Things to do in Istanbul

I lived in Istanbul for 6 months and I'm always being asked what people should do when they visit. Here are my highlights.

  • Turkish food Eat Pide (like Turkish pizza), Baklava (honey seeped pastry), borek (pastry stuffed with things like meat or cheese), kebabs, kebabs, kebabs. Lots of delicious meze (I do like an aubergine), hazelnuts in the streets, fresh fish and drink plenty of Efes (turkish brand of beer). Avoid the raki unless you want the worst hangover ever.
  • Bath Houses Go to a hamam and get scrubbed down by a big fat hairy turk. Cagaoglu on yerebatan caddessi near the grand bazaar i went to and is good in an expensive touristy way but really worth it…
  • Book store There's an amazing vintage shop on Istiklal Caddesi on the left hand side if you're walking towards Taksim, bit further on than Robinson Crusoe (which is on the right, amazing book shop).
  • Istanbul Modern Styled on the Tate, really good, free on Thursdays. On Tophane Iskelesi there are lot s of places to smoke shish.
  • Fish Market Balik Pazari: fish market half way up Istiklal just off Galatasaray Square. Good food any time of day or night.
  • Live music Babylon. Gets good gigs there, often international stuff. Every night is different so check there website. Cool venue, but you pay to get in. On the same street is Otto. (Asmali Mescit Mah. Sehbender Sok. No: 8, Beyoglu, Tunel,). Small but full of trendy art students and spills out in to the streets. In an area called Tunnel (pronouned "toonell" just off Istiklal Caddesi, which is full of nice bars and restaurants. Lots of fairy lights… really pretty streets)
  • Good DJs Dogzstar is on Tosboga Sokkak 22, on a side street off Istiklal Caddesi. There's a nice bar in front of it with street tables. Gets good DJs and home to the Cool Kidz of Istanbul.
  • Bar with great views Leb-I Derya (kumbaraci Yokusu 115/7 , just off Istiklal Caddesi on the very top floor. The most stunning views of the city. Amazing. Great for cocktails or a beer.
  • Galata Bridge Galata Bridge, nice place to watch the fisherman and buy a fish sandwich. Next to Yeni Cami (New Mosque). Walk up from Galata bridge (which crosses the golden horn) up towards Beyolglu (or the other way round). steep winding streets lead up to the Galata tower (worth 10YTL to go up to the top of the tower, particularly if you’re there for the call to prayer). There is a very good vintage shop on the left hand side up the hill. You’ll also go past loads of musical instrument shops
  • Mosques Top tourist destinations are Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque: both worth seeing but quite busy. For a nicer mosque experience got to Fatih mosque. (check if its open now - was covered in scaffolding for a while). Fatih is a really religious area so you get to see proper muslim Istanbul. The mosque is lovely to wander around as it is working and full of locals not tourists. The area is surrounded by nice markets and cafes and restaurants.
  • Eccentric hotel The Euro side is divided into the bit below the golden horn (where the tourist area Sultanamet and other areas are) and north of the golden horn (Beyoglu is the area where all the good night places are. Its at one end of the long main street which leads up to Taksim square). The Buyuk Londra (mesrutiyet caddesi 117 tel 0212 293 1619 is eccentricly great.
  • Fun hostel for drinks Beyoglu is a fun place to stay. This is a very cheap and fun hostel we used to have beers at.
  • Ferry to Asia Istanbul is divided into Asia and Europe by the river. Its worth getting the ferry across to Asia side one day, the journey across takes about 40 mins and its cool, and you can mooch around the cafes on the other side, but I’d stay over European side mostly.