man who answers the phone, but unfortunately he does not not speak english. Don’t worry, it’s not a problem at all. Just say “rooftop” and he will perfectly understand what you mean. Now wait a few more minutes and he will come, let you in and guide you to the secret rooftop. He asks a little fee for that, usually 2 euros per person.
Unfortunately, we were not very lucky, as at the time of our visit the rooftop was under construction. So the man took us to his little Art Gallery under the rooftop, where we could see panoramic views from balcony. Not that spectacular as 360 rooftop view but still impressive. There is even a guests book where you can leave your note, so if you will be there search fore a note from Betty :)
3. Explore Istanbul’s hip area – Beyoğlu
Most people are not aware of this, but to get a true taste of the local culture you have to leave the historical neighborhoods of Istanbul and get lost in Beyoğlu. From hip bars, indie clubs and cool restaurants to basement jazz cafes, little boutiques and coffee roasters. This and more you will find in the hip part of Istanbul.
The area is listed among the most hip places in the world and will definitely give you another perspective on how differential the city is. I have heard there is many hip places in Istanbul but once I found myself in Karaköy, which is a part of Beyoğlu, I could not believe how cool this area is! Karaköy was left to deteriorate until it started to transform into hotspot somewhere around 2012. Now the historic facades are getting renovated to become trendy cafes and restaurants. You can basically switch from one place to another and never get bored. Bar hopping has never been more fun!
Also, a part of the larger Beyoğlu district, Çukurcuma is the city’s antiques neighbourhood where you’ll find some of the best antique dealers in the city. Not cheap indeed but it’s such a fun to stroll around some vintage markets and shops.
Chez Moi – cool place for drinks, food and party after 10pm, really great music and relaxed atmosphere. Nice rooftop bar.
Karaköy Lokantası – great restaurant with amazing home cooked food, right in the heart of Karaköy.
Brew Coffeeworks – hip cafe with nice outdoor area and impressive murals.
Burger Lab – if you are craving good burgers, thats the place to go. Also non meet dishes are available.
4. Eat street food with locals
Since I put my feet out of the plane in Istanbul, I knew I want to try kebab and burek. There are many street spots with food everywhere, but what I can recommend, is to find something in less touristic areas. We stayed in the non touristic part of old town with no big restaurants around. But every here and there we could find little food spots where locals eat. And this is were we went for our “So much better than Michelin Star” dinner. So good, so fresh, so delicious!
Local people were extremely nice in advising us what to eat and making us feel more than welcomed. I love Turkish hospitality so much! Since that street food dinner we became pretty known among local community, getting greetings and smiles every time we were passing by. This moments are always making me feel happy. I am truly grateful that I can travel the world and get to know local cultures. World is so beautiful and full of kind people. Proofs for that can be easily find in Istanbul.
5. Visit unconventional museum
Weather you are a museums fan or not, this one is something different and worth visiting. It was stablished by Nobel Prize winner, Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, and fully inspired by his novel of the same name – The Museum Of Innocence.
The museum offers visitors a trip through the city’s past and the love story told on the pages of the book. Aside from the love of Kemal and Füsun, the museum constitutes a city archive for Istanbul with many interesting facts from the past. Entry tickets are printed on the last pages of the novel, so if you own your own book, take it with you for the free entrance to the museum. Interesting fact is that the museum costed the writer about what he received for the Nobel prize – roughly $1.5 million.
6. Go for a dinner to Asia
Uskumru restaurant was recommended to us by Sinan from Istanbul Tour Studio . This place is a must for every food enthusiast. They offer outstanding fish and sea food menu and great selection of Turkish wines. But what is the most special is the location. The restaurant is located on the Asian side of Istanbul, right by the Bosphorus. Make sure to book your water front table as the place is usually full. If you need any help with that, Istanbul Tour Studio offers also evening boat cruises with a table booking at Uskumru.
As we decided for the dinner very last minute, the whole water front row was already booked. But anyway, the waiter was so nice that moved us to the water line as soon as there was a free table available. Also, they offer the coolest restaurant retransfer ever – by boat! Just go to Rumeli Hisari Dock and find a boat with Uskumru name on it. We were super lucky to be on the boat during the spectacular sunset and this was such a perfect start to our lovely dinner on the Asian side.