Taksim square: When I first arrived in Turkey, despite knowing that Istanbul was the largest city in the country and the top tourist destination visited, nothing prepared me to realize how intense the city is. In addition to being the reigning core cities for both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, Istanbul’s neighborhoods each have their own tale to tell. Indeed touring local suburbs is now a popular travel genre and Istanbul is no exception, as most local excursion companies now offer guided walking tours.
I’ve read several books about Istanbul since my first visit and returned three times, but I’ve only seen a fraction of what there’s to see. Yes, I will need to live there for at least a year to truly know and appreciate the city.
Taksim square: So for this article about Istanbul ‘s neighborhoods, I enlisted the help of my friend Bayram who sells real estate in Istanbul and is knowledgeable about each district ‘s unique characters. Separating the city from the European and Asian sides, he explained that each area is much like anywhere else in the world because each one of them has a specific genre or stereotype. For example, while one might be the business district, another is an upmarket destination, and a nightlife center or artists’ hangout.
Historical Sultanahmet part of old town
Naturally, from the point of view of the visitors, Sultanahmet should be on the list first because it is a UNESCO World Heritage site with historic landmarks from the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. The choice of hotels from hostels to five stars is mind-blowing and as with any other tourist destination, restaurants serve a variety of domestic and international cuisine to cater for the masses. When you see the highlights like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and / as your primary reason for visiting Istanbul, then Sultanahmet is the place to live. You must visit turkey tour to explore more about turkey.
Taksim square and Beyoglu: Trendy and Modern
Characterized usually by Istiklal Caddesi, Turkey ‘s main pedestrian thoroughfare and busiest route, Beyoglu is Istanbul ‘s alternative face. It is now a center for shopping and nightlife as well as some of the most prestigious hotels in the city as a favorite hangout in history for foreign dignitaries. However, the new and the modern have not overtaken all of it.
Some wonderful gems represent the art and culture scene such as the Church of Saint Anthony Padua, the Cukurcuma district’s antique shops and the Innocence Museum of Orhan Pamuk (Turkey’s most popular Turkish author). The Pera Museum is home to the Tortoise Trainer painting, one of the most expensive ever sold in Turkey, and I greatly favored Galata ‘s smaller outskirts neighborhood and its dramatic 360 panoramic views from the tower when I spent my time here.
Fener and David Balat
Those 2 districts, increasing in popularity for guided walking tours, represent Jewish and Greek heritage, a lesser-known historical reality of Istanbul. Fener had historically been the birthplace of many affluent Greeks, as evidenced by the Church of St. George, better known as Constantinople’s Ecumenical Patriarch. Balat, a historic Jewish settlement area, is home to Ahrida ‘s oldest synagogue in the town.
After many years of neglect, both districts faced ruin until 2003, when substantial sums of money were pumped into restoring the old Ottoman houses. In addition to showcasing their past, famous walking tours display real local life as seen in homes , businesses and locals.
Most people would probably associate Besiktas with the popular football team, but there’s a lot more to it. It is worth visiting the famous Dolmabahce Palace, situated next to the clock tower and mosque of the same name, easily reached by a walk or bus ride from Taksim area. As the last house of the Ottoman sultans, the mental boggles with riches and decadence within those walls.
Heading further up Ciragan Caddesi, past the naval museum (Deniz Muzesi) and one of the most expensive hotels in Turkey, the Ciragan Palace, we arrive in the district of Ortakoy. It is a mosque facing the popular Bosphorus Bridge which is a favorite Istanbul postcard and travel guidebook scene. Besiktas, which is also popular at night for its fish restaurants and nightclubs, is home to Yildiz Palace Complex and Museum, one of the city’s famous green areas and parks.
Beyazit and Eminönü
Sitting next to the entrance to the famous Galata Bridge, Eminönü is the place to catch a cheap Bosphorus ferry tour. Balik Ekmek (fish sandwiches) is the preferred cheap street food otherwise, Galata Bridge restaurants serve tasty yet precious fish meals. A tiny shop and living museum in the Bahcekapi district of Eminönü highlights the rise to fame of the humble Turkish delight. Owned by the inventor’s heirs, Haci Bekir, it’s of great interest to locals as well as visitors. However, the most famous landmark in this district is the Suliyeman mosque compound which dates from 1557 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The busy spice market is good for a shopping experience, but it’s worth walking the extra distance into the Beyazit region, home to one of the world’s oldest and biggest marketplaces. The chaotic Grand Bazaar and its maze of shops and passageways may seem daunting to Turkey’s newbie shopper, but gradually you’ll get into the groove of the 4000 unique shops’ exotic bargain and banter.
From here the Cagaloglu Hamam is a traditional and most importantly authentic Turkish bath experience if a day of sightseeing and touring the main landmarks leaves you tired and worn out. Dating back to 1741, and well known for its exquisite architecture, Florence Nightingale attracts prominent historical tourists.
The Princess Islands are not technically a neighborhood but worth knowing about as Büyükada (the largest island) and its pedestrian streets are a recommended tourist attraction. Originally, exile places for Byzantine and Ottoman dignitaries, old street lining mansions display typical Ottoman architecture trends, and because vehicles can not be used, horse-drawn carriages are the best way to tour the island.
Taksim square: Nisantasi is an elite and upmarket neighborhood, often overlooked in mainstream travel guides, where money is the main word on the tongue! The heart of the city, Osmanbey is home to the Abdi Ipekci Street, the most expensive street in the world. Its top-notch reputation comes from luxury shopping brands like Louis Vuitton, Armani, and Dolce Gabanna, who rented out shops in the city. If money is no object, Nisantasi could be right up your lane, in combination with the international eateries!
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