I Love Istanbul and Here Are Five Reasons Why

A huge welcome from The Turkish Travel Blog to Ricky Carbis who has submitted this post on the reasons why he loves Istanbul.

Istanbul has for a long time, been the heart and soul of Turkey.

Boasting more than 12 million official residents, the city is like no other in Turkey. Being the only city in the world that spans two different continents, it is huge. I love Istanbul and can easily admit to a major addiction for this characteristic destination.

You cannot help but be engulfed in the cultural history and significance. So many tourists visit and enjoy adventures through the city, some even make it ‘home’, buying a property in Istanbul or simply spending months seeing all the sights in this city, there really is so much to do.

I have decided to choose my favourite things about Istanbul, maybe some you will have heard of, maybe some you would have not. As well as being my little guide to getting the best out of this awesome city, they are also the reasons why I can say with pride, “I love Istanbul

Why I love Istanbul

My Favourite Restaurant

You will soon realise that locals love their food! With a plethora of choices from the old favourites such as Burger King and McDonalds, to local humble eateries serving traditional Turkish food at cheap prices, food in Istanbul is amazing.

When choosing a restaurant, most tourists look to restaurants around the Sultan Ahmet district and other touristic areas – however, as with most tourist areas, these can be pricier than traditional local restaurants.

I would recommend checking out Feriye Restaurant that has a fabulous location, overlooking the Bosphorus in Ortakoy. Sitting in a picturesque 19th century building, the menu offers traditional Ottoman dishes with a modern twist; Feriye Restaurant is also famous for its amazing seafood dishes.

Feriye Restaurant

My Favourite Museum

Istanbul is a city with so much history, previously ruled by Romans and Ottomans alike. With that said, museums are rich in artefacts and have massive cultural significance.

Being such a colourful and cultural city, I would have go with the Istanbul Modern Museum and Art Gallery as the number one museum to see. Located in a converted warehouse, the museum has fantastic views over the Bosphorus and represents the modern side of Istanbul, located amongst all that history.

The contemporary art gallery plays host to local as well as international artists and many tourists can be seen wondering around this gallery in awe at some of the work on show.

Istanbul Modern Art Museum

My Favourite Shopping Location

If you are looking to go shopping in Istanbul, there is simply just one place to head to – the Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar has more than 4000 shops that can cater for any budget and any shopping tastes – It is a woman’s dream and a man’s nightmare.

When shopping in the Grand Bazaar, many tourists are afraid to haggle for price, but be brave and haggle!

You will be surprised at the sudden discounts that become available when you raise a question or doubt about purchasing.

Shopping for anything from jewellery, carpet, clothes, artwork, souvenirs, and even spices and groceries – prices are reasonable and choices are spoilt.

Inside the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

My Favourite Historic Site

Again, the history of Istanbul mean that historic sites are literally everywhere! There is the famous Topkapi Palace, which is more than three centuries and was once the home of the Ottoman Empire. Don’t forget about the great Galata Tower which stands tall on the skyline and offers fantastic views across the city.

But, if I had to choose one fantastic historical site for tourists to see, I would have to go with the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii). This is probably THE image of Istanbul. Postcards and posters worldwide all portray this image when advertising the city. The six tall minarets of the Blue Mosque make it a must see. If you go to Istanbul without taking a trip to see the Blue Mosque, well, you might  as well have never gone in the first place, it is spectacular.

Blue Mosque

My Personal Choice for Getting About

Well, you would not go to London without checking out the London Underground, you would not go to New York without going on the famous Subway system. The same goes for Istanbul.

As a tourist, I would highly recommend using the many transport systems available in the city. The Metro System is easily accessed and has two lines serving the city with links to Taksim Square and Tunel Square.

However, no trip to Istanbul is complete without a journey, or two, on what can only be defined as a sea bus! When travelling around, you will see that traffic sometimes gets the better of you, and can really cause problems. Therefore, many people choose to hop onto a Sea Catamaran to zip across the Bosphorus or the Sea of Marmara to get to your desired location. Ferries are regularly brimming full with cars whose owners use the ferry system to commute to work. If you are going to travel around Istanbul, you might as well travel on the sea buses

Sea ferries istanbul

So there you have it, my top 5 reasons why I love Istanbul. The city is so large and marvellous, it is no wonder that many end up calling it one of the best cities that they have travelled to. One thing is certain though, it sure is an adventurers dream.

Readers Question : Do you love Istanbul as well? If so, what are your reasons and favourite things about the city?

Further Reading on Istanbul

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Hi. My name is Natalie Sayin and I am the author of The Turkish Travel Blog. I am an eccentric,Internet addict with a passion for history.

I really shouldn't travel because I can not read maps and always lose my way! But hey, that never stops me and it is part of the fun! Leave a comment below to join the discussions.
Contact me..

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  1. says

    I love Istanbul…I can’t get enough of it when we visit. My favorite is The GRand Bazaar….but then I have to drag my husbamd with me because he’s a Turk and haggles better then me. Plus they give him a better price then to a tourist I noticed.
    Will try the Feriye Restaurant this summer when we go. Love this post.
    erica wrote about..PANCAKE TUESDAY

    • Nat says

      Erica – I like dragging hubby along as well. I have noticed that he can always get a better price than me. I put it down to the male / female thing

      • says

        The last time I went to the Pazar, my husband brought his brother, thinking that he was more experienced at negotiating on a backgammon price. In the end, it looked like they weren’t able to get a better deal than we Americans were.

      • HobbitTR says

        My wife has had great success at bargaining at the bazaar, definitely not a male thing. She always gets good deals from Turkish merchants if she believes the asking price is too high. I think anyone can do the same if they are prepared to walk away and convey that to the merchant.
        HobbitTR wrote about..April and May 2012 Diving Special Promotions

  2. says

    I love Istanbul because it’s both alien and familiar at the same time. It sounds like a cliche but it really is the city than stands at the crossroads of east and west. Fabulous.
    Jack Scott wrote about..Bodrum Reborn

      • says

        Sadly Nat I’ve only seen the inside of the airports in Istanbul, except for one occasion when my flight was delayed and I missed my connecting flight to Bodrum. On this occasion I was put up in a hotel by THY in Taksim, but it was late and we had an early start so no time for sightseeing. It’s definitely on my list of places to visit….right at the top!
        Enjoy your trip to the UK x
        Ayak wrote about..This could only happen in Turkey!

  3. says

    J and I need to get our ‘fix’ a couple of times a year – it is a place we tell everyone we know that they need to experience Istanbul at least once in their life.
    Alan wrote about..Birth Of The Blues!

  4. Rosamond says

    I was silly / naive enough to visit taxim on May 1st 3 years ago during the riots and broke my shoulder.Thats one reason i cant forget Istanbul :-/
    The history,culture,modern and ancient all together in one place. Awesome

  5. says

    Istanbul is so easy to get around…. I love the metro system, the Tunnel and Fenicular.

    The life blood of the city is really the water – and a boat trip is essential – even if it’s just a short ferry ride over to the Asian side and back again.

    The Blue Mosque is definitely a must – I visited it twice in one holiday – just because!

    Even though the Topkapi Palace was quite impressive – I was blown away by my trip to the Istanbul Archaelogy Museum next door. So if I had to choose between the two – I’d opt for the musuem… such amazing treasures within their walls, I had to get dragged away!


    My favourite shopping location was the Spice Bazaar — each time we were near the Galata Bridge, we had a quick detour to the Spice Bazaar.
    Roving Jay wrote about..The Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide is One Year Old

    • says

      Thanks for the recommendation about the Archaeology museum Jay. I will put that on the agenda for my next visit. The blue mosque – I got turned away twice on this visit. Wrong timing. Fingers crossed when I return in April that it will be ok. Congrats on the one year anniversary by the way.
      Natalie wrote about..Idyllic Phaselis : Beautiful Beaches and Ancient Ruins

  6. says

    How can anyone mention Istanbul and not mention Aya Sofia (Hagia Sophia)??? “Originally a church, later a mosque, and now a museum, the 6th century Hagia Sophia built by Justinian was the largest ever cathedral building in the world for a thousand years”

    I think the Blue Mosque worth a visit but overrated IMHO. Also try to see Sulimaniye mosque!

    Lots of pretty waterside cafes and restaurants on the Asian side. Ortakoy is one of the few exceptions on the European side. Too many tourists miss taking a day trip up the Asian side from Uskudar to Anadolu Kava?? either by ferry or amble along the roads by bus.

    • says

      Istanbul is so big and has so many things to do!
      Trying to whittle it down to just five – difficult indeed, borderline impossible! But I agree about Hagia Sophia, a great place to visit in Istanbul.

  7. says

    I was in Istanbul in 1980. It remains the most vibrant, thrilling and intriguing city I have ever visited. The underground cistern, haggling in the Grand Bazaar, boat trips to Üsküdar and Anodulu Kavagi, drinks at the Pera Palas, strange substances at the Pudding Shop, music in the Flower Market and some of the best food I have ever tasted served in the restaurants under Galata Bridge. Istanbul was so wonderfully and mysteriously different. How sad to learn that this jewel of a city has since fallen prey to the likes of McDonalds and Burger King.
    Simon Wood wrote about..The Origins of Fairy Story

    • says

      Burger Kings and Mcdonalds are popping up every where in Turkey Simon. My base in Turkey used to be a small village and I never dreamed that there would one day be a Burger King there but it came, followed shortly by dominos pizzas. I think you just have to blank them because fortunately they do not put the small businesses in bankruptcy. The most amazing aspect is that every time I go in one, the majority of customers are Turkish. Sign of the times, I think and the next generation.

  8. says

    My favorite shopping location is Eminonu. I seriously think you can find everything here! If you can’t find, then you probably don’t need it anyway. =)

    Another fun shopping area is Kadikoy – I love the markets here! It’s also a great foodie area – the old sugar shop, baklava, honey store, Ciya, etc.

    My favorite historic site is Ayasofya followed by the Rumeli Hisari for something different and the amazing views if you climb up.
    Joy (My Turkish Joys) wrote about..Peaking in My Kitchen Pantry in Istanbul

  9. says

    We did some planning this weekend for our trip in less than a month. Looking forward to it immensely.

    This list just makes it more real somehow. Especially the mentions of monuments that I have now seen on maps.
    Andrew wrote about..Places to Eat in Freiburg, Germany

  10. Abriskil says

    I fail to understand why travelers around the world speak very highly of Istanbul, which is only a concrete jungle on steroids. It is a grotesque village, full of unhappy people, high pollution, exhausting traffic, and an almost demolished history.
    I am not particularly inclined to accept it represents Turkey at all. I have been in many regions of Turkey, where people are smiling, making jokes to one another, free from the curse of metropolitan hurry. Even big cities Like Izmir and Bursa are much better places to live and see.

    • says

      Everyone has their own personal preferences Abriskil. I personally like Istanbul but then I like Izmir as well. Maybe the fact that a lot of RTW travelers only see Istanbul means they can not compare it to other sites in Turkey.

    • says

      It is magical Arti – A wonderful city – Glad you liked the post

  11. Lily C. says

    My husband and I are travelling to Turkey for the Christmas holidays. I understand that it is a mostly Muslim country and they do not observe this practice. I have many questions, firstly we are staying at the Ritz in Istanbul and will be there for a week. Then we think maybe off to Cypress, or a Greek Isle, we have not decided yet. Anything we should know about weather, customs, taboos, preferences so as not offend locals? Also, is there anything we should absolutely see and do (or not)?

    • says

      Hi Lily, Even though it is a Muslim country, you might find some restaurants putting on Christmas dinner or there might be a few parties as Istanbul has a lot of western ex pats. I have never been in Istanbul at Christmas but on the western and Aegean coast, the ex pats freely celebrate with some of the Turks even joining in.

      The weather is going to be cold, more so at night time so wrap up warm. Possible rain so be prepared to change touring plans.

      Re customs, you will probably not notice them unless you wander into the local neighbourhood areas. The most familiar one to watch out for is if you walk into a restaurant or bar and they say “Hos Geldeniz”, which means welcome. Your reply if you want to respond is “hos bulduk” which means we feel welcome. Generally I would not worry about offending the locals though, the Turks are really easy going and often, want to struck up conversation more than anything else. I am assuming that you will want to visit the Blue mosque, in which case,ensure you are suitable covered on your body and take along a headscarf as well

      Re places that you must absolutely see, well where do I start? Head to the Sultan Ahmet area and do the following which are all located close to each other

      – Hagia Sophia
      – Blue Mosque
      – Topkapi palace
      – Basilica cistern

      You can visit the Grand bazaar which dates back to the Ottoman time but be prepared for hassle to buy carpets etc.

      I loved the Dolmabahce palace more than Topkapi palace.

      Flower Garden is good for architecture but don’t eat the food there

      Here is a list of the articles I have published so far on Istanbul but I still have plenty more to publish as well, so keep checking back before December http://turkishtravelblog.com/destinations/istanbul/

  12. Jay says

    Hi Natalie,
    Been reading ur blog and posts in facebook for the past 6 months. Newcomer :-) Never thought I would but when to Turkey twice last year. Fell in love twice too. There is something magical about Istanbul that makes me feel so addicted and that I want to visit again and again.Hagia Sophia is my favourite!

    • says

      Hi Jay, it is kind of addictive although some friends who have moved there now want to move out and say it is too crowded. Best kept as a place to visit. Hagia Sophia is a beauty I agree. Can never tire of visiting there

  13. says

    Umm… I’m ready to go right now! Oddly enough, the home owners were are currently house sitting for are visiting Istanbul right now. It’s always been on my travel radar and after reading this I think it might get bumped up the list!

    Brock @ourfavoriteadventure

  14. Abdullah says

    Hi Natalie ,
    I want to share an experience that I had on my recent holiday to Istanbul.
    Istanbul is truly a wonderful tourism destination. The city of differences, wonderful attractions, a mix of Eastern and Western cuisine, and serious shopping malls should absolutely be visited. I was in Istanbul with my family in February, 2014. It continues to be the most exciting and interesting city I have ever stayed in. People ask me where I want to live after I retire. I always say that I love Istanbul and Turkish hospitality.

    I can say that Istanbul has a luxuriant heritage and tradition that integrates the previous and the current to form a unique combination of architecture. The Blue Mosque, the Galata Tower, Hagia Sofia Museum, and the old city are absolutely a must. These are things that make the city rich in history. I had a lovely trip to some inspiring natural landscapes in Istanbul such as Bosphorus Strait. Yes, it is an amazing moment to enjoy a tour in this channel which cuts the city of Istanbul into two sides (Asian side and European side). During my stay, I tasted lots of Turkish food that can be styled as a mixture of Middle Eastern, Asian and European tastes. Dishes are usually full of meat and fresh vegetables. Some of the greatest food I have ever recognized served in the cafeterias near the Eminonu train station. I love KEBABS.

    This is why I want to share my memories.

    • says

      Lovely review Abdullah and so well written. Describes it perfectly. Thank you for sharing

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