I Love Istanbul : Here Are 4 Reasons Why

Istanbul has for a long time, been the heart and soul of Turkey. Boasting of more than 14 million official residents, the city is the only one in the world that spans two continents; Europe and Asia. I love Istanbul and admit to a major addiction for this characteristic destination.

I love Istanbul

Occasionally I meet people who wrongly assume that Istanbul is the capital of Turkey but even though it isn’t, it is still an important business hub and the number-one tourist destination of Turkey. In 2014, it beat the likes of Rome and Milan to become a top city-break destination of the world.

Some people return time and time again for a leisurely break while others admire the city so much, they buy homes there, and it now has a large expat community comprised of many nationalities. Whether people fall into the category of tourist, business traveller or expat resident, we all have one thing in common and that is we say with pride, “I love Istanbul.”

Why I love Istanbul

Food, Food, Food!

On my last visit to Istanbul, I ran into the KFC restaurant, eager to sample the world-renowned chicken that my taste buds had missed dearly. I also tasted sushi for the first time, and the local recommended street food called the Taksim Wet Burger.

The latter did not impress me even though a Trip Advisor reviewer famously labelled it a “Drunk’s Best Friend” but my diet for that week proves eating out in Istanbul is all about diversity.

From the humble baked potato to the fish restaurants of Ortakoy to the highly overpriced gourmet establishments, you can have what you want!

In Istanbul, when thinking about food, there is no need to comprise on taste.

I love Istanbul Turkey

Historical and Rich Timeline

I am fascinated by the history of Turkey and since Istanbul was formerly Constantinople, the capital of both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, it is perfect for history buffs.

The old part of the city is a UNESCO World heritage site.There are hundreds of museums and touring Ottoman palaces like Dolmabahce explains perfectly why the Ottoman Empire was disbanded, called the sick man of Europe and left for broke.

The Blue Mosque of 1616 portrays the brilliance of Mimar Sinan, the most respected architect of the Ottoman period, while the Hagia Sophia, previously a church, mosque and now museum, perfectly combines significant artefacts of two of the world’s biggest religions.

The list of historical landmarks goes on and on.

What I love about Istanbul Turkey

The Bosphorus

Major wars have been fought and many men have died for control of this strategic strait of water. The Byzantine Empire seriously neglected its importance, therefore helping the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed to take control of Constantinople and ultimately finish their reign.

In turn, the Ottoman Empire formed a fashion trend for the rich and fabulously wealthy to own summer houses (yalis) on the shores.These days, life is much quieter and the Bosphorus neighbourhoods can be explored on foot but I prefer cruising.

Cruising the Bosphorus

Whether it is a short 2 hour tour or a day’s trip to the mouth of the Black sea, Bosphorus cruises are normally on every list of the top “Things to Do in Istanbul”

The owners and managers of Zoe Yacht, a 55 feet motorboat that is available for private charter cruises report that in recent years, interest in Bosphorus cruises has increased not only with foreign tourists but also Turkish customers.

Zoe YachtThe boat  goes out every day for 2 hour cruises and sunset tours, but lately, the owners are receiving more enquiries for special events and occasions like marriage proposals, weddings and birthdays.

Repeat visitors to Istanbul are generally opting for the Princess Islands tour which includes swimming stops and visit to the group of Islands with its magnificent old Ottoman mansions.(Follow Zoe Yacht Bosphorus Cruises on Facebook)

Cruise ship visitors often gather a large crowd and hire their own boat so they have privacy at lower costs, while businesses are hosting more dinners and events on the water, rather than off it.

Life on the shores of the Bosphorus has and always will be a pivotal point of Istanbul’s characteristic appearance.

Has the old Ottoman trend for Bosphorus living seen a revival?

Bosphorus Cruise

The Galata Connection

Downhill from the popular Taksim area, are the small neighbourhoods of Karakoy and Beyoglu. Within these areas, I particularly love the famous Genoese Galata tower, with its stunning panoramic view from the top, but anyone with a fear of heights will be immensely disturbed by the lack of crowd control, dodgy safety bars and the view of a 63 metre drop.

The streets are lined with boutique hotels, Jewish synagogues, the Jewish museum, quirky shops, the Istanbul modern art museum and we also found a small wine tasting shop, which delighted my alcoholic friends but head further downhill to reach Galata Bridge, famous for its fishermen and floating fish boats.

Galata Bridge

In a restaurant underneath the bridge, a 16 year-old waiter offended us with his corny attempts to bait himself a sugar mommy.

Our refusal may have resulted in an overpriced bill consisting of dishes that we never consumed but my point is, stay away from underneath the bridge and enjoy the vibes on top of it.

How to say “I love Istanbul” in Turkish?

Istanbul’u seviyorum

Say that and the locals will love you back!

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

Contact me..

Natalie

Hi. My name is Natalie Sayin and I am the author of The Turkish Travel Blog. I am an Internet addict with a passion for history. Read my story here or leave a comment below to join the discussions.
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Comments

  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!

    http://www.istanbularkeoloji.gov.tr/main_page

    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”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagia_Sophia

    I think the Blue Mosque worth a visit but overrated IMHO. Also try to see Sulimaniye mosque!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suleymaniye_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.

    • SARP says

      I am ashamed that you are Turkish (if you are so) talking all this nonsense about Istanbul. First, Istanbul people are not the original/real Istanbul people anymore. Most people who came to Istanbul from EAST made it a concrete heaven not me or the Real natives of Istanbul. which I am. My entire family is originally from Istanbul and it used to be a green place with full of kind gentleman and wonderful women in the past. All this immigration from the East started in 1950’s and it is still going on today and the people brought all their negatives to Turkey. They are predominantly uneducated people causing crimes and unrest in Istanbul (Many exception do exist. Not all people from the east are bad but statistically most are uneducated and poor!) Istanbul used to be a few million and over the years it expanded rapidly reaching 14 million people. They turned this beautiful city into a concrete heaven you call..Also, you have no idea how hard for these people to live in Istanbul. Istanbul is expensive and there are very good reasons why it is bc guess what all the major cities in the world are expensive! With all the troubles/negatives aside, you can not simply write off Istanbul bc people are not smiling and there is traffic, concrete buildings, etc. Yes the traffic is the 2nd worst in the world (do your research) and ugly concrete buildings do exist but that is take away the magnificent history of Istanbul and it’s importance. I don’t know where you live but I lived in good neighborhoods of Istanbul and YES Istanbul is still beautiful. It is up to you to see the good or the bad part of Istanbul. If I decide to live in Harlem or a ghetto in NY, I will never think good about NY but you know NY is not all about these places. There are many amazing places there just like Istanbul. All tourist destinations of Istanbul are magnificent and clean. Bosphorus is amazing and you can’t find many sites around the world where you have the skyscrapers and old historical buildings that can be fit in one picture! You don’t want to see the good that is fine but Istanbul is a zillion times nicer than Izmir. Sorry but I can’t agree with you on that. Izmir is like a town next to Istanbul. People are nicer in Aegean cost, that is all I can agree…

    • 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

  15. says

    Natalie I have never visited but I’ve heard SO many awesome things about Istanbul. I know an ex-pat couple from the US who lived there for 14 years. They raved about it, from the beauty to the food to the culture, they were gaga about both Turkey and Istanbul. The photos above rock and I have to say, a cruise down the Bosphorus sounds beyond awesome. Thanks for sharing and keep on inspiring your readers!

    Ryan
    Ryan Biddulph wrote about..How 2 Flamboyant Thai Lady Boy Prostitutes Taught Me (and You) 6 Clear Blogging Lessons

    • Nat says

      Put it on your list Ryan – Guaranteed enjoyment. Thanks for reading

  16. says

    These are such gorgeous photos of Istanbul that you make me want to hop on a plane ASAP! I’ve only been once and it was for 8 hours when I had a long layover and you could still do visa on arrival. It was rainy and cold that day, so I more than happy to spend many hours browsing the bazaar and spice market.
    Jennifer wrote about..Why Abisko is the Best Place in Europe to See Northern Lights

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