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5 Things I Love About Istanbul

Istanbul is very fashionable right now. Thinking much of the fanfare was mainly hype, I really didn’t expect to love the city as much as I did. I’d been told I could spend two weeks in Istanbul and still not see everything there is to see. This seemed like an exaggeration, but I definitely found it to be true. There is so much to see and do that you’ll never get bored. Here are 5 things I love about Istanbul:

1. It’s pretty much perfect. It’s got everything you’d want out of a city: It’s located on two continents; it’s modern yet entrenched in history; it’s by the water. I love how everywhere you go, there are decorative flowers. If any Turks are reading this, I’d like you to go to Kabul and build us a city just like this. And bring the sea with you if you can.

Istanbul Bosphorus

Near the Galata Bridge

2. The history. I have never been to a city with so many historical sights that were made so accessible to tourists. With the exception of the Holy Relics exhibit at Topkapi Palace, tourists can touch and interact with history.

You can wander through a 1,000 year old building, touch the walls and columns; you can buy souvenirs in the courtyard of a centuries old cemetery where Ottoman rulers are buried.

Tomb of Sultan Mahmud II

Tomb of Sultan Mahmud II

3. The markets. Steer clear of the Grand Bazaar. Even the vendors in the surrounding area will tell you two things: 1.) Everything at the Grand Bazaar is overpriced, and 2.) The vendors are slimeballs. This may be because they pay their yearly rent in gold and I can’t imagine that to be cheap. The second I walked in, a salesman jumped in front of me and began the most obnoxious sales pitch I’ve ever encountered. I turned around and walked back outside.

Instead, opt for the shops around Old Town and the Egyptian Spice Market (Misr Bazaar) in Eminonu. Vendors are far less aggressive and offer much of the same merchandise at reasonable prices. Don’t forget to haggle – it’s part of the experience.

Vendor in Istanbul Old Town

Vendor in Istanbul Old Town

4. It’s easy to get around. The tram that runs from Old Town to Kabatas costs just 3 Lira and takes you past all the main attractions of Old Town. Four major tourist sights (Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Hippodrome) are right across from each other. This is a city built with tourists in mind. You’re always within walking distance of a major attraction or public transit that can take you there.

Old Town Istanbul Tram Stop

Tram Stop in Old Town

5. Fresh fruits. Fresh fruits are everywhere and in much more appealing form. You’ll gladly choose a fresh squeezed glass of orange juice over iced coffee. I definitely left Istanbul with a rosier complexion.

At a vendor outside Fatih Park, I picked up an iced blackberry drink. The man gave me a strange look when I asked what was in the drink: “Berries and ice.” Imagine that- an iced drink with no syrup or artificial flavoring…just berries and ice.

I’m convinced if American cities adopted the fruit and juice carts of Istanbul, we’d wipe out obesity once and for all. Who doesn’t want to eat an apple when it looks like this?

Istanbul apple carts

Apple Carts in Old Town Istanbul

I could go on and on about Istanbul, but I’ll leave it at that. Have you been to Istanbul?  What do you love (or dislike) about the city?

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Ariana Arghandewal

12 Comments

  1. I am looking forward to my upcoming visit to Istanbul in August for the first time. In US, majority of the cities look so similar. They have the same downtown feel, same kind of shopping malls and same parks. However there are certainly some big exceptions. Although I have not traveled all of US but with my limited experience, I can easily single out San Francisco and Chicago. I live 90 miles away from San Francisco and every time I visit it, there is something so unique about it. If only I was a billionaire, i would have lived in a big mansion in San Francisco.

    • @ caveman, you’re going to love Istanbul. I feel the same about SF – I’m about an hour away and think it’s one of the more unique big cities. Plus, people in SF have to be some of the friendliest “city folks” I’ve come across.

  2. My favorite part was:

    “At a vendor outside Fatih Park, I picked up an iced blackberry drink. The man gave me a strange look when I asked what was in the drink: “Berries and ice.” Imagine that- an iced drink with no syrup or artificial flavoring…just berries and ice.”

    I remember talking to someone from Europe once, couldn’t remember which country. They asked me about “organic food” in America. After I explained, they said, “So organic food is food without the bad stuff like chemicals and preservatives? In Europe, we just call that ‘food’!”

    Really enjoy reading your articles about this part of the world. Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, so many places I want to see over there.

    Sorry I haven’t been by to comment lately. Been busy trying to keep with making my videos. 🙂

    • @ Marcus, how dare you make your own blog a priority over mine! 🙂 No worries at all.

      It’s sad that the standards for food are so low in this country. And it’s not just food, even european beauty products are safer – the industry is actually regulated in europe.

  3. I agree i would avoid grand bazaar , too many bad people , if you do end up going, go to a fixed price shop, the shop keepers disrespect you for asking price and not buying

  4. Be careful with the nice looking bracelets or bangles in the Grand Bazaar. A friend of mine bought one and after wearing it for few days, she noticed it was gold plated.

    • @ Tiara, good tip. Personally, I’d never buy “real” jewelry abroad. There’s always a chance you’ll get ripped off. Not surprised at all that it happened to your friend at the Grand Bazaar.

  5. This is a great compilation!

    I am more interested in touring areas which reflect the largesse of the Ottoman Empire. Do you know of specific places where their heritage can be seen and felt?

    Thanks in Advance.

    • @ Sharad, that would be Topkapi Palace. Aside from being a place where you’ll learn about the Ottoman Sultans, you’ll get to walk in their footsteps. At times it’s kind of sad, thinking about these once-powerful people whose magnificent homes have been diminished to tourist traps. But yes, you’ll want to visit to experience the grandeur of the past.

  6. Do spend a little time at the Cistern. What a marvel.

    There were several places we went where no one spoke English. I used the “SayHi” and “iTranslate” apps on my iPhone and was able to communicate effectively enough to order amazing food at a restaurant and to order a full assortment of services at an authentic hammam. (ProTip: Keep your sentences short and clear using the apps. Neither one likes long, rambling drivel.)

    • @ Nick, So mad I missed it! 6 days wasn’t enough. Thanks for the tip – I am downloading the app for my next trip. Even though it seems like I encountered alot of English-speakers in Istanbul, that wasn’t the case at all.

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